Through the rapids of time

After watching #40 early today, I almost sent my letter of resignation in to HH headquarters. Our favored program has pushed the meter so far past totally fucking awesome that I almost don’t want to write about it. It’s fairly unfathomable how much of a leap it’s made each season, and by this point the damn thing is almost unwieldy in its jingly perfection.

To avoid the hard fall back into civilized discourse, I want to tell you all that my favorite character is Bodie. I’ve said some things on this at my verified address, and this doubtlessly informed my first HH effort. There’s a lot I find endearing about Bodie, plenty I find interesting, and even some stuff that’s informative. But what it comes down to mostly, though, is that dude’s grown up over the course of The Wire—with the show, even. An esteemed colleague of mine estimated that B-Squared must be around sixteen when Season 1 begins; now, he’s seasoned enough to hold it down on his own, but still gets given the youf treatment by certified young gun Marlo. Twenty seems like a reasonable guess at how many birthday candles he’s puffing at, meaning the boy has become a man.

(Sidebar: Am I the only person who feels that Truth be Told wrecked itself by referring to both B. and Wallace as “man-child?”)

The mesmerizing thing about Young Broadus is that he’s both the quintessential participant in the game, and yet strangely independent at key moments. He punches cops during a sweep, even though Fruit tells us all that this dance is merely the rhythm of the corner; bucks Stringer’s authority and charismatic sway on the team; and now, apparently, decides to go up against the reigning King of the West. If the “the game” is every institution of any kind in Baltimore—and by extension, The Wire itself as narrative construct—it’s key to note that Bodie’s been sucked into every major plotline on the street side, and yet somehow escapes their inevitable collapse. The entrapment bit was one, as was the fingerprint deal from Season 2, and his rise out of the D’Angelo/Wallace sorrows.

All this has, in effect, tested dude’s character like nobody’s business. And, singificantly, proved that he’s both in deep as hell and capable of registering events as more than just a mindless soldier. It’s not just that Bodie has gotten older over the course of the program; it’s the events of The Wire that have been his education. These formative experiences have turned him from cocky, sporadic kid to canny operator. Granted, his hunger and intensity were evident from the beginning, but the show’s writers could’ve just as easily turned him into a Bey-style gladiator. The Wire has been nothing less than his coming-of-age story, what happens when a juvenile with some wits makes the most of his opportunities.

If you can’t tell, I think Bodie’s a tremendously important character in the grand scheme of the show. Put simply, he’s the only one who has a real sense of history to him. Yes, backstory helps us understand Lester and Daniels; Herc and Carver are nothing without their career pitfalls; and McNulty and Stringer unfold as studies in tragic flaw. But in none of these cases have we seen a character forged from clay before our very eyes. We know the rungs of several hierarchies, and how these agree or disagree with certain kinds of personalities. Bodie, however, has been created by institutions, forced to squirm and scheme as an individual in order to play the game without being its bitch. In this respect, McNulty and Stringer were men whose strong identities were their downfall; Bodie, as befitting someone born and raised in the thick of it, has spent his whole semi-adult life adapting.

I think we’re all in agreement that the kids are what’s made Season 4 so seering; I would argue that this is exactly because they’re playing out the early chapter of Bodie’s life, making game-infused personal history the thrust of the story. When it’s recognized that development is inseparable from various institutions (school just makes it explicit), and four pre-teens are placed at the center of the plot, then it’s not a stretch to say that Bodie has become the show. I said last week that I thought this li’l gang was Pit Crew Redux; while now it’s clear that Michael has a bit of D’Angelo in him, I’m not going to back off the claim that this is essentially Bodie’s prehistory. At this juncture, though, it seems like a lot more figures into the maturation process than just gang politics and cop manuevers. Whether this means the The Wire has gotten broader in scope or we viewers have gotten more open-minded.

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9 Comments on “Through the rapids of time”

  1. Rocco Chappelle Says:

    I’ve been a bit reluctant to read this blog because I’m only half way through the 3rd season, but I can see the argument of Bodie’s structural centrality coming. Actually, I was just trying to explain a similar point to my girlfriend recently. An interesting aspect of the show and a portion that I personally find to be compelling in its difficultly to pull off is that it’s a character driven drama that is not in the least concerned with transformation. These characters are who they are. They occupy their own ghettos of the “game” but they do very little changing, they simply reveal themselves, sometimes to themselves but often without their own knowledge. Bodie is different because of his youth and that transformation has been essential to his survival. (Psychologically, where would D’Angelo and Wallace be today if they were alive? I tend to believe that they’d still be victims of the game in life as opposed to the martyrs that they are).

    It’s also interesting that the dude that plays Boadie made a similar transformation almost 10 years ago on the forefather of all great HBO hour longs, as Kenny on OZ. Over the course of 3 seasons he went from a posturing tough to a real operator. How old is J.D. Williams. He convincingly played an 18 year old 10 years ago and then convincingly played a 16 year old 4 years ago but he also gets his grown man on quite successfully.

  2. Shoals Says:

    wallace was a martyr in the most classic, flimsy sense of the word, but i don’t think it’s so easy to write off d’angelo. i said in my initial post on the pit crew that he, in theory, should’ve had a chance to make it out, likely more than string ever did. mama’s boy, total impunity, minimal track record. . . it might also come down to the fact that yeah, compared to bodie he seemed like someone who could’ve done something else with his life, but (nod to this season) where was he at, practically speaking. when did he stop going to school? could he handle himself in classroom or work setting beyond making impassioned speeched in jail lit?

    that’s part of why focusing on school is so central. aside from stringer’s community college courses, which were already thinly veiled studies in what he already knew, we’ve never seen what it actually looks like when these “promising” characters try and better themselves. simon talks in one of those documentaries about how much wasted talent and potential someone like marlo has, but can you imagine dude on a college campus?

  3. PostmanE Says:

    This is a purely functional question: How did you see #40. Is it available in On Demand? (I checked yesterday, and still no go. I’m craving here…)

  4. Shoals Says:

    will the drama never end. . . mine went up at midnight on the dot, but i’ve heard some other cities had problems

  5. Tom Says:

    I really, really hope Bodie doesn’t get clipped. Hell, I hope he gets a chance to wear the crown. All in all, I share your affection for him, which is remarkable given his mortal sin at the end of season 1.

  6. john Says:

    I’m having problems with episode 40 also.

  7. Mr. Six Says:

    I’m not convinced that that’s really D’Angelo’s story. In retrospect, I’m not certain whether he wanted out of the game or whether he wanted a different game and was still too raw to figure out how to traverse the unknown terrain between his present and the faintly viewed desired future. And there be monsters in between.

    Perhaps this picks up on the previously discussed comments from Simon about The Wire having a Greek flavor, but also weaves in the Shakespearean notion of tragedy, as expressed by the Dane: “The time is out of joint.” Tragedy often proceeds upon a failure of timelines to properly coalesce. Information arrives too late. Characters who clearly should be in sync work instead at cross-purposes. Characters who could help each other never meet. Would D have wanted out of the game if he had been in a position of relative power in the Barksdale crew when Bunny Colvin ruled Hamsterdam?

  8. zach Says:

    In season 4, Bodie talks about how Marlo didn’t really need to kill Kevin, but Stringer needed to kill Wallace. I think Bodie’s reaction to Kevin’s murder is more guilt over Wallace than actual indignance. Bodie didn’t just kill Wallace because he was ordered to. There was at least the possibility that he genuinely despised Wallace’s weakness. That said, his guilty suffering as manifested in his reaction to Kevin’s death shows personal growth but is against the spirit of the game and therefore damning. I think Bodie’s decision to talk to McNulty is also meant to be penance for killing Wallace. Now everybody who shared in that atmosphere of peaceful naive hope in the pit is killed by the game as a result of sharing in that atmosphere. Bodie may not have realized he was touched by the pit at the time, but he clearly was. That’s part of his charisma.

  9. Vantanna Says:

    That’s some real shit Zach. As Detroit’s reigning WIRE God, I’m escatic over stumbling over this blog. You people are to be praised.

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