Rudely acknowledged inversion
Stuck on #47, head down here. Now, come go with me for my ideas about #48.
When I finished watching #48 at 1AM, my first reaction was one of speechlessness. Not as in “totally fucking floored,” but more along the lines of “I ain’t got nothing.” This more resembled the old Wire, the caper-laden mischief of Seasons 1 and 2, than any episode yet. And at the same time, it left me a little disoriented. As much as some of us have pined for some action, or at least sustained looks at firearms, it felt cold to suddenly be back in that narrative realm. Things began changing with last season, but it seems like the show has finally severed all of its ties with genre.
Daniels’s ressurecting the Major Case Unit makes that transition seem especially jarring. In Season 2, this move came off as a moderately clunky “getting the band back together” crawl, at once catalytic, sentimental, and predictable. Here, though, we have no fucking clue what this means for our fair protagonists. Jimmy’s reawakening at Carcetti’s speech would seem to point to his triupmhant return, but the Unit will basically have two episodes to turn around a botched case. Barring some drastic pace-quickening–unlikely, since this is the slowest season yet–this will not end on a note of satisfactory investigative reckoning.
What’s really standing out to me about these last few is Randy’s downward plunge. Throughout, we’ve seen the kids act adult-like in adolescent settings, or be selectively delegated moments of maturity. Now, though, they’ve all been thrown out into the real world, and none of them seem to be faring so well. Michael’s discovered power, Namond’s realizing he’d rather affectionately joke with Colvin than stand out on the corner, and Dukie’s none too excited about making it to high school.
Note: I found it pretty amazing that Dukie didn’t get bumped up to a talented and gifted school, which would’ve been the shlocky solution to his character. Also, Cheese=son of Prop Joe’s sister. D’Angelo parallel, though nothing will probably ever come of that.
Randy, though, might have gotten the rawest deal. It’s not a misunderstanding; he implicated Kevin, something that wasn’t just some matter-of-time street-level intelligence. You could argue that, given enough show, the law would’ve eventually heard that bodies were in vacants; Randy was the only person who knew about Kevin, and thusly did, in effect, snitch. Earlier, we talked a lot about whether or not Cutty approved of Randy, whether or not he could surivive, etc. The real issue is that no one should have to be equipped in the way that Michael or Dukie is, that soft-as-hell Randy shouldn’t have to be sucked into a conspiracy to commit murder. No one is less suited for the streets, and more instinctively distant from them, than Randy. That he’s now getting his life ruined by a perfect storm of invidious rumor, police incompetence, and a just plain unfair world around him, might be this season’s signature arc.
But what’s also frustrating about Randy’s situation is how silly we look saying “dude shouldn’t have sang.” This has been touched on previously, but who the fuck are we to tell this fourteen year-old not to respond to authority figures? To tell the truth and save his own skin? In the grand scheme of the show, we know these are bad moves, as he himself probably did. From an ethical perspective, though, didn’t Randy make the right decision? He was able to start cases rolling on two crimes and in the process keep his life afloat. His snitching only came back to hurt him because of Herc’s incompetence and Marlo’s hyper-genius, which is a long way of saying that there’s no one on The Wire who actually makes truth and justice a viable path.
And so we find ourselves rooting for Michael’s emerging bad-assness, hoping Namond can get adopted by Colvin, and expecting Dukie to go to med school. Poor, ordinary Randy, the most realistic and clear-headed of the bunch, is left out flapping in the bloody breeze. The most hopeful and pragmatic of the bunch becomes, in effect, a study in the perils of trying to be a good kid. Not that anyone needs to be told that Baltimore is fucked up, but it’s astounding that a murderer, a spoiled dope boy, and a spacey savant have more a shot at making it through unscathed than Randy. And the really wrenching thought? He was pretty much more doomed from the beginning than any of his more screwed-up comrades.