If dawn breaks and the sun is sleeping. . .
First off, as promised, here’s the cautionary note: this post deals will issues raised up to and in Episode #43. Check yourself as you see fit. Alternatively, proceed over here for a guide to our #42 posts.
I promised Namond last week, and lo, today I come to you ready to speak of Season 4’s single most vexing character. A few stray thoughts first: it would’ve been over-obvious for Randy to get bagged for hanging out by Donut’s latest criminal triumph, and I applaud the writers for avoiding this. That this situation could occur, both realistically and as a convincing narrative touch, either shows us just how knee-deep in illegal shit these kids can’t help but be, or how clueless Randy is. The whole rape investigation is a more somber version of this same point, albeit that does have indirect consequences.
The lack of action. For some reason I’d been expecting a real barn-burner, but instead the streets were fairly quiet and the episode hung its adrenal hit on the election results. I for one had no idea they would come come this soon; getting caught off-guard by them might’ve been why I was happy to see Carcetti walk away with it. I despise the guy if I think about him enough, but at this point he’s one of The Wire‘s most involved studies in brittle, brittle human nature. We know the guy so well, so thoroughly now, that to turn our backs would be, well, a little callous. In a show that often suspends morality, humanity can be the next best thing, and Carcetti is at this point nothing if not that.
Also noteworthy how completely unconcerned with the streets last episode was. We had Marlo punking what’s left of the Major Case Unit, and those tense, sobering moments of Omar’s descent into gen pop. But when it came time to deliver the final scene—part cliff-hanger, part money shot, part refrain—we got a skinny white guy realizing that politics had perhaps healed his sick soul. Not without its drama, or its relevance to the ever-expanding point of the program. Those who came to The Wire because of its brave new take on the procedural, or its unflinching take on the streets, now have quite a different show on their hands. While Season 3 (my favorite, incidentally) hinted at it, Season 4 seems totally unconcerned with prioritizing one element of what makes cities tick and crumble.
Early on, you got my predictable sorrows over Dukie, whose resilience is now his defining trait. Then it was concern for Michael, the golden child whose inner strength could go either way. And last week, pauvre Randy, the one whose unwillingness to bend might prove his undoing. Namond, son of Wee-Bey and heir to the mantle of broad-shouldered hustling, had settled in as this season’s resident lost cause. Everything from his pedigree and swagger to his near-comic disdain for school gave the impression of a kid meant to excel elsewhere. Most importantly, only after the failed urine caper and during his apology to Prez has Ney exhibited anything resembling vulnerability. If Michael steels himself against the pain, and Dukie rolls with the punches, Namond appeared to have long ago buried that part of himself.
Yet come to find out in #43 that Namond draw all of his attitude and assurance not from his formidable dad, but rather from his petty mother. Namond is only ready for the streets because he’s a D’Angelo-like mama’s boy; my long-ago comparison of D. and Ney only makes sense if the latter’s seen as a vulgarized version of the Fallen Barksdale. Like Brianna at the more strategic upper echelons, De’Londa gets her way in the trenches. Bodie ostensibly plays along with her out of deference to Wee-Bey, but then immediately comments on how much about Namond can be explained by this “dragon lady.” Not his semi-legendary father—a scheming, vituperous woman whose greatest skills appear to be opportunism and recognizing when she’s beyond her depth.
As that school adminstrator lady puts it, Namond is the “pick of litter” when it comes to corner boys. When it comes time, though, for him to move his own package, his entire façade collapses. His mother now puts the pressure on him, instead of applying it to others to make his life easier (if nothing else, by example); he’s gone from an entitled bully to the victim of her pettiness. He desperately tries to enlist Michael, whose stock has risen so fast in the game that I’m half-expecting Daniels to invite him onto the force. Of course, the Boy Who Would Be Cutty lets him down gentle, but the implication is clear: Ney is not the rock his pops was, and when shit gets real he’s every bit the situational vampire his moms is. It’s almost physically impossible to imagine Wee-Bey impishly lying his way out of duty, and then staring at the work like it’s a foreign object his very being has repelled.
Namond looked across his bed at that package with such a look of impenetrable dread and alienation that, in that one moment, his entire act disintegrated. Caught between Wee-Bey’s rep and De’Londa’s selfish expectations, he’s been handed terms like “duty” as if they were family heirlooms, and then raised to use them as an unimpeachable cloak for bullshit. When it comes down to it, he’s neither here nor there, parroting the actions of a man’s man while depending wholly on his mother’s venemous teat.
I have no idea if Namond saw what I did, or where he’s headed next. I can’t help but suspect that his imminent encounter with Bunny Colvin will have a say in the matter. I do know, however, that if Namond once seemed destined for the corner in, umm, a “good,” Bodie-esque way, now he too has been laid bare as just another intersection of competing misfortunes.