Go On And Cry

So I finally watched 54, and I’m not too much of a man to admit that I cried. It wasn’t just Joe dying (although it made me sad), cause jetset/shoals are right that he was a criminal, and he had it coming. (Did anyone else think there was something a little sexual about Joe closing his eyes and Marlo telling him to breathe easy? The camera trained in on Marlo’s face while the shot was fired? Dude, there’s a reason Marlo doesn’t notice the ladies. He is hot for the gun.) But I was overwhelmed by the small moments that added up to one bleak bang: Michael and his mom; the little withdrawn boy who was so traumatized by the murders; Slim Charles telling Omar to do it if he’s gonna do it — confronting the violence that hangs over him every day of his life.

tammy

It was nice to see Beadie, and great to see Clay Davis in front of the grand jury, and I loved Daniels’s little smile of triumph all alone in his new office, but my favorite moment was when Kima sat down to play with Elijah. Adults can be so selfish with kids — we want them to go away when we need quiet, or to entertain us when we need comfort. I loved how Elijah was just doing his thing, coloring. It was like he was the mom, and Kima was the one who needed him. And then when she talked to the little lego man and the two of them started building that house… man I needed that scene.

toys

On Martin Luther King Day I watched Clockers, and I was struck by how differently that movie (and book, I imagine, although I haven’t read it) represents the kingpin. We know Avon and Stringer and Marlo and Joe and all the rest of the guys on the top are vicious and cold-blooded towards those outside their clans. And it’s true that Wallace was killed. But on the whole, I feel like The Wire shows those characters to be like fathers to those who report to them. It’s hard to imagine Marlo killing Snoop, or Avon taking out Bodie — but in Clockers, Rodney Little tells Mekhfi Phifer that he’s like a son to him, but has no qualms about betraying him. Clockers doesn’t show the grinding poverty of The Wire, but it does question the “family” — the family of men — that The Wire seems almost to celebrate as the only alternative to the crackhead parents, bad schools, and no future of life in the city. Spike Lee seems to use Richard Prince’s plot to bust up whatever honor we bestow on successful gangsters, dealers, “businessmen.” Lee also — unsurprisingly — does a much better job of showing women, notably Regna Taylor as the mother of a ten-year old boy, challenging the drug culture.

This brings me to my last point. Clockers does something The Wire never does, which is show you the other people who live in the projects, the other paths of honest work and family that they choose — those paths aren’t easy, and they come with their own terrible consequences, but they are still a choice. The tragedy of the inner city that we see in these kinds of shows and movies is that children are asked to assume responsibility so far beyond their age, and so much harder than other kids do. But you know, Simon talks a lot about dignity in the face of impossible odds. And there are many ways to have dignity, and many ways to be a man. We haven’t seen Cutty this season. I hope that changes.

cleo

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32 Comments on “Go On And Cry”

  1. PJ Says:

    Maybe this goes without saying in this learned forum, but Richard Price (it says “Prince” above), who wrote Clockers, is one of the main writers for The Wire. He wrote four episodes of season 4, I believe.

  2. Gary Says:

    Maybe this homemade comedy clip will cheer everyone up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xfpy49VPW9Y

  3. g Says:

    There’s a very strange symmetry between the rise of Marlo and Daniels. I wonder if one falls at the end then the other must go, too. A kind of equilibrium.

  4. carter blanchard Says:

    G, care to elaborate on that? What’s the symmetry beyond the fact that they’re both on the rise? Daniels practically fell into his position as a matter of luck and circumstance. Marlo’s ascent has been driven by an almost maniacal ambition. Sure, he’s caught some breaks, but he took the initiative to take Joe out. Factors way beyond Daniels got rid of Burrell. There’s something ridiculous about how rapidly Daniels almost unintentionally climbed rank.

  5. Allday Says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the Daniels:Burell::Marlo:Prop Joe parallels of the last couple episodes. Burell’s exit and Daniel’s rise were pretty clearly the result of the postindustrial gods that Simon talks about in interviews (the institution of city government in their case), and not the actions of either character. But is Marlo really that different? I know he’s ruthless, but don’t forget that investigations that could have lead to his downfall were quashed not once but twice by the police / political institutions. The investigation into the bodies in the vacants was killed by the same city government that got rid of Burell and paved the way for Daniels.

    I think that Prop Joe’s death was as much a result of his own actions as Marlo’s. He got so caught up in the idea of being the guy behind the scenes that can buy for a dollar and sell for two that he lost sight of the game (another of Simon’s postindustrial gods) for what it was. If Marlo didn’t kill him, would it really be that long before someone else did?

  6. Jay Smooth Says:

    you should def. read Clockers, much better than the film IMO.. (in Dante Ross’s interview with Richard Price in Mass Appeal they said David Simon cites the book as inspiration for doing The Wire?)

  7. Mal Says:

    It’s easy to say that Joe’s death was down to his actions, but he only just escaped Omar killing him when he gave up the poker game. The actions which might have justified Marlo killing him (giving up the poker game, setting up the robbery, putting an extra 10c on the resold package) were never discovered – in the end, he managed to delay his death for a while, but the straw that broke him was out of his hands. He was sold out by Cheese in much the same way Burrell was sold out by Rawls and Valchek.

  8. jetsetjunta Says:

    attention people who want to ruin the season for everyone else: the whole point of this website is to take the season as it comes and develop a sort of conversation, or many conversations, about thematic and narrative issues as they come about and the arc of this final season is formed. we understand that the future will be an amazing place where we can download everything five years before it’s even filmed and then cheer or dismiss it in one fell swoop before moving on to the next five-years-ahead bit-torrent, or tomato-face, or whatever it will be called, and that sounds like a lot of fun. but at least for the moment we’re hanging on to the shred of public discourse allowed by traditional broadcast (hell, simon has his whole nobility-of-newspapers thing, and we have this), and we feel it allows us to investigate the season in more nuanced ways than a weekend blitz would. so, you know, it’s cool. go watch the 2010 season of Lost or something, just please don’t ruin our modest attempts over here.

  9. jetsetjunta Says:

    btw, this is in reference to a comment pulled for containing spoilers (which is an occupational hazard we will try to prevent you from stumbling over if we can by pruning), just so everyone doesn’t feel like we’re being jerks for no reason. we are jerks with purpose.

  10. Jeremy Says:

    Thanks for pruning. Last season I gobbled up everything on the web I could find about The Wire. This season, I just go here.

    The Marlo/Daniels parallels have struck me as well. The two men both have a similar appearance, slender and dark, and they are both ‘honorable’ in their own ways. Say what you want about Marlo (and I hope you will) but he’s got heart, and he’s all about the game. Daniels, too, is a character who has been able to strike something of a balance between moving up in the police department and doing actual police work. There aren’t really too many other characters who have done that. Maybe Rawls, although not really, and maybe Landsman, although he’s just too lazy. Kima, I guess, although she didn’t get so much promoted as moved to a better spot. And Carver, slowly, and his professional commitment has really grown over the five season arc.

    There’s a parallel, too, not in the way they moved up (Marlo’s betrayal v. Daniels’ ties to Carcetti and the affirmative action realities of the Mayor’s world) but in the displacing of Burrell and Prop Joe, two aging black men with power and political skills. They were beaten despite the wisdom they had, and both put out to pasture, with a gentleness that did not ease the sting of their passing.

    One thing I love about the show is how even those at the tops of their respective worlds are shown as beholden to hungry, insatiable interests. I hope our buffoons at the Sun are given their day as well.

    OK, gotta go feed the baby myself.

  11. vadmspartan Says:

    The thing about the Daniels/Marlo parallel is that I don’t think that they are in secure positions. Daniels because Naresse still has the folder with all the dirt on him which I fear that she will choose to use sometime soon to stifle any possible attempts at reform. I don’t really know any motives for Naresse to do this seeing as we don’t really get to see her motivations, just the fact that she is part of the establishment and all. Of course anything could happen.

    I think Marlo is going down because he is resetting the game too much. He is moving the game too far into the direction of ruthlessness. I don’t know, maybe I’m just hoping that Omar will avenge Butchie even though I know that The Wire doesn’t operate on awarding viewers with major victories.

  12. T.J. Otto Says:

    I know everyone is making the connection between Marlo and Daniels because they both ascended in the same episode, but didn’t they do it completely different ways. Marlo with ruthless ambition and Daniels partly being in the right place at the right time and partly shining when Carcetti was there to see it. Daniels always trying to follow chain of command and going through the proper channels reminds me more of Bodie talking about never messing up a count. Or is it that the drugworlds proper channels are ruthlessness and violence and that is what connects Marlo and Daniels. I think I just talked myself into the Marlo/Daniels thing. Help.

  13. Mal Says:

    We talk of Daniels not going behind the chain of command, but isn’t that what he did when he started talking to Carcetti? There’s that shot towards the end of s4 with Daniels and Rhonda talking to Carcetti while Burrell and Clay look on in the background, knowing they’re going to be usurped. I wasn’t sure, but the parallels are there to see.

  14. hops Says:

    Horribly off topic; however, I have a burning question which needs answering: In episode 01-07, what song is playing in Stinkum’s Montero when Herc and Carv go after the re-up?
    Thanks to all for your help in advance.

  15. Marlo Says:

    Motherfuckers!

    Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

    and did anyone else notice the Godfather-esque subplot developing during this episode between Cheese and Prop Joe? Starting at the co-op meeting this episode, when Prop Joe tells Cheese to “shut it down” after Cheese starts shit with the blind-looking co-oper. Cheese bristles, then when he gets up to leave and throws his minitantrum, Marlo is especially attentive. If I had to guess, this leads to the “give a gift. get a gift.” killing of aforementioned co-oper in the garage, which was kind of the in for Cheese into Marlo’s pocket.. which then led to Cheese’s betrayal of “Joseph” at the end.

  16. Marlo Says:

    furthermore, this leads to a core parallel between Cheese and Marlo; both will kill on perceived slights – with an emphasis on the slights. Marlo: security guard in the store, S3, man and fam, S5, etc., etc. Cheese because his uncle put him in line at the co-op, and I guess (maybe?) because Prop Joe holds him off Omar in Joe’s store (meaning the grudge that actually has substance, Cheese v. Omar, must be more acrimonious than most). Ironically, Cheese’s hate for Omar (and its offspring, the contempt for Prop Joe’s hesitancy to act) all arose from Cheese’s own incompetence.

  17. lukeoneil47 Says:

    I think the more direct parallel involving Marlo is the fabulist reporter. His name escapes me at the moment. Both are willing to do whatever it takes to climb the ladder. And the older reporter put out to pasture is a parallel for Prop Joe. Both were extremely good at their jobs and had made all of the necessary connections over the years, but as is the case in The Game, be it the streets or the news room or wherever, there are always people coming up behind you ready to do your job.

  18. Adam Hoff Says:

    Scott Templeton is the “Stephen Glass” reporter. I think the more obvious parallel there is with McNulty. Nobody wants to hear that because McNulty is our guy and Scott is a major tool, but both are fabricating stories, right? Granted, McNulty is – rightly or wrongly – driven to his lie by the “greater good,” but they are still somewhat similar. Talented, big egos, total willingness to bend the rules for a good story/case. Maybe that’s too obvious.

    In regard to Marlo, I was struck by something after (finally – no on demand) seeing Ep 4 tonight. Both Stringer and Prop Joe felt they could “civilize” Marlo and now both are dead. Obviously, Joe took that to greater lengths and did so when Marlo had a much more powerful base and died at Marlo’s instruction, whereas Stringer was more dismissive of Marlo and died at Omar and “Bow Tie”‘s hand. But the fact is that both Stringer and Prop Joe believed that just because they had seen the light in regard to reforming the drug trade that surely Marlo would follow suit. There failure to anticipate his refusal to go along is do in no small part to Marlo’s ambition, but I think it has more to do with their inability to recognize that he’s “just a gangsta, I suppose.” You will note that I borrow the line of dialogue from Avon (one of my favorite lines in the show’s history) and I do so intentionally, because Avon is the only high level drug boss that we’ve been allowed to know and who has retained his street/soldier mentality. And when he got out of prison and saw Marlo on his corners, he wanted the upstart dead. No meetings, no co-op, just war. And, while still in prison, Avon’s got a pulse while Joe and Stringer are dead. Is there something to all that? Maybe not, but it is interesting, I think.

    Okay, enjoy Ep 5 all you on demand folks. I will return late next Sunday night to gorge myself on all the chatter in the 24 hours before new posts start going up!

  19. Owen Parker Says:

    Interesting post but I really take exception to this:
    “This brings me to my last point. Clockers does something The Wire never does, which is show you the other people who live in the projects, the other paths of honest work and family that they choose — those paths aren’t easy, and they come with their own terrible consequences, but they are still a choice.”

    The Wire does show people who live in the same projects as the drug dealers and have chosen another path. Miss Anna is a very similar character to the embattled mother of Clockers. Grace Sampson is a one time club girl who is now a respected teacher in stark contrast to her drug addicted sister Queenie. Throughout season 3 we see a multitude of normal people struggling to deal with the drug war in their neighborhood and attending community meetings. The Deacon is a great character who uses another way of living to affect positive change in his neighborhoods. Cutty elects to follow a different path and changes his life for the better. Bubbles is along that road in this fifth season with his work at the soup kitchen. Bunny Colvin still lives in West Baltimore and tries to maintain his principles despite his environment. Crystal Judkins is a classmate to our four main boys and lives near Dukie but is hard working and volunteers for after school activities. Across a range of characters on the show we have seen many people who live in West Baltimore and have chosen another path. Several of them have even been major characters (Cutty/Colvin/Bubbles).

  20. Owen Parker Says:

    PJ, Price is indeed a writer on the show. He first was involved with a cameo role in the second season as the prison book group leader and then wrote two season three episodes (All Due Respect and Moral Midgetry) and two season four episodes (Home Rooms and Corner Boys). According to the crew guide on the HBO official site he wrote episode 7 of this season “Took”. He has a commentary track on the season 3 DVD but its not one of the show’s best as he is on his own.

    He also wrote the Samuel L. Jackson Shaft film which while fairly bad has a scene straight from his season 3 episode where cops go to break down a door and its opened by a rotund man that they then have to squeeze past. It also features Andre Royo in a small role. I did enjoy another Price/Jackson collaboration – Freedomland. Although I’m told the book is also better there also.

    Another thought on my other note:
    I think the recovering addicts are nice examples of normal people trying to change. Particularly Walon who seems strongly committed to helping other through the program.

  21. Brother Mouzone Says:

    How DARE you forget my name.

  22. Simon's bitch Says:

    I think I see more parallels between Prop Joe/Burrell than I do between Daniels/Marlo. Both Joe and Irv were political animals that tried to find “middle ground” or please whomever had the most power. The fact that they both fall at the same time and we find out that they knew of each other (or at least attended the same school) tells me we should draw that inference, perhaps.

    Scott “shithead” Templeton could be a stand in for Glass and Janet Whosis who actually won a big prize and had to give it back….she wrote a story about a supposed crack kid….can’t remember all the details, but Templetons’ story arc sounds like that.

  23. Paul Says:

    Do you think the Co-Op is going to get rid of Marlo even though now he has the connect? will they let Omar get him? will they bow down and let him become the new prop?
    I don’t think he’ll survive, but you never know…

  24. MosesGunn Says:

    I think what you are seeing setup in the final season is that although some things change, alot stays the same. The strong will continue to get stronger while the weak will be culled off. Marlo, as heartless as he is, will survive because he understands the true nature of the game he is in. He understands that if he is not ready to go to any lengths to grow and control his territory there will be another young thug ready to take his place as soon as he goes soft. He may be killed or go to jail but again that’s all in the game. He know this and makes the game his life.

    That lesson was learned by Avon, Stringer and Prop Joe. Avon understood those rules, which is why he supports Marlo…he understands him, perhaps more than anyone in the series. The thing that worries me, as far as Marlo is concerned, is that he doesn’t really have a true enforcer/right hand man beyond Chris. If Omar takes Chris out, that would be a huge blow to Marlo’s muscle although I doubt he would have any problem finding new muscle to back him. While Snoop is cold-blooded, I seriously doubt that she would bring the same street cred to Marlo that Chris brings to the table.

  25. christycash Says:

    Owen, I know that Richard Price is a writer for The Wire. But you’re right to point out some of the Season 3 characters who make struggling and doing the right thing (pun intended) a priority. I still think that the show, on the whole, isn’t about those people. And that’s fine. That’s the choice it makes to tell the stories it thinks are important.

  26. rkm Says:

    Back to that Daniels/Marlo thing. One of the ways I see this ending is Marlo fully ascendant, and Daniels failing to assume the throne that is being warmed for him because he can’t navigate the political scene/backrooms sufficiently, which is needed at that high a level of office, regardless of his credibility and competence as a policeman. If Simon does end those two plots that way, then he’s saying that politics is dirtier than the drug game, which I don’t necessarily disagree with, since the stakes are higher in politics.
    On a side note, I know we’re supposed to bask in the “realness” of the Wire, even though that’s kind of an absurd concept for any show, but I am hoping that Omar takes out Marlo, because I think it is the best way to end the drug game part of the show, and it would make Omar one of the greatest anti-hero heroes I can think of. Any opinions on that?

  27. dronkmunk Says:

    you need to read Clockers.

  28. Adam Hoff Says:

    I am also hoping that Marlo falls and that Omar survives, and ideally that Omar is the one to take Marlo down. I kind of like that Omar is still around against all odds – it is a sliver of a fairly tale dropped into the gritty reality of the show.

    That said, there are several candidates for the potential role of Marlo’s foil. Slim Charles is a possibility. Omar, obviously. The po-lice. I even think Michael could reach a point where he sees enough senseless violence and/or somebody close to him is hurt that he takes Marlo out.

    One last thing on Marlo: I’m sure this has been said before, but Jamie Hector’s acting is impressive. Marlo is such an effective character and has been given so many subtle ticks that really bring the part to life. The strut, the tugging of the t-shit, the understated delivery … its a really terrific job. Throw in a nice guy pulling of the embodiment of pure evil and I find it to be one of the best performances on a show full of them.

  29. g Says:

    Sorry carter, didn’t get back quick enough, but I think other people have elaborated on the Marlo/Daniels parallel. Well, in retrospect, I think it’s more of a rough-hewn symmetry. It’s a stretch, and maybe Daniels is not ruthless enough. The Prop Joe / Burrell thing is something else, they both went to school together, one dies, the other lives and prospers. This season is one whole blob of grey… again.

    Another thing, I really have this strange feeling that Omar is going to die. If he does, I expect it to be uneventful and I hope it’s not some kind of guns blazing “Wild Bunch” thing.

  30. Maxwell Demon Says:

    A little late to the party, but here’s one more disembodied voice telling y’all to read Clockers. The movie is a 7, the book is a 9. I would say it and Simon’s “Homicide” are the two key books behind the show, although there’s also Pelecanos (e.g. Drama City).

  31. Maxwell Demon Says:

    Maybe the movie is a 6.


  32. Just posted this comment on House Next Door too, but I thought I’d cross-post here:

    Very much appreciate the comments on Clockers! I’ve long thought that was one of Spike Lee’s best, and one of the things I treasure about it is how, as H&H notes, it filets the dealers’ pretensions to being a family.

    Lee has always had an absolutely penetrating ear for male bullshit—from the guys on the corner in Do the Right Thing to the guys on the shore in Summer of Sam—and Clockers was a great full-frontal attack on the gangsta bullshit that still survives in ‘hood movies and ‘hood rap. Like Fiddy, Clockers dealers love to talk about love for their “family”, about honor, and about being struggling businessmen who simply have the good sense to prefer slangin’ to working in a McDonalds. But in the course of the film, we watch them betray each other, betray their families, and betray their communities—Lee never, ever lets them off the hook, and takes grim pleasure in exposing their self-delusions. It’s striking, still, to see a ‘hood movie whose sympathies are entirely with the guys who really would rather work at McDonalds, but that’s exactly what Clockers is—a rare spot of moral awareness in an smugly amoral genre.


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