The Wire: One Arrest

It's 'cause when it came time for you to fuck me ... you were very gentle. – McNulty

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.

Quotes:

“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

3 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

One of the great things about this show is you can watch an episode and take so many different things away from it, depending on what you focus on. I love that even when Ben's reviews focus in on same of the same moments or scenes that stood out for me, the way he reads those moments or the meaning he takes from them in the overall context isn't necessarily the same. It's wonderful when a show is that rich.

This was such a packed little episode, chock full of these little moments that revealed characters in interesting ways. Prez, Santangelo, Daniels, and Phelan all had moments that either shed light on some new aspect of their personality, or allowed us to see some of their true colors. I loved how the episode opened by showing us how Prez is coming into his own, then painfully reminded us of what an abject failure he was before. The past continues to stay with us. I also liked getting to see Santangelo really making the effort to clear a case because he didn't want to screw a fellow cop. He may not be the best or brightest cop, but he's got a code. (And got a karmic reward.)

Daniels revealed himself in very interesting ways in this episode. He made that overture to Kevin because he honestly feels responsible for what happened to the kid, and he wants to give him a shot to get out of the life. We see that he cares about the work and the people affected, whereas he doesn't seem overly concerned with moving and shaking at the cocktail party. He didn't know the political players and was far more comfortable in the kitchen with the drivers watching baseball.

I really loved the sequence at the NA meeting, although I get why it would make you sad, Ben. I'm so glad that the show goes deeper with Bubbs and continues to explore the addict portion of the equation. Both Waylon's speech and Bubbs unexpected discovery that he has a "sincere desire to live" were affecting. He still goes back to the needle in the end (which made me more sad than Johnny's attitude), but he seems less content in that choice now. It's an interesting contrast to people like Kevin and Johnny, who are being given chances to set themselves on a better path, but just outright reject them. The impetus for that change has to come from within, not without.

The small little scene of Wallace getting high absolutely broke my heart. Especially the way it was framed with him looking out towards the car where Brandon was laid out. All the pieces matter, and so do all the choices.

Anonymous said...

Many classic quotes from Omar here..
Poor Bubbs gets to be more than a cliched junkie of so many other tv shows..The wire shows his humanity so well. It's hard not to root for him when he's trying so hard.
Oh and Rawls is one scary guy..but in a beliveable way.
Wallace is really feeling bad because of Brandon's death.
Anna

ChrisB said...

McNulty is a flawed human being, but the scene at the end with Ronnie always affects me. He does love his job and he is good at it. The thought that Rawls is out for his badge truly upsets him. I do like the way he turns to Ronnie, not Bunk. I wonder if McNulty doesn't completely trust Bunk as he (Bunk) is too close to Rawls.