They Want to Take Your Place

I was happy to finally hear some loud echoes of what I have been reading from Simon and co. on the HBO website regarding the thematic mortar of the season: corner boys versus stoop boys. Colvin’s speaking on the concept of corralling the corner boys together to try and reach them away from the kids who care more about school was almost cornily reminiscent of his explications and defenses of hamsterdam. But in the end that’s fine, because it is through Bunny that we are going to learn a lot, I think, about how corner boys become bona fide gangsters. If this is a prequel to the first three seasons and to the Barksdale crew, then we are witnessing not the utter dissolution of some and the salvation of others, but rather the formulation of morality in facing the game. It’s certainly interesting too that it should be Bunny who gets to take a good hard look at the genesis of the game’s players, as he seems a fine mix of hopeful and faithless as any stand-in for ourselves, and his experience makes his dialogues a real joy. It will be nice to hear him speaking with the corner boys once they get them all in a room together.


As Shoals pointed out, Randy’s innocence/childishness, willful or not, is what brands him, at least for the moment, as exceptional. I think that each of the children will continue to emerge as exceptional in their own ways. I did think it was interesting how unhappy he was to stand lookout for some kids having a tryst in the bathroom, so eager was he to get to his sixth graders. Also, though of course whatever those kids were doing in the bathroom, they were too young for it, the looks of complete boredom and malaise when they all walked out were pretty hilarious.

I was tickled this episode by Lester Freamon’s comic relief in the form of his flatfoot searches of the city morgue, the woods, and even the sewers for Lex’s body, as though his hard boiled detective skills were some kind of Rip Van Winkle-ism he has yet to wake from. It only stayed on the entertaining side of silly for me due to Wee-Bey’s subsequent corroboration of the woods as a nice place to dump a body.


Bey’s little speech to Namond bears a second look simply because of how it shows a little hiccup of pure exposition on the part of the writers. Bey lectures Namond on the codes of yesteryear (meaning last year, basically, or any time during the Barksdale years), and laments the chaotic and honor-less dealings of Marlo. It’s not hard to see him echoing everything about the show, in terms of seeing Marlo’s operation in contrast to the Barksdale group. Things may not have been upstanding and good for the community back then, but the following of rules benefitted everyone, rather than the privileged few (think of the corner shop owner’s unexpected and bloody hassle just to help out his boss). I would be happy if Bey could continue to play Greek chorus for the remainder of the series, highlighting things in his scratchy baritone and laying out the morality of the game from one who knows because he has no morality to speak of (aside from faith for his fish, his wife and educating his child on a life in crime).

Finally, Marlo. Sigh. I have to disagree with plenty of what Shoals had to say about the glory of Marlo and Chris’s pow-wowing. Perhaps it’s the lack of insight into the daily workings of Marlo’s organization, whereas the Barksdale syndicate was like an ant farm for three seasons, but everything in Marlo’s gang seems very slapped together. Sure, Marlo has a lookout on his concrete jungle headquarters to spot the Major Crimes dopes setting up a surveillance camera. And sure, Chris comes up with a marginally clever plan for trapping Omar and putting him in a position where he could be compromised and, it would seem, assassinated. And sure, Chris and Snoop creepily approaching Michael, recruiting children who have scored well on their Preliminary Slangin’ Aptitute Tests, reeks of a vampiric perfection. But! But! But! Marlo’s instincts on killing Omar feel like a really unhealthy impulse, to say nothing of the pride that endeavor displays, and the places we all know pride can get one on The Wire. Witness also Marlo’s willingness to join forces with the confederacy of dealers, something he had always refused on principle and also out of pride, simply because he needs assistance in counteracting surveillance and doesn’t want to get robbed again? Or is it simply because he wants help in killing Omar? That seems to show more weekness than smarts after holding out for so long and basically falling prey to Prop Joe. The moderate amount of useful intelligence that Marlo is willing to join in for betrays a kind of blind arrogance that never learns but simply morphs and adapts constantly to whatever seems to work.

I wonder at this point, thinking again of the rubric laid out in various places by Simon, Burns, and others, how to fit Marlo into the tale being told this season. If the story would like to focus on being a prequel to the Barksdale saga, then is Marlo just a cookie-cutter tempter, there to embody evil and scare the children into running away or losing their souls and giving in? Why then are we witnessing his missteps and cruelty in ways that were not offered for Stringer and Avon?

I just wonder about hubris, and whether, as we have hinted at before, the dire situations in real Baltimore that the series reflects, and the uselessness of institutions to fix the problems in that city and many others, condemns any of those who struggle to grab the reins of those out-of-control systems or presume to impose their will to effect real change or do the right thing (Bunny, Cutty, Marlo, Carchetti, Michael, &c.) to always end up suffering for our collective catharsis of pity and fear? Simon says this is Greek and not Shakespearean, after all.

drama king

Finally, check out this site by the music supervisor of The Wire. And not just because he jocks us but mostly because he explains a bit about that amazing Greek song from season 2. And how superlative of a song is “Back Stabbers” to hear blaring out of a car?

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9 Comments on “They Want to Take Your Place”

  1. jetsetjunta Says:

    fascinating. thanks jhoshea! gosh, just looking at this i feel like i should commit it to memory. any information on why burns did this report?

  2. Shoals Says:

    we spend so much time talking about the nuances of marlo’s character when really, you might be right. maybe’s he’s just meant to be evil incarnate. in season 1, stringer played this role vis a vis the pit crew. and if by barksdale crew pre-history you mean pit crew pre-history, i’ll buy this.

    but what if this is indeed avon and/or stringer’s pre-history? how a ballsy up-and-comer comes to be the king, the adaptations and compromises he must make while still perserving that hellish drive? brianna has that line in season 1 about how the family did all this warring to get where they are today; what if this war/struggle is the template for going from upstart to supreme.

  3. jetsetjunta Says:

    this is what i’m wondering as well. i mean sure, the four boys are templates for either specific or amalgamated characters we have already seen in the game, but what about marlo? maybe he’s a template as well, and maybe bodie too, for that matter, all of them in their relative youth (vis a vis string, avon, prop joe, and even the other side of the fence for some of the younger kids, who could grow up to be freamon or rawls or hell, even royce) being versions of other players in the larger drama. in this way i really like the allusion made on another wire blog to marlo and royce’s card games signifying on a parallell level, but one signifying greed and ambition and the other greed and desperation. anyway, i like thinking about these multiple refractions that happen, that make these disparate players into more of a resonating community of causes and effects, symptoms and diseases, preambles and epilogues.

  4. Sean Says:

    I remember in Season One Stringer, I think it was, was listening to Stay Human, a concept album about the death penalty. I thought that was an interesting touch, and the use of music has just gotten better.

  5. Spawn Says:

    Marlo is more like the dealers out there than the barksdale organization. If the show had given us another Stringer it would have been unrealistic and lame. Marlo is like the insurgents in Iraq who have replaced Saddam after he was overthrown. We wish we had Saddam back because despite how ruthless he was he kept Iraq from sinking into chaos. I may be in the minority but I find Marlo fascinating. If he’s a cold hearted stone killer it may just because of the environment he’s from. Or maybe he’s simply a sociopath. Regardlless if we can have an almost pure good character in Lester why not an evil counterpart with Marlo?

    As for Chris… soldier ever. What a cold bastard.

  6. Jennifer Says:

    Was that Tina Jenkins who was going into the bathroom with those two boys? I caught all of THE CORNER before THE WIRE reappeared on ON DEMAND. The cute girl who has made at least two cameos as different people is the real daughter in law of the real bubbles; she tried to buzz Prez in. She was in the last episode of THE CORNER. The real bubbles was the main character in THE CORNER. I’m glad I watched THE CORNER before catching THE WIRE.

  7. noticed upon rewatching: how comically inept the attempt @ filming marlo was – possibly illegal, no sound, detected immediately; rawls playing both sides of the fence, setting himself up for the commissionership regardless of who wins – thing is, i don’t see carcetti appointing a white commissioner, daniels is likely his man – so did rawls just sabotage is career by giving the carcetti camp the watkins dirt? i still say rawls is the best operator on the legal side of the fence.

    oh and jennifer, the corner is about a guy named gary – the real bubbles was named bubbles.

  8. jetsetjunta Says:

    Yeah the major crimes division just gets worse and worse, but I can only think that perhaps the ineptitude will accidentally yield something great. I was happy to note how irate Daniels was about the missteps of his replacement there. Of course he has no real pull there, but who knows.

    The real bubbles also died I believe of complications from HIV in the late ’80s or early ’90s. There is a lot of information in The Wire: Truth be Told on Bubbles’ real life and his real expoits.

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