This week I’m posting a non-topical entry, but Christycash has some commentary on 57 just below, while Shoals is working up something for later today or tomorrow. If you’re coming to us from 56 read on and then look HERE.
A while back I was asked to contribute to an article for Vibe magazine concerning The Wire. I opted to work on the top ten moments section of the article, the final cut of which is in this month’s issue. An earlier version of the article focused on some of the smaller, more discrete moments that I felt defined the type of narrative, characterization, and approach that made the show so unique. Following are a few of those entries.
Please go out and buy the new issue of Vibe (they don’t have the piece online). It’s the issue with 50 Cent and Bobby DeNiro on the cover, and the Wire article features stellar work from Chris Ryan and Sean Fennessey. Then you throw in Boylan and it’s a real Irishfest. Anyway, enjoy these, and check out the rest on newsstands now.
The big blockbuster scenes are easy: Stringer’s killing, D’Angelo teaching chess, Michael giving in to Marlo. The Wire’s season-ending montages are similarly ripe, laden with irony, fate, implication, and deep-rooted emotion. But the program isn’t formula television, so its secrets lie as much, if not more, in smaller moments, the spaces between gunshots and shouts when characters exhale and define themselves in less conspicuous ways.
Night at the Cinema
Bodie, Poot run into Herc, Carver, and Dozerman at the movies
Season 3 – Episode 2 (27) – All Due Respect
Cops and corner boys meet coming out of the movies on a Saturday night and coolly acknowledge one another. Bodie and his friends explain to their dates that these are the police officers who harass them daily, but never can catch them dirty. The corner boys are in on the joke that they and the police officers are peers. But all Herc, Carver and Dozerman can do is gape and fidget, until finally Bodie just says “See you tomorrow.”
“Is you taking notes on a criminal fuckin’ conspiracy?”
Season 3 – episode 5 (30) – Straight And True
Shamrock, ever the dutiful assistant to Stringer Bell, follows Robert’s Rules of Order at Bell’s business-school-inspired meetings of the Barksdale crew. So when Bell, Prop Joe and the rest of the city’s major dealers hold their first powwow to consolidate distribution and minimize conflicts, Sham takes minutes. Stringer unleashes the line above on Sham, pointing out that records are not needed here.
Michael cuts out on Cutty
Season 4 – episode 4 (41) – Refugees
Cutty runs a modest boxing gym (thanks to the generous sponsorship of Avon Barksdale), and takes his star pupils Justin and Michael out to the armory fights one night. Dropping off Justin first, Cutty turns to ask Michael where he lives, but before he can, Michael is out the door and walking off into the night. Cutty seems confused, but we see something of the inner terror in Michael and his distrust of all adults and suspicion of anyone looking to lend a hand.
Bodie doesn’t understand the radio
Season 2 – episode 1 (14) – Ebb Tide
While in a van driving to Philadelphia to pick up a new drug shipment, the radio station starts to go out. Bodie’s vanmate Dragon tells him to find a Philly station, to which he replies “The radio in Philly is different?” Having never been out of Baltimore, the street-wise Bodie never knew radio varied. Dragon flips through stations, but Bodie is impatient, so they settle, amazingly, on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, before Bodie exclaims “Why would anybody want to leave Baltimore?”
Bernard is harassed by Squeek for traveling so much
Season 3 – episode 7 (32) – Back Burners
These two might be the best tandem on the whole show. Bernard is a Barksdale man in charge of supplying the whole crew with disposable “burner” cell phones. He buys them, a few at a time, on long road trips way outside Baltimore accompanied by Squeak, his shrill, shrewish girlfriend. She belittles him, hilariously, and tells him it would be easier to buy in bulk. He finally does, mostly just so she’ll shut up, and consequently makes the police investigation a lot easier.
Run and Gun
The basketball game
Season 1 – episode 9 – Game Day
Prop Joe and Avon each support a team in a community basketball game. Having secured the services of a top Juco player (for $20,000) for his squad, Avon is confident enough to accept doubling up on a bet over the game with Prop Joe for $100,000. Joe, in a giant suit with a tie clip and a clipboard, brings in a ringer of his own after the double-up “proposition” has been accepted, and steals the game, and the bet, right out from under Avon.
Randy Changing shirts to sell candy.
Season 4 – episode 4 (41) – Refugees
Chaos reigns in Prez’s class, so Randy slips out to his locker where he changes his eighth grade uniform polo for that of a sixth grader. Using a stolen hall pass (another result of Prez’s classroom chaos), he heads to the sixth grade lunch to sell snacks out of his bag. It’s the perfect distillation of his Randy-ness. He’s just a kid still, rebelling with a hustle that, at heart, is pretty innocent.
Bunk burning pants to destroy evidence
Season 1 – Episode 8 – Lessons
McNulty makes it an early night, but Bunk does not. Jimmy must respond to a late night call to bail out his very drunk, marble-mouthed friend. Bunk is found sprawled in the bathroom of his one-night stand wearing a pink bathrobe and necktie, chomping on a cigar, having attempted to burn his own clothes in her bathtub (to destroy the trace evidence and cover up any incriminating, uh, smells). Jimmy lets the Bunk sleep it off in the (wokka wokka) bunk bed he built for his kids.