Well the week lapse really puts into high relief the oddness of HBO’s machinations and the On-Demand mess they have created. If you want to see our commentary on Episode #43 please look here, there, and yonder. For some extra tidbits and our more thematic discussions please see this and that. Plus check out our interview with David Simon. Continue below for some words on #44.
This week the wheels of the show’s narrative machine were switched, it seems, into the next gear, bringing various characters into contact with one another (Daniels and Carcetti is a pretty rich one, while Randy and Herc seems like a disaster waiting to happen), and slowly evolving the larger story line for our heroes, the children. Randy’s truth-telling being mishandled by the hot-headed Herc is frustrating just for how bungling the police can be, while Bunk’s ire-inducing persona messed that whole subplot of finding Lex and his killer even further. Namond again showed himself unprepared for the struggle of the game, while Michael stayed relatively quiet, though his excellent homework was something to note. Carcetti’s do-gooderness was shown in his observations of the police ComSat meeting, his admiration for Daniels both on the podium and out on the field not going unnoticed, though the impossibility of his raising Daniels to Commander was seemingly made clear. Cutty further redeemed himself, which is good because he is one of my favorites, although stepping into the fray between Sharrod and Namond seemed ill-thought-out, as Michael curtly opined. It was hard to tell whether Michael’s scowl at the end of Cutty’s awkward apology for sleeping with his charges’ mothers was a show of grudging respect or further suspicion. Bunny’s classroom seems fairly hopeless, a point pounded home when the sociologist called the mess “fascinating.” Meanwhile, Prez finally figured out a way to trick his students into learning, and his discovery of the updated textbooks and a computer held resonance with McNulty’s discovery of snooping equipment mouldering in the supply stacks of the police department.
Above all, I think the heartbreak of this week was in watching Bubbles, who I think too often is reduced to a one-note good-hearted-yet-tragic character, transformed into a complex and caring figure fighting from the bottom but encountering unending roadblocks. His concern for Sharrod is doubly touching when we recall that Bubbles has a child of his own that his addiction and his poverty have disallowed him from knowing. Not only that, but Sharrod’s companionship provided Bubbles with a sense of purpose in teaching, mentoring, and frankly in making more money. Of course the one time Sharrod should have aided Bubbles, he shrank back and watched his would-be caretaker take a beating.
One wonders how Bubbles got along for so long running his little business without attracting the attentions of the sort of thief he’s now got shadowing him all the time. Worse still, Sharrod is not only slangin but also using, which breaks a Crack Commandment (never get high on your own supply), and stirs up images of Cutty’s unpleasant and abortive re-entry into the game, not to mention the addictions of Wallace and D’Angelo, none of which ended well for those characters. Seeing Bubbles in his ill-fitting jacket and tie talking to the school’s principal is all the more difficult because it seems as though, despite his altruism toward Sharrod, he no longer harbors any desire to get back into rehab or give up using. The marks on his face are permanent. One wonders too why he has not sought to reach out to his ally on the police force in Greggs, but more about her in a moment.
The “bad cop” who harasses Bubbles when he is asking for help keeps showing up at the wrong time for everyone, and I wonder what his function is meant to be. He abuses, steals, and mishandles seemingly every encounter he has, always looking for the little guy (literally, when dealing with the kids, and figuratively, in harassing the hapless Bubbles) merely to push around and assert authority. The boneheads Carcetti rides around with for a night, as well as Herc, also display aspects of ineptitude and waste-of-time police nonsense (Herc seems unconcerned with solving crimes in the face of covering his ass), but this “bad cop” figure shows the worst aspects all the time. We know good police like McNulty are out there using their heads, but it seems like the deck is stacked against real police efficiency and intelligent work, despite the hopes of Carcetti and the singular, intense strategies of people like Daniels.
If there was a “good cop” this episode, it was Greggs, whose stellar casework and scene investigation made for a thrilling discovery scene while proving that she can handle homicides as well as the veterans. Her one-woman raid on that house where the target-practicing-accidental-witness-murderer resided also provided a moment of real heart-pounding anxiety. I thought immediately of her previous disastrous brush with criminals while on her own, but it showed her courage has not diminished. Her character this season is an odd mish-mash. For most of the season she has been a pawn in the witness dust-up, getting mired in police and city politics while she could have been solving cases. Now she has cleared the witness case, but she doesn’t seem involved particularly in any of the larger narratives of the season. I wonder if she will develop a larger role as the season progresses, or if she’ll remain present, but unimportant to the big picture. It seems a shame to string her along merely for continuity’s sake, when she could be an active participant in the larger story. Perhaps Bubbles will reach out to her for help. He certainly needs someone to rely on.