Crack and Fissures

This week has proved very nearly impossible for me to collect my thoughts into a sensible post. Part of it is that it feels like there’s little left to guess at, even if a zillion things have been set up for next season. Part of it is that so much has been said here that I don’t want to ruin any of our good work by trite or forced summation. But I can’t resist. For a guide to what everyone else said in summation, please see Shoals’ post just below. For my final musings on Season 4 and the finale, episode #50, please continue.
fighter

As we’ve seen these last four seasons, the final episodes are always comprised of myriad endings, beginnings, and numb viewings of tragedies that won’t stop just because the camera eye is closing. The musical montage near the end, utilizing Paul Weller’s cover of Dr. John’s “Walk on Guilded Splinters,” was as fitting as it was subdued. It didn’t have the zip of season 2′s dizzying montage set to the music of Stelios Kazantzidis, which few fans are likely to soon forget, but it did have an appearance by our Greek friend, which was totally energizing. The restraint with which the show uses music and the musical montage avoids the sort of dull registration of dramatic moments that has overtaken most television where, in the last five minutes, the stirring music tells you that the time has come to feel feelings. What’s interesting too is that Homicide: Life on the Street made such brilliant use of the musical montage that it likely influenced the rest of television to adopt it more fully. Withdrawing from what has become a tired convention is no surprise from some of the same producers, but that just puts the music that does come to the fore that much more affective.

As for what actually transpired, I think the most stirring notes in the finale revolved around the kids, which is no surprised as they have been the locus of energy, conflict and change all season. It is jarring to think how far they have come, and to think how different their paths appear now than they did when the season began. Randy, strangely, has journeyed farthest, and while Carver’s noble efforts suggest that perhaps the fight for Randy’s soul will continue, he seems doomed for the short term to a grim existence increasingly devoid of the joy that once so characterized him. One wonders if there will be room at all for joy in Randy’s life, and what that may do to him as he becomes a man. Michael’s transition from fiercely introvert dark cloud to a resigned and not unhappy killer is less shocking the more I consider it, given his utterly selfless devotion to making a good life for Bug, but also given his apparently ample acumen, and his probable belief that, given his intelligence, his skill, and his level-headedness, he could actually stand to survive the game. What is truly saddening is Dukey’s sad slip into the vicious cycle, selling the same dope that forced him from his family when, once again, they got evicted and his best option was to shack up in Michael’s drug-sponsored bachelor pad and start earning for himself. It’s sad not given Dukey’s potential or his hopeful smiles while manning the class computer, but for its inevitability. Kids like Dukey have so very few opportunities that it is surprising he was able to remain in school at all, much less to achieve. Ironically of course it was his scholastic achievement that ultimately drove him away from school, his preternatural talent that doomed him to an even lonelier path through school, a path he couldn’t abide. Namond’s transition proved the only one where there is real hope. There’s not much to say about it, except that the show again surprises by making us love what once seemed unloveable, and hope for what once seemed the most hopeless case of all.

mine

As for everything else, there’s probably too much to say. The gang getting back together split me in two. This season, more than any other, diverted from the show’s very own path, deviating the expectations I have about what The Wire does, how it does it, and what sorts of narratives it will tell. A return to wiretaps, cases, clues and of course McNulty’s firebrand justice matched with Lester’s croaking wisdom is both utterly thrilling and somehow suspect. Although I missed the cops & robbers plotting this season, I learned to love the relatively (at least literally) bloodless plots of the kids and the mayor-elect. What do we have to learn about casework that we don’t already know? I suppose Ed Burns would say something sharp, nasty and true in response to a question like that, and I look forward to seeing that response next season. How the newsroom will stack up against the Mayor’s office this season will be intriguing. How do stories get told, how does the truth get sold, that kind of thing.

Finally, I would like to say a few words on spoilers, On-Demand, and the concept of the collective. My big spoiler moment came about halfway through the season, which is rather a lucky break for me considering how much material I have been traversing each week related to the show. It was in the search terms for this very site, and it came in just three words: “Michael shoots Bodie.” It’s the image you see for a second, recognize that you don’t want to see, and quickly turn away from but can never even hope to forget. Of course it’s unclear whether that was indeed Michael, and having watched the clip a few times I’m baffled, but the point is still the same, and Bodie, probably my favorite character, is still dead. I was able to avoid other spoilers, which again is kind of miraculous, but that note rang in my head all season, and it also had to be this ugly secret i kept while discussing the show here and with friends.

While leaked copies are always going to be an issue, and some viewers are too rabid to stand down when there’s torrents to be bitten, I think a lot of the trouble stems from HBO’s still unexplained decision to stagger the show, allowing On-Demand customers to see episodes a week early. Collective viewership is no small matter, because it determines the character of the experience not just of seeing something, but of understanding it, as we often do, through dialogue with others. Certainly our dialogue has been compromised, as some viewers come into discussions that have already had an arc, while others perusing the site doubtless scoffed at our cute uninformed predictions as so much needless investment in a system that may be truly dead. Of course HBO is only contributing to the death of the television experience. The On-Demand system devalues the collective experience, and the next logical step is to skip HBO altogether, download the season, have a Wire-filled weekend, and leave it at that. Thanks for the show, HBO, here’s no money and no ratings.

I tend not to think the network wants that, and I think they would do well to respect the willingness of their audience to display fidelity to the concept of an appointed hour. I think something very significant will be lost if this sort of chaotic seeping of a cultural object into the public sphere is the future, because we learn more when we learn together, and we see more when we watch together, and doing away with all that doesn’t sound much like progress.

2001

Thanks for reading and responding all season. It has certainly enhanced our already freakish devotion to The Wire, and perhaps yours as well. Look to us whenever season 5 rears its head, and maybe sooner, if there’s any Wire news that needs discussing.

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38 Comments on “Crack and Fissures”

  1. playerpaul Says:

    First time poster, here. I discovered you guys after the mention in Newsweek and have enjoyed this site thoroughly. Thanks for all the thoughtful, intelligent discussion about what I regard as the greatest show (ever) on television.

    In my view, I see Michael (from sullen man-child in a drug-ravaged household to willing player and cold-blooded murderer in the very system that robbed him of his childhood) and Nay (from preening gangsta-wanna-be to respectful, gentle son in a middle-class household) as having journeyed the farthest this season. Randy’s regression back to the group home, forever tagged with the snitch label, doesn’t seem that far a trip to me. And Dukie falling into the corner life is heartbreaking, but also doesn’t seem a far stretch. I guess another way to put it is: Nay escaped the corner, Michael embraced it while the jury is still out on Dukie (despite his landing there for now as Michael’s underling) and Randy. Certainly, all the boys grew emotionally older, but not all not wiser, this season. I hope these four remain active characters in next season’s show.

  2. jetsetjunta Says:

    That’s fair enough. I suppose Randy didn’t really learn anything, and being tossed back into the foster system is no real stretch for his life in terms of experience. Still, I guess I was talking about a kind of spiritual distance, which is why I mentioned joy in relation to Randy. Through the course of events, he may have learned next to nothing, but he lost all the joy in his life, whereas Michael went through some rough stuff but remained spiritually rather static. Same could be said for Dukie, who seemed disappointed to have to quit school, but not exactly shattered. It was like he was expecting it. It’s not exactly hope that has disappeared or been diminished, it’s something like the spirit of an existence that doesn’t have to be mired in the struggle, a spirit that gets to be a kid. Naymond is the only one who was finally able to actually embrace any kind of joy at just living his life, and this only because of the deus ex machina of Bunny. Other than his intervention, and having seen the failure of Carver’s, failure seems almost inexorable.

  3. Tom Says:

    Really good post.

    If you look really, really closely at Bodie’s killer’s face, it’s clear that isn’t Michael. It’s hard to see, but it’s not impossible. This, of course, is consistent with Chris/Marlo’s agreement that Michael’s first kill shouldn’t be someone he knows.

  4. Andrew Says:

    It definitely isn’t Michael who killed Bodie. Simon confirmed in an interview that it was one of the other kids we saw Snoop and Chris training in a previous episode.

  5. JP Says:

    According to the HBO recap, Bodie’s killer’s name is O-Dog.

  6. fresh Says:

    Just wanted to say that, like you, my “big spoiler moment” came when I stumbled across the announcement that Bodie was dead, about 5 weeks before the season finale. I liked Bodie quite a bit, but then I went back and watched the finale of Season 1. Seeing Bodie murder Wallace made his own death a little easier to take.

  7. Vikas Says:

    In the finale – after hearing Bodie got in a car with a cop
    Marlo – “(to chris)we can’t have no one snitchin now…send a message, maybe give it to your pup, get him started”

    Chris – “…boy worked for bodie, first time has to be someone he ain’t know”

  8. Even Says:

    In addition to all the other good points about Bodies killer there is this:
    The guy killing Bodie is left-handed, Michael is right-handed.

  9. Marcus Wellby Says:

    Man, i love this show and this website! Anyhow, I just wanted to say that I don’t see much growth in Namond — perhaps I am just cynical — but the final scene to me showed a young, fake gangster smirk as he realized he could “own” this new middle-class neighborhood.

    Namond didn’t have the heart for the game, but he was a boastful bully who had no second thoughts about picking on the helpless Dukie. He also used his father’s rep to improve his own — his tough guy act, his “knowledge” of how to runner a corner is Colvin’s class (compared to his complete inability to do so in reality). I see Namond bringing his BS to the new neighborhood, rather than benefiting from it.

    The tragedy is that Randy or Dukie could have truly blossomed given the care offered by Colvin.

  10. Aswong1 Says:

    I could be wrong but I actually believe Season 2 was graced with two musical montages – the Greek song you mention in the penultimate episode as Sobotka walks to his death – and Steve Earle’s excellent “Feel Alright” in the final episode.

  11. Ghlade Says:

    Three, actually, if you count the mid-season “we’re building a case” montage done to Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line.”

  12. BEC Says:

    The biggest change – and the greatest breakthrough of any of four kids – in Naymond was him realizing and vocalizing his inability to play the game. His prior posturizing and bullying were obviously an attempt to bolster his image in front of his friends and probably to himself. It’s easy to forget these are children and he was acting like a child. To walk away from his mom and dad, to admit he is unable to really hurt somoene for money or status – these are major, life altering choices and reflect maturity and growth. I don’t see him gaming on Colvin.

    Jetsetjunta – thanks for the summation. It was not trite and I’ve been waiting for it since last Monday.

  13. Rachel Says:

    I’m a longtime devotee of the show, but something’s been bothering me…

    Why couldn’t the Baltimore City Police/District Attorney’s Office have done something to keep Randy out of a group home, given that he’s been branded a snitch on their behalf? As we saw in the closing montage, the group home is clearly not a safe environment for him and his “status” is know there. Especially given the flap about the earlier (accidental) witness murder, this just seemed unnecessarily bleak.

    Normally I accept the realism of the show in spite of my own desire for a different outcome (Stringer’s and Wallace’s murders, for example.) This just seems like it could’ve gone differently. Since a few episodes back I’d been expecting Randy to be shipped off to some kind of witness protection.

    Sorry if this seems nitpicky–it’s just been bugging me.

  14. Andy Says:

    in Naymond was him realizing and vocalizing his inability to play the game

    and I really haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere, but I trace this moment to the scene where he just couldn’t cut his hair.

  15. Pooh Says:

    and I really haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere, but I trace this moment to the scene where he just couldn’t cut his hair.

    As Ed Burns says to Freemon in Season 1, “Nice Pull.”

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I never really liked Randy. He was always a schemer, who counted on his good-boyishness (seriously, who was more Eddie Haskell, Randy or Nay?) to be able to talk his way out of any trouble. I don’t endorse “stop snitchin” in any way, but how does he keep finding himself in spots where he actually needs (or perceived he needs) to snitch to get out from under? What was he really on the hook for when he started talking about Lex’s murder? A grounding/ass-whupping from Ms. Anna. I’m not going to say he got what he deserved, because no one deserves what he’s getting. But all 4 boys had choices to make, and three chose poorly (if for understandable reasons, especially in Michael’s case).

  16. migoudah Says:

    I think there were actually four musical montages in season 2–the three mentioned already, plus one midseason of Herc and Carv investigating drug corners, set to Akrobatik’s “Hand that Rock the Cradle.”

    In retrospect, frankly, the whole season seems like one long music video.

  17. Simonsbitch Says:

    Very nice summation and well considered plea to HBO to do things differently next season.

    Another reason might be that cable providers can’t seem to get it together to actually deliver the on-demand function with any degree of regularity. My own was very fucked up and I saw all kinds of complaints from people all over the country. Why set up expectations that aren’t fufilled? Oh wait. Dumb question.

    I certainly hope you guys aren’t out of business yet. There is much more to be discussed.

    For instance: One of the soldiers Butchie sent to protect Omar in lock up was there for “talking back.” The security guard was also taken out for “talking back.” I find this sort of another seed for Season 5…the whole idea that we live in such a free society that other’s hate us for, yet dissent brings punishment.

    I was really hoping you big brains would post a little on next season.

  18. bk669 Says:

    I watched all season On Demand – mainly because i had not watched seasons 1-3 and i wanted to get up to speed on 1-3 before starting 4. But then once i was in the habit, i enjoyed watching it that way and love being able to watch each episode a couple of times or more.

    I did try and be vigilant and avoid spoilers although I also saw something about Bodie being killed a few weeks into the season. Just tried to put it out of my mind — since any of the characters could be killed at any time considering the game they play.

    I do think HBO accomplished something with their unique strategy of early releases to On Demand and releasing the entire season to critics – they got a lot of good “buzz” and enabled a quick announcement at the beginning of Season 4 that there WOULD be a Season 5.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere — with all the insistence by some that Bodie was killed by Michael (which we all of course know is NOT true!), do you think that the creators purposefuly made the hit on Bodie confusing, to illustrate the potential mis-identification of shooters and criminals that happens all the time? I don’t believe that it’s a coincidence. They wanted us to be confused…

  19. hoopinion Says:

    What was he really on the hook for when he started talking about Lex’s murder? A grounding/ass-whupping from Ms. Anna.

    Pooh, I believe that either Ms. Donnelly implicitly exploited or Randy explicitly stated that the fear that convinced him to try to talk his way out of the immediate trouble he found himself in was that Miss Anna has the option of returning him to the system, effectively sending him back to a group home were she to no longer want Randy to be her foster child.

  20. Kirk Says:

    It is easy to judge Randy harshly for his flaw. He’s a snitch, snitches don’t survive in the game! But the point is that being a snitch when you are a 12 year old black kid in the ghetto is pretty similar to being a tattle-tale in a white suburb. It’s not the coolest thing, but it is the mistake of a child bringing more serious consequences than any of us will ever face.

    I also thought it was interesting that out of all the kids, the one who deserved salvation the least was Naymond. He neither had the courage of Michael, the innocence of Dookie or the plan and work ethic to “get out” of Randy. He was the most flawed of the 4 and the only one that was saved. That’s a great example of how things tend to really work out.

  21. Tom Says:

    Yes, Randy was afraid of being kicked out of Miss Anna’s and sent back to a group home.

    Anyone who judges Randy too harshly is completely missing a central theme of Season 4.

  22. Vinay Says:

    In comment to the post by bk669, I don’t think bodie’s killer is supposed to be ambiguous. It’s a great idea, but my problem with it is that after rewatching it after hearin
    so many confused of the killer’s identity , it was VERY obvious to me that it was not Michael. In addition to the many queues in the storyline leading up to the murder that suggest Bodie can’t be Michael’s first kill, you get a pretty clear look at the guy who does bodie. It’s a clear enough look that there is not a chance it was michael. If you remember earlier in the season when Snoop and Chris are teaching those 3 kids how to kill, there was a skinny guy and it was definitely him. You get a great clear look at the killer, it isn’t Michael.

  23. Allen Says:

    I agree on the issue of who killed Bodie. I think you that if you are reallypaying attention to the clues, and get a good look at the killer’s face in the scene, you can tell it’s not Michael. However, I did not do all of those things until the second viewing.
    People forget that Randy’s first case of snitching came to get out of trouble because he was illegally selling candy at school. He told on some random kid who was tagging walls in school to escape a phone call to his foster mom. While his motivation to stay out of a group home is understandable, his motive were still somewhat selfish. He didn’t deserve his final outcome by any strectch, but it was avoidable with loyalty. From the first episode Randy was shown as a child who was most concerned with looking out for himself, because of the system he had grown up in.

    I found Michael’s transformation the most troubling at first, because he clearly understood the dangers of the game, and early on, seemed to not want them. Remember, he turned down Marlo’s first attempt to bribe him, he refused to work full time for Bodie, he wouldn’t even play the enforcer role for Namond when Namond got his first package. He seemed completely determined to avoid the game. It was only after he tasted power in getting Bug’s abusive father killed that he really began to view the game as a viable outlet. And the rapid spiral from there, although he did maintain some key qualities, was shocking too me.

  24. Pooh Says:

    Yes, Randy was afraid of being kicked out of Miss Anna’s and sent back to a group home.

    Anyone who judges Randy too harshly is completely missing a central theme of Season 4.

    I don’t think I’m missing the central theme, in that it was largely happenstance that Namond was the one who “got out.” I’m just pushing back against the consensus that he was “least deserving.” From where I sit, they were all deserving. The opinion to the contrary transforms an amoral situation to an immoral one.

  25. Shoals Says:

    namond also had the best chance of making it. he had it rough, but he wasn’t damaged in the same way.

  26. Simonsbitch Says:

    Please come back! HBO is going to re-run the whole season again, starting tomorrow night.

  27. jetsetjunta Says:

    Don’t fret. We’re still around. I will say we’re pretty burnt out, and the prospect of having stuff to say for the next year and a half until season 5 comes out is rather daunting. Look for something soon about the season’s reception, year-end lists, and the Golden Globes’ unreal snubbing of the show. We are outraged.

  28. bdgavin Says:

    Tim, thank you so much for writing the recaps every week. It’s nice coming to a forum like this to see how other people saw each episode and what they thought. How many shows would you actually want to do that for? This was the best season in my opinion. Looks like Bodie turned into D’Angelo Barksdale, tried to change the game, and he definitely paid the price the way D did. My favorite parts about the show are the winks to previous seasons that constantly occur. Bodie mentioning the pawns was classic. I am so grateful there’s another season. I’m holding out hope that there will be more after that. David Simon mentioned that if he did Season 6 he’d do it about the influx of Latin Americans in Baltimore. He said it would take him years to research, so maybe, maybe they can get the crew back together in a few years for Season 6 if HBO is down with it and Simon and Co. want to continue. I’m pleasantly surprised that HBO has kept the Wire on this long. Bill Simmons wrote an interesting reply on Page 2 that said he refuses to watch shows on Network TV with low ratings because what’s the point when they’ll get cancelled in a few weeks anyway. Thank you HBO! People get those DVDs to everyone you know so more people watch and HBO can beg Simon for more The Wire! Season 5–I think they’ll keep all the current storylines going plus the media storyline, so it should be interesante. Bet on Omar not making it, not with the Greeks after him. Bet on Mouzone coming back for an episode. Bet on Randy and Cheese/Prop Joe getting acquainted. Bet on Special Agent Fittzhugh making a couple of appearances. Bet on Jimmy getting re-acquainted with Jamey, and Jamey getting the best of him–at least once. Bet on Poot facing a dilemma about whether or not to follow in D’Angelo and Bodie’s footsteps. Bet on Spike Lee filming at least one episode of Season 5. Bet on The Wire never winning a mainstream award in its lifetime. Bet that.

  29. Gukbe Says:

    Not sure where to put this, so the most recent entry will do.

    Two interesting, somewhat Wire-related bits on the ABC Nightly news this evening:

    1.) Baltimore is experiencing record high temperatures for this time of year. A bit tenuous, but still…world going one way, people going the other.

    2.) A piece on merit-pay for teachers, which seems to be working in Texas, and the government is considering a $99 million dollar investment to exand the program. However, detractors worry that the teachers will only be teaching the standardized test. I suppose the Wire has really opened my eyes to how difficult education funding can be. I had always felt that teachers, as they are one of the most important parts of society, should get much more money, thus increasing the level of interest in teaching and also the calibre it might not normally get. However, the problem seems to be the way the government can actually gague progress. So from just doing enough for an entire school system to scrape by year by year (which is atrocious), to the more fortunate areas across the country, the reliance on standardized test scores really seems to complicate the issue.

  30. Utter Wonder Says:

    Mad Tidbits Up In Here Yo!

    TIDBIT #1: The 2007 Weblog Awards Are Open For Nominations Given that all but one of you are probably riddled guilty about not buying anything from Ye Olde Shoppe de Wonder de Utter, I have the perfect way for you…

  31. Steve Z. Says:

    http://www.allhiphop.com/features/?ID=1675

    This week is The Wire Week at AllHipHop.com. The link is for an interview with Wood Harris. Very dope

  32. Steve Z. Says:

    http://palmsout.blogspot.com/

    Palms Out Music does a breakdown of Wire characters if they were figures in today’s hip hop scene. Jay-Z as Stringer Bell, Dame Dash as Avon, Lupe Fiasco as Lester Freamon….very cool.

  33. mibtp Says:

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    We have just added:

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  34. Stumbleweed Says:

    Also, I wanted to point out (since I haven’t seen it mentioned here really) that the kid who made the phone call drawing the police car away from Randy’s place before the fire (and ended up starting the fire) was one of the kids who was involved in the fight at school — the one that says, “This ain’t over, Snitchin’ Randy” or something similar as he was walking away. It took me a few viewings to see that, but it leads me to believe that the fire was an act perpetrated by the kids as opposed to Marlo. It certainly helped Marlo’s cause (sending a message to/eliminating Randy), but from the way that fight scene went, it seems to me that it was more of a result of the kid’s free will rather than something that Marlo ordered that they do.

    Also, the messy and uncertain nature of fires (nobody died) isn’t really Marlo’s style, as he makes sure the job gets done rather than leaving survivors to tell tales. Someone in the comments section here suggested that Marlo put the hit out, and I really don’t think that’s the case. Some clarification from Eric or David would be great, but I doubt they’d be checking this blog during the downtime…

    Haha, I’m a late arrival to the show and this blog for sure (made my way over from FreeDarko like many others), but I’ve watched all 4 seasons through twice already and like most people here, it’s definitely my favorite show. January is so close and I’m incredibly excited to see how they’ll wrap up this masterpiece.

  35. Dan Says:

    Just thought I’d mention that I love bdgavin’s thought of Randy and Prop Joe meeting up, that is perfect and I can’t believe it never occurred to me!


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