Grab those neon stakes

I finally got caught up, which means I watched #39 after it had been up for a full two days. Don’t think I’m wretched or nothing for saying this, but that first episode was almost too much for me: between the year plus wait, hype for miles, the On-Demand fiasco and all those conspiracy theories, I didn’t know if I was equipped for another. Luckily, it consisted mostly of Simon et al. trotting out every character whose return you’d doubted; there are so many now that there’s a difference between #38 framing the narrative and this roll call.

One thing I adamantly don’t want to do in these posts is vomit up sentimentality. Although I was as giddy as anyone to see Cutty on a roll, I’d rather refrain from reaction until I know where it’s heading. Double that for the return of Bay and his tropical pets, possibly the most tender slice of low-life in the program’s history. It could’ve been pat or silly that he turned up as Nay’s father, and I could’ve simply latched onto the kid as “son of Wee-Bey.” Instead, this twist confirmed what I’ve been suspecting: these kids are the Pit Crew recast in more stark, hellish terms. Anyone who saw this move as cheap (for better or for worse) ignores this at their own peril.

The saga of D’Angelo, Bodie, and Wallace remains The Wire’s most rudimentary and most evocative storyline. D’Angelo, forced into the game by tradition and reputation; Bodie, a product of his environment seemingly built for it; and Wallace, doomed from the start. Like I said yesterday, it’s always premature to come to any conclusions about the characters, but Namond, Randy, and Dukie/Michael are all those archetypes made more grim. D’Angelo was a prince, an heir to a hustling empire who could’ve possible done something else with himself. Even if D. had honor and family name holding him back, he had probably had better odds than Stringer of going legit. The Bey/Nay scene at prison was cute only when it wasn’t creeping the fuck out of me. Yes, Wee-Bey has always taken pride in his soldiering, but in that conversation you saw how much his work ethic was the product of desperation. He was more like one of Frank’s boys than the usual swaggering street tough, devoted to both the job and the security it provided; all of a sudden, Cutty’s post-crime behavior makes a lot more sense.

No telling if Randy will end up like Bodie, who is as much a raw natural as Wee-Bey is a fine-tuned principle. Still, that one murder he now has on his conscience, plus his enthusiasm for Marlo’s cash, points toward the same helplessness that, on some level, motivates Bodie. Broadus, a middle-school drop-out who never left Baltimore ended up on the corner in much this same way: as a matter of circumstance. That he could make it his life is depressing, not some sort of affirmation of his inner criminal essence. And finally, the strange, nascent tale of Dukie. Just as Wallace was put on the show to teach us a hard truth, I can’t watch Dukie without sensing some of those same overtones + Ziggy. After Michael’s confrontation with Marlo and glum refusal to train with Cutty, I’d include him in this category, too. It’s like being thoughtful or sensitive marks a character early on in The Wire as cannon fodder, even more so when there’s no one to shield them.

One final note: what the fuck is happening with Marlo? I was all set to write up something about how he’s essentially one-dimensional, and would suck in a show that were any less insistently three-dimensional. But as that exception, he’s all the more chilling. Then he spends #39 in search of public approval and getting up in the face of a morose seventh-grader. Is our our favorite arch-fiend already losing composure!??!?!?!!??

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4 Comments on “Grab those neon stakes”

  1. jetsetjunta Says:

    While I agree that the crews of old are being presented in miniature this season, I think that the point of doing so is to complicate matters. Bodie is rock solid as ever in his belief in the game, but Michael I predict to stand as a kind of archetype of indecision, caught between his intellect, his hope and the dismal prospects society and the Wire writers have to offer, and complicated further by his preternatural skill as a corner dealer. Watching these children manage school, their own adolescent horrors and the game is meant to disturb viewers and hammer home the true whirlpool of the drug culture in a way that Avon and String’s tightly-wound empire could never do. To that end, I think Marlo’s coolness, his aloof awesomeness, is going to be eaten away by his inability to take the long view of his circumstances. Dealers don’t last long in this world, and corner boys never accrue enough money to get out of the hood, but the blinders of American-dreaminess that go hand in hand with the game provide a greater irony and tragedy for the underclass than is at times bearable.

  2. trackMark Says:

    “To that end, I think Marlo’s coolness, his aloof awesomeness, is going to be eaten away by his inability to take the long view of his circumstances.”


    I think both of you guys have it wrong here. Marlo isn’t aloof, he isn’t cooly awesome, and he isn’t neglecting the long view. Nor is he losing his composure. If he was losing composure or anything else, why would he be so careful about having his crew hide all the bodies, and why would he give away money to corner kids to win their loyalty?

    Marlo is probaly the first true villain on the show. The man is cold and calculating. He’s like Stringer but instead of understanding economics, he’s figuring out the psychology of the game.

  3. Shoals Says:

    tm–my initial, abandoned marlo point was that he’s the show’s only one-sided character. he’s like the perfect synthesis of avon and string (charisma + rationality), minus any of the humanity (avon’s g-code, stringer’s bizarre idealism).

    there’s also that scene from last season where the rim shop dude reminds him what happens to cats who wear the crown, but marlo insists that it’s his time. certainly, in the grand scheme of the show this could be seen as a weakness; whether it’s enough to give him depth, though, remains to be seen.

    a true villian wouldn’t be so into his own notoriety. unless as you and christy have suggested, there’s a strategic advantage to getting known. i guess it comes down to whether you give marlo or the show’s history the benefit of the doubt.

  4. Shoals Says:

    oh, also, i think the implication is that the streets know marlo. it’s fine-tuning his image that they’re working on now. usually that would be through dropping bodies, but he’s chosen to go a whole other route.

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