Everyone in the Pool
(IN LAYMAN’S TERMS: THIS COVERS SEASON FIVE, EPISODE FOUR. THE LINKS DEAL WITH 5:3)
Well, that really didn’t hit me as hard as I’d thought would. More than Butchie’s death, but still, not the heel in the gut that Bodie’s last stand was. Really, I think it comes down to one thing: It’s the illegal drug business. People don’t last long, much less stick around to languish in semi-retirement. The young’uns will always be more ruthless, if not “worse each year,” then still hungrier, and more nihilistic, than an old, fed guy can ever still expect to understand.
I know that there are kingpins who quietly operate forever, but things catch up with them eventually. That was the lesson of Stringer, right? He wanted out of the game, and yet in the end, the skeletons came knockin’. In this case, there just wasn’t any reason to think Joe would live forever because. . . he’d managed to loaf around unscathed these four plus seasons? It’s telling that Marlo asserted himself at the meeting as everyone was talking real estate. To him, that’s soft, and weak. Vacants are where bodies go. Spend too much time thinking like that, and to Marlo, you’re vulnerable.
You want to talk about realism? Why exactly would Joe or Butchie have been able to involve themselves in crime forever, well after they’d lost their edge—or, symbolically, any physicality that could intimidate? Going back to what I wrote last week, Marlo ended up having no use for Joe past acquiring his knowledge base. Mildly heartbreaking that Joe “treated him like a son,” but that also showed just how off his instincts were. Marlo’s retort barely even bothered with irony. It was fact, and Joe should’ve seen that.
It’s rough watching these beloved graybeards get cut down, but hey, it’s a show about violent drug gangs. Maybe there are ways to get old, fat, and insulate yourself completely, but that hasn’t happened here. Everyone hates Omar; at some point, that was going to come back on his benefactor. Joe played with fire by letting Marlo into the co-op, and fell victim to sentimentality by trying to mentor him. Maybe it’s tacky, or unseemly, or frightening that he ended up where he did. But for heaven’s sake, there’s tons of money and corner for the taking. That’s what drives these characters, and Marlo’s that to the zillionth degree.
I know we like to rhapsodize on how human, nuanced, and worth knowing even these criminals are. Here, though, we’re reminded exactly what we’re fucking with. Marlo’s an extreme case, but he’s the harsh reminder that at the end of the day, no likable character means shit when it’s a question of making money. It’s nice to think that there’s honor among thives, but there’s a reason the cliche runs in the opposite direction.
One thing worth noting about this rash of killings: It kind of makes it hard to write about much else, or have the kind of sprawling reaction it takes to fuel HH. At least not the hour after I finish watching. Maybe I’ll come back later in the week to praise that Herc/Joe scene, but even that just seems like foreshadowing of the ugly.