by Ben P. Duck
Let’s start with how deep McNulty finds himself in trouble with Rawls. Just as the pieces begin to fall into place for the detail to move against the Barksdales, it becomes clear that there is a price that McNulty and probably others are going to pay to get even the one arrest in the title. A few episodes back we had old cases that referred to a lot more than just old case files. Here we have the idea that many things (careers, freedom, revenge) for many people hinge on one arrest, it’s just not entirely clear which one arrest is the one in the title.
The arrest of Kevin Johnston (the young drug runner who we previously saw half-blinded by Prez) is one arrest. It’s the arrest that validates the approach, a proof of concept of electronic intercepts and Prez’s code-breaking. It is also the one arrest that brings home to Prez the damage he has done by his stupidity. We are reminded that as useful as he is in the office, he was a disaster on the street. On the Barksdale side, just one arrest of Kevin but not of Stinkum is a critical clue that something is not right. This draws Stringer Bell’s intervention in the Pit as the dealers try to stay one step ahead of the police who may or may not be on their trail.
The arrest of Bird is one arrest. Carried out based on Omar’s information both about his location and when he would be carrying his gun. Santangelo needs one arrest to keep his career afloat (and to keep from having to rat out McNulty), and as it turns out that one arrest is also Bird thanks to Omar’s information.
The consequences of Johnny’s arrest are potentially important to Bubbles as he considers getting clean, commenting on Johnny’s complete lack of luck in anything but also realizing that their part in the game cannot end well. Although it occurs in the closing moments of the last episode, it takes Bubbles in a potentially very different direction, which is why it bears mention here.
Then there are everyone’s codes of conduct. This episode really suggests that the line between the codes that the police and the criminals abide is an awfully thin one. The beating Bird takes for his insults is not so much different than similar beatings delivered by the drug dealers to Johnny and others. It’s meant to ensure that they respect the police or the dealers. Omar is happy to work with the police as long as it serves his goal of revenge, despite earlier protestations that it isn’t part of the game. Even McNulty’s speech to Bunk illustrates that cops screw each other over all the time, although it’s really Rawls who is determined to get McNulty at this point.
Bits and Pieces
“In this state, there's a thin line between campaign posters and photo arrays.”
Okay, Maryland isn’t Illinois but we have certainly had our share of convictions of politicians for corruption. I once sat in a meeting with a formerly convicted and later exonerated high state official as he discussed buying a racehorse with other big wigs and money men. The meeting had nothing to do with that subject or even state government (or anything underhanded for that matter), but it had something in common with the cocktail party in this episode. It illustrated just how small a place Maryland and particularly Baltimore often seems to be, and how much business goes on out of the public view. Everyone knows everyone and from way back, and acts accordingly.
Regarding the Narcotics Anonymous scene, I also used to counsel people with substance abuse problems including many who were out on parole or probation that required such counseling. It is sad to say Johnny’s attitude was a lot more common than was Bubbles. Part of the reason I don’t still do that is that the efforts to turn around addiction often make many of the other problems illustrated in The Wire seem simple by comparison. (Put more simply, the Narcotics Anonymous scene left me very sad).
If I haven’t intrigued you about The Wire, I hope I have intrigued you about my resume.
“A man must have a code.” – Bunk
(This epigraph is a good one, because much of this episode is about people violating or twisting their codes to serve their ends)
Bunk: So, you're my eyeball witness, huh? So, why'd you step up on this?
Omar: Bird triflin', basically. Kill an everyday workin' man and all. I mean, I do some dirt, too, but I ain't never put my gun on nobody that wasn't in the game.
Bunk: A man must have a code.
Omar: Oh, no doubt.
(Omar continues to get many of the series best lines)
Kima: You worried about being seen?
Omar: Well if anybody got a problem with me spending time with y'all, I'd be much obliged to stick my gun straight in they mouth.
(Illustrating police fucking over police, both as a joke and as a reality)
McNulty: You know why I respect you so much, Bunk? It's not 'cause you're good police, 'cause, y'know, fuck that, right?
Bunk: Mm. Fuck that, yeah.
McNulty: It's not 'cause when I came to homicide, you taught me all kinds of cool shit about... well, whatever.
Bunk: Mm. Whatever.
McNulty: It's 'cause when it came time for you to fuck me... you were very gentle.
Bunk: You damn right.
McNulty: See, 'cause you could have hauled me out of the garage and just bent me over the hood of a radio car, and... no, you were, you were very gentle.
Bunk: I knew it was your first time. I wanted to make that shit special.
McNulty: It was, man. It fucking was.
McNulty: [to Pearlman] They're gonna do me, Ronnie. I love this fucking job, and they're gonna do me.
4 of 4 malt liquor bottles to the side of the head