What You Know Won’t Work
WE LIVE ON THE ON-DEMAND SCHEDULE. NO ONE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT #52, THIS GETS INTO #53.
Really nothing on #52, then or now. Avon’s sitdown with Marlo was a hoot, and Wood Harris really showed us the no-man’s land between swagger and kookiness. Worth noting that there was more warmth between those two than in any of the times Avon and Stringer talked through glass. So you know, gangster recognize gangster.
But—and here’s where the #53 talk starts—that East/West acrimony Avon appealed to got me thinking. The Western has always been all that wrong, or at least hidebound, about policing. And while Prop Joe’s got overseas connects, means to expedite passports, and money laundering schemes, the Barksdales and now Marlo are decidedly local. I wrote before the season started that Marlo looking for the Greeks showed he was trying to become a real criminal. Not just some hood lord, but on the level with the “real” operations.
After #53, I’m realizing that Prop Joe’s already there. He’s the one with off-the-boat dope, and now the means to offer Marlo grown thug financial advice. Stringer might have thought he was changing the game, but his plan was to leave the drug game for the more legit pastures of real estate. Joe, on the other hand, is serious, ambituous, and collected as String, but stays in the realm of illegal. The very dichotomy of Avon/Stringer is a false one projected by the West Side’s mentality; across the highway, Joe’s bringing the best of both worlds together.
In Stringer’s utopia, territory was irrelevant and everyone’s product sold out wherever it was. Under Joe, the co-op’s become a way to consolidate purchase power and keep some major players from stepping on each other’s toes. Worth noting that the whole idea sprang up out of the pragmatic agreement that String and Joe reached in Season Two; given what the co-op’s become, and the fissures that are starting to emerge, you wonder if it’s more realistic tenets belong more to Joe’s knack for mutual agreeable arrangements than Stringer’s economic modeling.
When Joe quips that (inexact quote) “Marlo’s a hard one to civilize,” there’s a lot there beside the surface irony of the “civilized” criminal. Marlo took the West Side the West Side way: By employing exactly the same kind of tactics that Avon had used before him, the ones that Stringer frowned upon. Even if he’s part of the co-op, still he’s thinking in terms of murder and intimidation. Just not, for now, against those he’s in league with. He’ll offer his product to area crews, but only as a friendly alternative to them getting blown off the block. Stringer was West Side in the negative; Marlo, with his power moves, adversarial approach to meetings, and bloodlust, is “that other thing” chomping at the bit.
In some ways, Marlo is the show’s least “civilized” character. He makes Avon look like, well, Stringer. But here Marlo is, trying to make that leap that eluded Stringer because Russ was looking in the wrong direction. What remains to be seen is whether he’s recognizing that Prop Joe’s a mentor for this, or if Joe’s willingness to hold his temper, think calm, and not send out soldiers is construed as a weakness. I doubt Marlo wants to tone down his West Side ruggedness. Does that mean, then, that he thinks he can become Proposition Joe while still following in the footsteps of Avon?
Based on his weird trip to the Antilles, Marlo’s got a long way to go before he can conduct himself like a cosmopolitan pro. And this might have disastrous consequences for everyone involved. It’s like Bunny and the kids at dinner all over again.
P.S. I thought the last scene of #52 was retarded, but when Lester came out in support of it, I had to change my tune. Which I’m assuming was the appropriate reaction.