I’m Set Free

Note: These are the most straightforward images I’ve ever used. That’s because I’m in a rush to go buy Christmas presents. Don’t ask.

Finished up with Season Two, and I’ve had an worthwhile itch going on that I think pertains to all Wire arcs. Of course there’s such a thing as integrity in Simon’s universe, and it usually correlates with some kind of ultimate undoing. It’s not too much of a stretch to claim that, in a cruel, cruel world, death is a form of release. A little goofy, maybe, but not an unfamiliar theme. But I’ve become a little troubled by exactly what characters on The Wire find release into. Instead of the usual expanse of existential possibility, they simply find solace in another system—a kinder, gentler version of the same thing that’s cut them down.

Wallace’s death marked Bodie’s coming of age and, not surprisingly, that of the show. Up to that point, it had only been so harrowing. However, it’s not right to infer that Wallace wanted that drastic an escape, or that he found any peace in getting popped by his best friend. D’Angelo’s exit the next season, though, could’ve been culled from one of them books he was reading; it also happens to be quite unlike any other murder the show’s seen. Done with the game, family, the prison pecking order, and just about anything that could superficially offer him support, D’Angelo sets out to more or less find himself. This makes him a threat to all that he’s left behind, Stringer has him choked, and lo, only then is he truly free of it all.

Frank, on the other hand, spends the live and dead parts of his downfall returning to his union roots. He works a ship, offers to unburden himself of the forces that have corrupted him, and, for all we know, might’ve ended up telling The Greek to fuck off. When the union would rather close down than sully Frank’s good name, that’s when you know he’s made good in death. He might’ve ended up deep in some dirt, but in the end he saw the light, and the light was. . . his union. Every moment of clarity Sobotka has that season is not about him or his own (c.f. Ziggy and Nicky), but a longing to return to the primordial system of industrial production. Frank’s paradise is working men belonging to their craft; he meets his end not because of who he is, but because he insist on belonging to a doomed world.

“The system destroys us all” is the show’s mantra, with “the game” standing in for “system” at various points. However, I can’t decide if it’s pragmatic or demoralizing that systems also offer the lone form of redemption. Take Bodie: He went down like a soldier, standing up to Marlo’s nihilism as someone who remembered when soldiering meant something. Or Stringer, who can be read either as a martyr to the cause of reform, or a man who, in his last moments, accepted his inner gangster and welcomed a gangland-style exit.

Last week, PW asked me who I thought would die this season. The question caught me a little off-guard; while each cycle has climaxed with a murder, they’re kind of running low on viable suspects. Cops just don’t die at the same rate as criminals, and already we’ve seen Cole and that guy Prez shot go out, and Kima and Dozerman nearly lost. McNulty would be a tad obvious. In the land of bad guys, Avon’s irrelevant, Prop Joe’s immutable, and Marlo—to get back to the thrust of this post—has nowhere else to turn. Michael’s a possibility, since he’s got Bug and isn’t so seasoned yet. But man, how crushing to realize that, on The Wire, “having somewhere to turn to” is synonymous with “might find himself dead.”

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13 Comments on “I’m Set Free”

  1. Nick Says:

    I for one will be surprised if Omar lasts through season five. I think that fits your theory.

  2. Ty Keenan Says:

    This is really, really good. Definitely interesting to think of deliverance in terms of Omar, who came to us already taken out of whatever system once held him. Yet he’s almost as locked in as anyone in narrative or archetypical terms.

    It’ll be interesting to see where Bubbs stands this season, too. The AA/NA system would seem to be an entirely different game; it’ll be interesting to see how they portray that if they choose to go that route. (I should note that most of my AA knowledge comes from Infinite Jest, but everything I’ve read said it gets it about as right as any work of fiction ever has.)

  3. Mal Says:

    Regarding Omar dying – his dismissal of Michael as “Just a Kid” would suggest he’s on the way out, but I can’t help thinking that that’s just too simple, too ‘obvious’ for The Wire. Certainly it would seem a showdown between the two is likely.

    If we are accepting that somebody ‘important’ will die at or near the climax of s5, there’s no reason to presume it must be someone we currently think of as a major character. There were no Sobotka’s in s1, perhaps our major death could be a journalist?

    Or Carcetti? Prez? Brianna Barksdale? Dukie? The Greek or Vondas? Rawls? Or maybe the whole of the west side gets metaphorically nuked and we’re left with one person standing.

    Oh, and as for Prop Joe being immutable, it’s not the first time we’ve been led to believe a character is untouchable. While I feel it’s unlikely, nothing is impossible. It wouldn’t take much for Marlo to find out how and when Joe has played him, and if that were to happen…

  4. Mal Says:

    Oh, and regarding the cops who have died, don’t forget Foerster.

  5. F. Pants McFadden Says:

    I would think that Bubbles won’t make it through this season. After all, the real Bubbles’ death was important to Burns and Simon. So much so that Simon had the Sun run an obituary for him. With this season’s focus, it would fit right in.

  6. morewire Says:

    I’ve unfortunately only seen the fourth season one time through, but I’d be surprised to see a good deal deal of Bubbs this season. I felt like the door was largely closed on his character; maybe a few cameo appearances a la Shardene in Season two, but not much more. Have Simon/Burns/Royo made any comments that would lead people to think otherwise? It’s hard to reconcile the image of Bubbles as burned-out-husk and think he’ll be the same character we’ve seen before.

  7. Mal Says:

    Morewire – one of the trailers for s5 (or possibly an interview with Royo, can’t recall) had mention/clips of Bubbs at what may have been an NA meeting with Waylon, his sponsor. Also Steve Earle, who plays Waylon, is doing the s5 theme music, so while it may well be the case that Bubbs has little part to play with regards to the game and his previous position as a CI (Recall Kima’s “What am I gonna do with a clean CI?” comment) I’m fairly sure his battle to stay clean will be a part of s5.

    I also recall some off-hand comment from David Simon about needing to tie up everyone’s story at the end of s5, so even if they aren’t part of the plot, I would hope we get some conclusion to Bubbs story, and Avon too – even if it’s only “Bubbs dies, Avon’s still in jail”.

  8. Death speculation is obviously tough knowing precious little about the actual plot of the fifth season, media focus aside.

    That said, for all the HBO and IMDB-board clatter — they’re glorious car-wrecks, I realize — about “Michael and Dukie being set up as the future powers,” etc., I think Dukie’s death seems inevitable. He’s very much in the Wallace mould: essentially a sweet kid who’s been hardened by circumstance, but probably doesn’t have the heart necessary to make it in the game, and as such, will be seen as too weak by someone to whom that weakness is a potential liability. Whether it’s Marlo, Michael or someone else remains to be seen — and again, that sort of development hinges on this even being a major storyline, which it may not be.

    Based on the trailers, though, Omar is out for blood, so I wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see anyone in his camp — Butchie, et al. — or anyone in the Prop Joe or Marlo contingents fall.

  9. Tito Landrum Says:

    Bubbs is HIV positive. Perhaps just as he is cleaning himself up…. The real Bubbles died from HIV related illness.

  10. Sahu Says:

    1:44 am and no wire episode 51 on time warner cable NYC

  11. crs Says:

    Somewhat unrelated to the topic of who might die, but did anyone catch on one of the recent promos the scene of prop joe sitting in the same room as herc? I’m thinking maybe he flips and goes into witness protection?

  12. Sahu Says:

    4:56 am and no wire episode 51 on time warner cable NYC…going to bed…booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  13. G Says:

    YES!!! Episode 51 on Comcast Cable in DC..watching right now…Opening Sequence with Bunk is hilarious

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