Train Kept A-Rollin’

Well, we have arrived at the beginning, the slow build to the climax of this season. It feels good and sickening too, like the excitement of reaching the crest of the first hill on a rollercoaster. You can’t wait to be set flying, but you also kind of wish you could back down and savor it more, and at the very same time you are regretting ever getting on this ride because your stomach feels like it’s about to do something neither it nor you has ever witnessed before. If your stomach is not ready for #46 spoilers, please look here for a listing of last week’s posts.


Herc’s bumbling idiocy would be bad enough, and poignant enough all on its own. The foolishness of his advancement and empowerment is beginning to turn into sour tragedy. But the one-two of watching him taunt and accuse Randy, mishandling and mistreating a child witness, and then fumbling his time with Lil’ Kev in an altogether different way – actually giving up information to the suspect – was sickening. He may well turn into the most evil character of the season, and being unconscious of that malignancy will make it worse for its dramatic irony. Bubbles’ seeming invincibility is beginning to show large, worrying cracks, also made worse by Herc’s total lack of integrity or care. I think all viewers at this point are steeled for something dreadful to happen to one of the kids, but if Bubbles were to suffer some real calamity, well, I would prefer to hope not. As mentioned elsewhere, one of the hallmarks of this season is a seeming inevitablity to the tragedy coming down on one of the kids, whereas in past seasons, there may have been clues to catastrophe, but there was also always an amount of real shock.

To remain on Herc for a moment, the bad counsel and the blind acquiescence of his white co-workers stands in interesting opposition to the incredulity of Carver and the exasperation of Sydnor. In some ways this mirrors the die-hard focus on efficiency and results seen in the work of Daniels versus the increasingly weasely strategies of Rawls. This is not to suggest that black cops are presented as doing better work, particularly when we have the legacy of McNulty and the looming presence of The Bad Cop (though, of course, the camera lingering on his hands at the wheel, Marlo’s ring on his finger, puts some blood in the water), but it is interesting to see this racialized split. One thinks of Prez, his inability to serve and protect, and his continuing struggle to reach out across race lines.

Old Face Andre’s demise was a sort of no-brainer, but smarted nonetheless. Not that he was lovable, exactly, but no one deserves to be treated like a pawn. Marlo using him, then using him again, and then killing him for what he knows constitutes something cruel and unusual. It seemed like the Gulag. You rely on your crew, then one day they ask you to do something, then you get taken away, then your crew puts a bullet in your head. The calmness seemed the same, the rationality (making it quick and painless) and the lack of menace were all there. We have mentioned before how Marlo’s operation, to say nothing of his paranoia, functions like totalitarianism. He is a young Stalinist, and the bodies pile up. It doesn’t matter that they simply disappear. People know. Comrade and crew become absurd terms.

One more moment I want to bring up is when we see another teacher, a colleague of Prez’s, wandering in front of the school lamenting that she thinks her car has been stolen. In the next scene, the predictable punchline is delivered when Donut rolls up in a new car, clearly the teacher’s. While this was, in the moment, clever and amusing in a “kids steal the darndest things” sort of way, it now feels very unfunny. It’s one too many car boostings for Donut for it to seem cute anymore, if it ever really did. That teacher wandering around the street looked pretty helpless, and coupled with Prez’s tooth-grindingly frustrating experiences trying to reach out to his students, it felt like a real sucker punch. These students don’t care, and they can’t even be blamed for not caring, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch Randy get interested in math for the sole purpose of hustling candy to his classmates, or Donut steal a teacher’s car for a cheap thrill. It’s turned the corner from being ambivalent yet vaguely hopeful to a hard kind of hateful that covers nearly everything and everyone.

There is so much more to discuss, but I want to leave some topics for my own comrades. Randy’s dice-playing was fun, though it would seem a bit foolhardy to play with grown men for hours, taking their money out in the open. Then there’s Bunny Colvin’s dinner experiment with Zenobia, Darnell and Namond, which seemed a kind of cruel way of exposing the hopelessness in these kids’ lives. And of course Michael has made a decision, and chosen who he can rely upon to help him in his time of need, and where once there were endless options for his destiny, now there are very few left, and all of them are blue, blue blue.

UPDATE: Nice little post today on music site Idolator concerning the show and that bit of Baltimore house that managed to get some out-of-towner’s wig split.

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35 Comments on “Train Kept A-Rollin’”

  1. Shoals Says:

    highlight of the season: cutty talking about namond/bey

    only time snoop has looked like a girl: that last scene

    scene i both want to watch over and over again and never see again: that last scene

    intriguing recurring motif: fancy dinners, d’angelo’s date but also mcnulty’s disaster with teresa.

    michael: so much rage

  2. jeremy Says:

    I thought the same thing about snoop in that last scene, she’s actually female!

    I had a lot of trouble deciding if Michael is paranoid because of Bugs dad or whether Cutty actually might be a molester.

    Omar’s closing comments were interesting.

    I don’t get why Andre just went with Chris, knowing what was gonna happen. I know this is some sort of theme throughout this season, but wtf – WHY?

    What did Marlo say to Chris after tells him how they dropped a bunch of New York boys? Chris said something like “what should we do about…” and Marlo responded that “one should be plenty” – something like that.

    This episode set so many traps that I don’t want to see sprung. Bubs, Michael, Naymond(mostly because I like the lil kid who holds Nays stash, fuck naymond), Daniels and Carcetti are gonna get FUCKED by Rawls and Burrell, Prez if he bucks.

    The tempation to download the rest of the season is ridiculous.

  3. lukeoneil Says:

    “What did Marlo say to Chris after tells him how they dropped a bunch of New York boys?”

    I believe all that was said here was that Marlo suggested they had killed enough New York boys, and that Andre was supposed to be job one from that point forward.

    I hadn’t picked up on the significance of Herc’s revelation to Little Kevin. Herc’s indifference toward Bub’s, and Bub’s failed trap were pretty heartbreaking.

  4. Andrew Says:

    I’ve said this on some other boards, so I’ll say it here as well. The final scene of this episode is the best scene in the show’s history. Almost completely without dialogue, we stand witness helplessly, as a kid skies-the-limit potential who is backed into a corner voluntarily gives up his life. Notice how as Michael begins following the lookout to meet Marlo, the movements switch to an ever so slight slow-motion to stretch out the agonizing decision. Then there’s also the way that the sun shines into Marlo’s face, making him appear slightly empathizing illusion or not, as he elects to take Michael in. There’s the staging of the scene which has Marlo, Michael, and Snoop sitting in the form of a family unit, showing what Michael’s whole life has lacked. And finally after these several extended gaps of silences, the show brilliantly drives the point home with one simple but completely profound statement from the keen observer Omar, “He’s just a kid,” and the utter tragedy of the moment is driven home like a dagger straight through the heart.

    I rarely get emotional after TV or film, but after watching this episode, it took me hours to get that final scene out of my head. The show just may have reached it’s apex.

  5. Tom Says:

    Great post Andrew.

  6. Pol Says:

    One small quibble…we know Simon/Burnsimore so well now that surely no-one can have watched Daniels/Ronnie’s toast to Carcetti without being pretty much certain that at some point over the next four episodes at least one and probably both of them are going to end up royally screwed – and by Carcetti himself. While Herc’s casual betrayal of Randy and Michael’s descent to the dark side do work dramatically (because these are genuine ominous events) the toast I think was the writers tipping their hand.

    Andrew: Snoop as Mom? scary, dude

  7. Shoals Says:

    andrew, that’s exactly how i felt. part of what was so disturbing about was that feminine snoop and a unusually gentle marlo made you realize that this wasn’t just some kid. this was the one they’d had their eye on all along, and you could see in their behavior that they were either 1) pulling out all the stops 2) registering what a big deal this was. and yet you could also tell that they’d been counting on it happening at some point.

    or maybe we were seeing it through michael’s eyes. the family unity. and two stone killer suddenly seeming like compassionate souls.

  8. Shoals Says:

    dear shoals, that was a nice point and all, but isn’t it distinctly unrealistic to have one youngster be the lebron of drug dealers? or are we seeing just how limited that world really is. that was a theme of the episode, and that michael’s “conversion” was a huge deal might be an indication of how provincial the life/”career”/metaphysics of marlo and his crew still are.

  9. Kidjock Says:

    It’s not that he’s the LeBron of durg dealers, it’s that’s how you build a crew. You start young. Drug dealers are employers too, and they can recognize a good employee. That was seen full circle from what the people in Bunny’s class said. They are going to be the employers and the stoop kids are going to be their employee’s.

  10. Shoals Says:

    maybe i’m showing my own innate corniness by wanting to make this into a george lucas tale. yeah, they start young, but marlo clearly sees something in michael. as does cutty. and bodie. and prez, to some degree. i’ll slink back to freedarko now.

    wait, i thought that stoop kids were those who avoided the corner? please remind me of this remark.

  11. christycash Says:

    Yeah, I mean, I see what everyone is saying about the final scene, but I think that it was less an emotional family unit forming than it was someone signing his own death warrant. Michael doesn’t have a lot of choices, it’s true, but he made a bad one. I mean, does anyone else, like me, think that Michael is going to have to kill Randy? I haven’t seen beyond 46 but this is the feeling I’m getting. Please if you’ve seen ahead don’t ruin it by telling me I’m right or wrong. But I don’t think ANYONE seemed “compassionate” at all.

    My question is why do we as viewers so desperately want to see Marlo, Chris and Snoop as being this family unit. What do we have at stake here? Why do we want it to be so romantic all the time?

  12. Andrew Says:

    I don’t think anyone desperately wants to see Marlo and co. as a family unit. But I’m certain that the staging of the scene implies that it was what the writers were going for. The set-up of the chairs where Marlo was on Mike’s right and Snoop on Mike’s left seem to imply some sort of family symbolism. Not to mention the fact that is was only Marlo and Snoop there; other Marlo crew like Chris and Monk were not present for the scene.

  13. Sahu Says:

    I agree with Andrew. Also I haven’t seen beyond 46 but I don’t think Marlo would recruit Michael to kill. He has 2 very efficient killing machines for that already in Chris and Snoop and seems to be getting more ready. Lastly, I think Marlo knows Michael is too principled to kill one of his own friends.

  14. christycash Says:

    Time will tell….

    ::cue scary music::

  15. TheBestQtrPounder Says:

    I hadn’t thought about them making Michael snuff Randy. Where Wallace at man? WHERE WALLACE AT!!

    One thing I wanted to mention. I was looking at the cast list on IMDB and noticed that Method Man’s Cheese character’s last name is Wagstaff. This has to come into play somewhere right?

  16. Kidjock Says:

    I agree with Andrew and Sahu. But regarding the family image; it really is a family to those in the gang. They don’t feel they can trust anyone else. The attractiveness of one’s peers is strong, sometimes even stronger than the pull of one’s family. In the absense of family, that pull gets even greater. IMHO

  17. lukeoneil Says:

    I suspect that Michael would sooner turn his gun on his employer (be it Chris or Marlow) in revolt than to murder his childhood friend. He may turn cold at some point, but I don’t see the ambition to be loved or respected by hisbosses, or the simple ignorance or direspect for human life that we saw in Bodie or Poot. Michael would not kill Randy.

  18. jetsetjunta Says:

    I would add here that Michael’s decision to make whatever pact he is making with Marlo is not the setting forth of an unalterable or supremely fated series of events. We have no way of knowing how deep into the game he will get as a result of this favor he is asking of Marlo. It is a crucial moment because his denial of the game seemed so strong, particularly in conjunction with his fierce care for his brother, his boxing acument, his intelligence in school, etc. All the same, I think this tragedy is still open-ended. The wheels it has set in motion will not make good things happen, but won’t necessarily mean Michael is destined for the life of a hardened criminal. Keep in mind his reluctance to get close to anyone at all. Why would Marlo be any different? Michael needs a means to his end, and he knows this is the best way to get it. Of course as viewers we are worried that it won’t end well for anyone.
    I think the familial stuff is interesting, but I wouldn’t stretch it too far. Just like the traditional family systems don’t work, neither do the substitutes. The Wire isn’t trying to show how Michael is forming an alternative family, but to display how the voids in his life lead to worse things than neglect or even abuse.

  19. Shoals Says:

    i don’t jsj, that closing scene was so fucking solemn and ceremonial. . .

    and i think that michael has been in a downward spiral since his stepfather showed up. showing little in class, absent from the gym, lashing out. . .i don’t think he’s stupid or can be easily manipulated, but he seems to be pretty nihilistic at the moment

  20. jetsetjunta Says:

    What I’m saying is I find the solemnity and cermoniousness of the occasion intentionally hollow. Like, it’s a truly powerful scene, because we’ve gotten to know Michael so well over the season, and because we’ve come to see Marlo for the short-sighted, god-complex, irrational tyrant he is, and the meeting of those two in any kind of bargain is beyond desperate. Still, I think that this meeting is meant to be dramatically heavy but also to be about what is missing from this picture, like the real world. Maybe it’s no accident that Bunny Colvin’s dinner party happened this episode, just to remind us that there is a larger world before Michael goes to meet Lord Vader. I also think that in the end, while this drama is very real and very large for us, it is meant to be seen too as something totally ephemeral and, to the larger culture, totally meaningless. People Michael is close to will be stung by his decision, but to everyone else he’s just a number. Put him in the positive or the negative column, locked up or making less than minimum wage. So the ceremony, the solemnity, means just as little.
    So yeah, Michael seems pretty nihilistic, but I also think this show has never felt so nihilistic.

  21. Kevin Says:

    It seems to me that everyone thought Michael had a chance of escaping the game. The boxing, school, and caring for his brother would never take him from what he really is. The whole theme of this episode is you are what you are and there is no escaping. Reform of yourself just as it is of institutions is hopeless. Even if Michael’s step-father did not come home, you think he would be able to finish high school, go to college, and be happily ever after. We already know he does not have respect for the kind of work Randy is willing to do. That last scene was not about Marlo and Snoop filling the father and mother roles. It was Michael coming home to fill the child’s role.

  22. chris Says:

    What struck me was Dukie walking Michael to the final meeting. It was like he is there to ferry the other boys across the river Styx. It reminded me of the scene of him carrying the candle to show the other boys the dead bodies in the abandoned house (when the others had the more modern flashlights). He seems more and more otherworldly to me.

  23. madgirl Says:

    I’m glad someone mentioned Wallace from season one. While watching this episode, I made some comment that I hope things work out for Bodie since he’s given us less reasons to despise him than most of the other characters. But as soon as the words left my mouth, I remembered that he did kill Wallace, along with Poot (glad he’s back!) Still, I don’t think these two can be accused of a disrespect for human life. Bodie botched the first shot at Wallace, balking at killing a friend, and Poot only fired the final fatal shot to put his friend out of his misery. I’m still hoping for some good things for the Barksdale orphans…
    The debate about Michael killing Randy is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First of all, Michael obviously isn’t above asking Marlo to make his problematic stepfather “disappear.” So where is his innate respect for human life, lukeoneil? In addition, it’s interesting that he arrived at the concrete park looking for Chris–not Marlo. He may have thought that by going through Chris, he could avoid a permanent entanglement with Marlo. Clearly, Chris’s loyalty is to Marlo, so this would probably not have been the case–but to a 15-year-old, even one as intelligent and sensitive as Michael, it seems like a viable possibility. I agree that Marlo wouldn’t charge Michael to kill Randy himself–not while he has the hyperefficient duo of Chris and Snoop. But let’s not forget why Randy’s on the chopping block in the first place. Lex trusted Randy and Li’l Kev exploited that trust to lead Lex straight to Chris and Snoop.
    Randy trusts Michael…

  24. Sahu Says:

    “In addition, it’s interesting that he arrived at the concrete park looking for Chris–not Marlo. He may have thought that by going through Chris, he could avoid a permanent entanglement with Marlo. ”

    I think he was looking for Chris because he is the one who reached out to him to join the crew when the kids were talking about zombies. In a sense he is just following the street chain of command. I don’t think he is naive enough to think he can avoid Marlo.

  25. Dennis Says:

    Just wanted to say that I don’t have access to On Demand here in Canada so I have to wait until every Sun to catch the new eps. But I always read the spoliers here because I can’t wait until Sun for the new epsiodes. It doesn’t bother me to watch the eps after I know what will happen.

    Anyway..great discussion here and I just wanted to chime in a little.

    I see some folks wondering if Mike will be asked to off Randy and if he’ll comply. And in the same discussion we’re seeing people reference Bodie and Froot offing Wallace plus Colvin’s dinner measured against D and his ladyfriend and McNulty and his higher class lady. My point is that the Wire always brings things around so in keeping with that theme I’m totally expecting Mike to off Randy.

    Bodie rose through the ranks because he did the job for String on Wallace and now that’s how Mike will get right with Marlo. And like someone said here…yes Snoop and Chris are super effective but Mike’s a better pick in this regard because he can get close to Randy and pull off the hit in a more desirable setting.

  26. Simonsbitch Says:

    It just hit me…the connection to Season 2…the mayhem that started over a stained glass window in the church and the mayhem set in motion over a camera. Herc is Valchek.

  27. Pooh Says:

    Herc is Valchek.

    Hrm, neither as petty nor as smart, if you ask me. Herc has a realer beef with Marlo and Co. than Valchek had with Sobotka. (Herc did come at Marlo in as close to a gentlemanly way as possible for his oafish self…)

    Regarding Marlo’s coldness to Andre, I don’t know. Joe gave him a way out, and he didn’t take it. Plus, he’s thoroughly unsympathetic, possibly the least sympathetic bad guy since Bird.

    For the life of me, I find something about Chris likable, why is that?

  28. Shoals Says:

    wait, do we actually know what arrangement andre ended up making with joe? when slim dropped him off into the waiting jaws of chris and snoop, he was under the impression that he was being taken out of town

  29. Pooh Says:

    Hrm, in retrospect, you’re probably right.

    I still lack sympathy.

  30. Gavrilo Says:

    I think we are all quick to see the “family” aspect of the final scene because Chris foreshadowed it, using the word “family” in his sales pitch to Michael a few episodes back. Michael could maybe kill Randy if he feels indebted to Marlo for getting rid of the stepfather–the only person Michael would absolutely *not* hurt is his little brother. Marlo might have Michael do the deed on Randy, not because Chrisnoop aren’t up to the challenge, but as a way to have Michael prove his loyalty and to bind Michael to the “family.”

  31. Dennis Says:

    I think he asks him to do it because if Mike does that then there’s nothing he won’t do basically seeing as how he came up with Randy.

    Plus…you don’t want to be obvious about these matters and Mike has easy access to Randy.

  32. Curricane Says:

    I really feel like Marlo is setting up Michael to go after Omar and that was eerily forshadowed when Omar dismissed him in the meeting wtih Marlo. Omar won’t kill because he gave his word, Marlo doesn’t want to look week so he won’t send his top dogs after omar on the chance they miss, Michael is meaningless to him (the everpresent “pawn” metaphor coursing through the history of the show), he’s inexperienced, and he’s an unknown in their world, all things leading to him being the perfect weapon against the seemingly impenetrable armor of Omar.

  33. Dennis Says:

    That’s an interesting way to interpert that comment for sure. Some others would say it was said by Omar in a sympathetic manner. I can’t wait to see how it plays out

  34. Gavrilo Says:

    I don’t think Marlo sees Michael as an expendable pawn–seems like he has spotted long-term potential in him.

    As for nihilism, my sadness at things happening on the show is more than offset by my happiness from the knowledge that nothing bad is happening *to* the show–i.e. cancellation. Does this make me a bad person? Good.

  35. curricane Says:

    Well if Marlo does see long-term potential in Michael, that might be a reason Marlo would want to off him. Marlo is the most arrogant and competitive character the show has seen. The Avon/Stringer conflict from last season showed how the game isn’t about the money or bling. For some people (specifically Avon in this instance) it was always about the respect and having the upper hand (“I’m a gangsta and I want my corners”). Marlo takes this to a whole new level. Marlo obviously views Chris as his number 2. That’s it. That’s all Chris is to him, number 2. It was most obvious when he said “maybe I’ll get bored and let you take care of him” when talking about the card game. Marlo is okay with Chris because he knows Chris will never go against him. But if Marlo sees a threat, any threat, to his operation or maybe even more so to his status, he will remove the threat. Therefore, if Marlo sees potential in Michael, his intentions for Michael can only be to get what he can out of him and dispose of the threat before it becomes unmanageable. This may even come down to a conflict between Chris, who obviously sympathizes with Michael even if he’s incapable of emotion, and Marlo who will almost definitely want to make Michael dissappear if he even hints at the possibility of competing with Marlo in any realm but probably most dangerous wouldn’t be in the business aspects but in the shear respect and “top dog” status that Marlo holds now.

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