Run, Rabbits, Run.
Warning: Contains #42 spoilers.
I’m finding myself more and more interested in the political plotlines on The Wire. #42’s highlights, for me, were Rawls approaching Carcetti and Wilson; Watkins chewing out Royce; and the hilarious spectacle of watching Coleman Parker trot after Watkins, rolling away at a faster clip. I must confess that my obsession with the street was not what it was in earlier seasons, but I don’t think the difference is me — I’m being led by the show’s writers to pay closer attention to what’s happening at the political level, to try and make sense of how the situation on the street A) got to where it is and B) is going to change in the future.
Change is a funny concept on The Wire: Because even if the show won’t ever allow the possibility of political change, the fact is, change is inescapable. And sometimes change isn’t worse; it’s just different. And sometimes, things can actually get better. The idea of political change is especially interesting to me because politics requires, by its nature, a unique mix of idealism and cynicism, deal-making and opportunism, as well as genuine passion for improving people’s lives. Sure, there are one-note power-grabbers, like Clay Davis; but you’ll notice that they’re not the focus of the political plot. They’re not as interesting as someone like Carcetti.
Now, there was a good discussion in the comments on Carcetti a couple weeks’ back. I know a lot of people see him as just an opportunist but I think he’s very complicated, someone who genuinely wants change: The drama of Carcetti’s character will be watching him make choices: Will he become a Royce, who forgot the promises of his campaign, which may have also been his true passions? Will he become a Clay Davis? Or will he become more like a Bunny Colvin, who sees fit to continue agitating within the system? It’s the only one we have, after all.
My point here is it’s too easy to dismiss politics as a possible solution to the violence and poverty of the street. The Wire, cynical as it is, still has to reckon with the fact that politics remain our best hope for change. And change is presumably something that we, the good people of the world who love The Wire and also believe that the United States has committed criminal injustices against its citizens, want.
Enough grandstanding. Getting down to the episode. Rawls. Fascinating! The more we see of the police bureaucracy the more I want. It’s interesting how the attitude of self-preservation trickles down through the ranks. The cops are always talking about their pensions, X years, etc.; and of course it’s clear that Rawls is going around to Carcetti to make sure he’s in good in case Carcetti wins. And because everyone is scratching everyone’s back, Carcetti would never tell; there seem to be no downsides — it’s just everyone for themselves. (Sidenote: Does anyone else think it’s a little funny how we found out Rawls is gay and then it was… dropped? Like it was a joke thrown in cause they thought the show would be cancelled?) I have not seen past #42 and I have no idea what will happen in the primary, but will be very interesting to see how it all shakes out: Will Carcetti win, will he lose and remain a thorn in Royce’s side, will he ever drop his annoying poor-me, I’m just a white boy speeches? And what about Watkins? Will he endorse Carcetti? Seems unlikely, but the way Royce’s luck is going (he can’t win for losing), it wouldn’t be that far-fetched. And of course let’s not forget we still have to contend with the little scandal that Herc is keeping quiet—and Valchek, too, who is undoubtedly saving it for just the right moment….
And then the question remains of how information travels throughout these halls of power. We saw this week how Rawls came into his information: through a spy in the Mayor’s office. All kinds of questions here: Was this a one time call? Did this guy do it on his own, did Rawls place him? With all the meddling going on, from Burrell down to Fat Man’s puppeteering with Kima, an awful lot of time is spent jockeying for power and satisfying the interests of the powerful. As jetset put it to me today, how does anyone ever get any work done? Seems like perhaps all this self-preservation comes at a price: actual police work, actual legislating. You know: actual change.