Death by security
Before I proceed with the neatness, all praise due to the folks over at The Dizzies, who rewarded my efforts in their Wire Trivia Contest with a Season Three set. Whoever’s currently holding my bootleg edition, wear it in health.
Regarding #42, which was a little on the slow, set-up-before-the-storm side: I nearly jumped out of my couch last night when Chris started getting equated with some voodoo shit. Double that for Namond’s mention of C’s “country-ass clothes.” You see, since we first met the Dread Partlow in Season 3, I’ve been saying he looks like a Haitian militiaman. Maybe this marks me as intolerant, but the emergence of this trope in #42 allows me to feel like I always had my finger on the show’s pulse of evocation.
I also appreciated the sudden window into the dynamics of the Marlo/Chris operation. I think it was last week, someone suggested that Marlo consulted Chris on the Lex hit. He was wrong, but the interactions we caught in #42 prove he might have been on the track of goodness. As much as I’ve been yelping about this Avon/String hybrid, here the Accursed Duo resembled nothing if not vintage, pre-strife Barksdale strategizing. Chris with the operational ingenuity, Marlo with the general’s sense of what he can and can’t get his organization to do. This seems not so inconsistent with what the official site seems to be pushing on us; Marlo is the heir apparent to Avon’s gangster, Chris is the loyal demon by his side. For what it’s worth, though, Chris is also willing to get his hands dirty in ways that Stringer would’ve felt beneath him, or at least too risky. This either proves that Marlo Inc. is in the process of making the awkward leap from scrappy crew to fine-tuned empire, or is just so fucking evil that they crave blood on their hands.
What really stuck with me, though, was how much Randy’s character has begun to give me fits. First it seemed that Dukie was slated for disaster; then, Michael looked set for some sort of heart-wrenching plummet. Of course, The Wire is far too smart a show to ever satisfy expectations like that (no Wallace II here), so I should’ve never trusted these hunches in the first place. What’s perhaps more significant, though, is that these kids are in flux as most eighth graders should be. Namond’s apology to Prez almost had me in tears, despite his having been up to that point on Valchek’s level of narrow obnoxiousness. Yes, this is a testament to how well the writers understand human nature—and despise narrative conventions. But it’s also serving to make these into possibly the most convincing teens to ever appear on the small screen. Everything about them, from their relationships with each other to the way they carry themselves varies with the situation, allowing you to see just how many forces are acting on them—and how susceptible they are to all of them.
Except Randy. Maybe as a nod toward his desire for eternal youth, Randy remains the affable, slightly wide-eyed puff throughout, staying on his innocent grind and full unequipped to face the reality of drugs, guns, death, cash, and hopelessness. Zombies are more worrisome to him than the fact that he’s caused a murder, and “just dead” is, in theory, a relief next to “special dead.” Confronted with the body, however, Randy suddenly seems to grasp the impossibly adult act he’d committed—kids fret over the hypothetical occult, grown-ups have to deal with the concrete fact of a corpse. Unlike his peers, who can all surprise you with their wisdom, composure, and cynicism, Randy is the one kid for whom the zombie rumor is not just imaginative shit talking. Quite simply, he needs to fear zombies in order to avoid fearing the real world. It’s unclear what sent Michael and Dukie into that vacant, but Randy wanted to experience a comforting, old-fashioned spooking, hopefully with an actual zombie to make it official.
Last week, we were talking Michael’s transformation as the key to this season’s plot, both mechanically and symbolically. His lack of definition was exactly what enabled him to become a point of contention, the conflict that anchored the entire narrative. Now though, I’m thinking that its Randy’s immutability that will move things forward. His inability to adapt, to accept the terms of life in his neighborhood, turns Lex’s murder into a referendum on ghetto youth. Michael, Namond, and Dukie all could, to some degree, understand that this type of shit happened every day. Randy, though, is lucky enough to not have to. His involvement torments him, and forces us to see that really, its Michael, Namond and Dookie who are seriously fucked up. This isn’t meant as anyone criticism of them, but to make it clear that they shouldn’t have to be so hardened.
Watching The Wire, we sometimes get a little too comfortable with the milieu it depicts. We accept that black middle schoolers drop out and start on their way to full-time criminality. I love Bodie as much as the next man, but we’re so used to rooting for him that we forget the sad truth about his life. Randy is almost the inverse of Stringer, the mastermind of corruption who realized he could never go straight; in Randy’s case, we’re forced to see that shedding innocence is by no means a natural, or painless process. And that in some, especially sorrowful cases, there’s a chance they might even be felled by the transition itself. Wallace was older, more otherworldly, stunted and a little dismal. If he wasn’t a lost cause, he was at least someone already on the verge of collapse. Randy, by contrast, is a bright, energetic, likeable kid, a far cry from the inner wreckage of his friends. That he too is compelled to change, and that he simply can’t, might end up being this season’s decidedly unexotic emblem of tragedy.