I’m building on Shoals’s last post here, and the comments that introduced D’Angelo. So consult that to get a sense of where this is coming from…
The topic here is, broadly speaking, pathos. I’m a little farther in the season (I watched 41 last night) but I’m not giving anything away when I say that The Wire can really tug at heartstrings, and does so more this season than ever before. It’s so hard to watch these kids sometimes, esp. Dukie and Michael’s dealings with his little brother. The way he takes care of him, gets him set up, holds his hand — it’s all very touching, and makes me feel like something bad just has to happen. Watching an 8th grade boy take care of his little brother cause his parents are MIA and he lives in the ghetto, well, that’s going to make your heart flutter a little. It inspires a whole host of emotions: admiration, guilt, sorrow, pity, and the sense that this just isn’t how people should have to live. The Wire’s an incredibly smart and intellectual show, that’s not under dispute, but it also knows how to use emotion at key moments, and with key characters, to either drive home its points or inspire feeling or just keep the plot moving.
Michael reminds me of Wallace, but also of D’Angelo. D’Angelo was and is one of my favorite characters (I can’t commit to a #1 slot), but he was marked from the start. He had to die for so many reasons: to fracture the family; to reveal the way the game had warped the family even as it had built it, had made it a family at all; and to drive home to viewers the real senselessness of the game, its refusal to spare anyone. D’Angelo was a good kid (like Michael), he was trying to do the right thing for himself (get out of the game; Michael’s (still) in school), and he was murdered –sacrificed — by his uncle and his mom. Not sacrificed to some greater good, but to the preservation of the status quo, which keeps money in boys’ pockets but also, Season 4 won’t let us forget, keeps them down in a cycle of poverty, keeps them out of school which is, as idealistic as this is to say, I still maintain, their only hope. (Street smarts are great for surviving, but not so great for leaving, as Stringer learned. And no one really survives the streets, another lesson of The Wire and countless movies — you climb high, you fall hard). To return to the point, D’Angelo’s murder was emotional — it was misty-eyed, and it was supposed to be.
What I’m thinking here is, are there any moments when the show loses its grip on pathos and falls into sentimentality? Are there any scenes — esp of the street, which seems like the easiest place to fall into some serious liberal sappiness — that anyone can remember that seemed cheap in some way, or un-earned? Some of the stuff with Michael and his brother could come across that way, but I think what we’re really seeing is not an unearned emotional moment but set-up for something bigger down the line. In fact, what seems the weirdest and most false to me so far is not on the street at all but is with McNulty and Beadie. I always thought their romance was a bit random, more like a tacked-on wedding at the end of a Victorian novel than a real relationship, and those “ankle-biters” with their perfect behavior and their “McNulty gave it to me” sing-song voices, I don’t know. I just don’t buy it.
Discuss, if you so please.
And if that’s not interesting to anyone, maybe someone else has an opinion on Bloomberg’s newest plan to reward the “good behavior” of the poor with cash? Because the people who aren’t in school, seeing the doctor or scoring well on standardized tests aren’t worth helping. There probably aren’t pressures in their communities or home lives that make “behaving well” an impossibility or anything.