The Wire: Port in a Storm

”This is a great day for Baltimore.” – Baltimore Developer

And so it goes, the results are a muddle. The execution of Frank seems to essentially end the case, but then Nick’s sudden cooperation revives it, but not quickly enough to nab the leadership. A common theme for the first two seasons, success (clearing the 14 murders, busting a lot of bad people) changes very little (generating at best a brief pause in the flow of drugs) as the fight goes on for both sides.

So what do we know now that we did not at the beginning of the season. What we learned down at the docks was that there are many and varied tough sides to Baltimore. We learned that though poor and desperate in its own way, our time in Southeast was not without hope. But still at the end of the day, we again see those that have end of getting more, and those that don’t are pretty lucky if they break even.

Speaking of knowing, this episode was like many that close the season on HBO dramas, really a wrap-up and ground work for the next season after the dramatic climax of the proceeding episode. That episode was about Frank’s knowledge of what he had done and facing the music for his actions, both internally and out in the world. This episode was filled with revelations for the characters which we, the viewers, had long since known. This list has to start with Nick Sobotka, who knows now what his uncle knew the week before. Even his reaction is essentially the same. He goes to the police, despite the risk to his life. He sees to his family, ironically finally getting a place with Aimee, a goal that had had driven him into crime. Then when it’s all done, he goes to the docks to seek work, just as Frank had but he can find none, echoing the whole season. Another Sobotka willing to do the right thing but increasingly desperate. Down at the docks, Russell also sees and knows the futility of the whole endeavor. The detail is moving on to new cases, and life goes on. She is no longer the callow amateur but much has been lost and what has been gained? The closing shot of Nick staring out at the port and his city tell the tale of the whole season.

And the world does continue turning, another theme of the show, and it’s not just those at the Port who have learned things this season. Herc and Carver know they are not valued in the detail. Daniels doesn’t even really deny it. Carver was willing to give him a lot of room to prove that they might still fit in, but that hope is dashed by the end of the episode. Fitz knows that his own organization cannot be fully trusted, and that they no doubt cost Frank his life and the police a much bigger case. But the most important revelation comes from Bubs (who I have missed all season) and Johnny about changes in the West Baltimore drug scene. As a result, Kima and McNulty know about Stringer’s new game with Proposition Joe, setting up the action for the season to come.

The questions remain on the criminal side of the equation though, Stringer is way out on a limb but closed the deal he was after. Avon does not know how he has been manipulated but he senses it. Omar cannot quite make sense of things, but is all around the mystery of his having been set on Brother Mouzone. And Brother Mouzone clearly suspects Bell, but is not sure enough to act…yet. The future looks challenging for Stringer Bell.

Bits and Pieces

Daniels porn, we have in this episode the exact moment in which Lance Reddick became a sex symbol. He is in almost improbably great shape, and it’s always good to find away to have someone who looks this good appear in his underwear.

Steve Earle, who plays the recovering former addict Walon, provided the music "I Feel Alright" for the closing montage.

The Greek is not even Greek? He sure seems Greek, what with the Ouzo and the Folk songs and the Greek language, and his and Vondas’ hats. But who am I to know?

Quotes:

“Always Business” – The Greek

(This week’s epigraph really closes out the whole season as it makes the point that all the crime and violence and everything were just business. Much more so than the actions by the Barksdales who are vengeful and part of “the game” tied up with honor, family and prestige, the Greek and his organization are just doing business. Nick is spared in the end because there is no profit in killing him, and Vondas says it well when talking about those arrested and dead. No hate, it’s just business)

Vondas: Not just Sergei, I miss Frank, too.

(and speaking of wrapping up, one conversation really wraps up our time with the police in Southeast. It has all the things that brought the detail there and all the turmoil that resulted)

Daniels: I just came from the crime scene. He was coming in as a cooperator. Offering up the drug-and-prostitution ring he'd been smuggling for.
Valchek: The guy lays down with gangsters, gets up with his throat cut. Almost feel sorry for the son of a bitch.
Daniels: You were right about Sobotka. Case had enough legs on it that I've got Burrell committed to keeping my crew together as a major case squad working out of CID.
Valchek: If you are gonna charge him I'm gonna charge his narrow ass.
Daniels: You're gonna do your son-in-law?
Valchek: You don't think I didn't tell her not to marry that brain-dead son of a bitch?
Daniels: I'll tell you the truth, Major. Everyone who saw the punch wrote on it. And they've all got Prez throwing the punch, no question. But they've also got you addressing a subordinate officer as a What was it? A shitbird?
Valchek: Fuck you. This is the Baltimore Police Department, not the Roland Park Ladies' Tea.
Daniels: I'm just saying, the other detectives the FBI agents, they gotta write it the way it happened.
I mean, I could probably get my own people to cheat it for you, but the FBI You know how tight-assed they are.
Valchek: Roland Pryzbylewski rides the Southeastern desk on midnight shift for two months. During which time he writes a personal letter of apology to everyone seen that punch throwed. In which he makes it absolutely clear that it was a penny-cheap sucker punch that would've got his ass kicked in by a real police except for the fact that I have my daughter's feelings to consider. And then he can come up here and say the same to my face and after that, if he wants to piss his career away in your unit I could give a hairy-ass fuck.

(but in case you think Stan Valchek feels nothing, even he know this all went too far)

Valchek (wistfully): Frank, you cocksucker. Spoczywaj w pokoju (“Rest in Peace” in Polish)

(and a quick set-up for next season from Kima )

Kima Greggs: Eastside, Westside. Cats and dogs, sleeping together.

(and one from her wife)

Cheryl: Okay, listen. This baby is gonna come out of my belly and need both of us, forever. You understand? I mean, it may not be real for you yet. But, goddamn it, it's real for me.

(and lets have Jay finish out the whole season as follows)

Landsman: What can I tell you, kiddo? We are policing a culture in moral decline.

Jess Says

Second verse, same as the first... I was rather amazed by how similar this season finale felt to the Season 1 finale. Lots of good closure on various fronts, some set up for the future, and --- just as Ben says --- that overwhelming sense that despite all the victories, all the losses, and all the individual changes, things on the whole don’t really change at all. Frank is just the latest body to get fished out of the bay. The Greek (who isn’t even Greek) and Spiros are in the wind and off to continue their business in greener pastures. Bubbs and Johnny are up to their old tricks. And, by the end, Beadie is back in her patrol car working her Port beat. Progress and redevelopment roll on for the haves, while the have-nots and ne’er-do-wells continue to toil away, struggling to hold on to what little they have. Good old, depressing Baltimore. Bring on Season 3!

And more bits and pieces...

I truly love that tiny little smile Daniels gets when he’s getting exactly what he wants from the brass, but has to play it like he’s being screwed over.

Bunk (seeing Lester’s photo spread of headless bodies): “I bet you there’s a fucking police detective somewheres else looking at a table full of heads right now.”

Herc and Carver aren’t nearly as competent as they like to think they are, but they sure did get screwed over by the Detail on the Nick Sobotka thing. Daniels definitely should have remembered to call them back in. Especially after getting so bent at Landsman for not getting the call when Ziggy Sobotka was brought in! May the Western District and Major Colvin be more to your liking, boys.

Speaking of people who aren’t as smart as they like to think they are, as Ben notes, Stringer Bell’s gotten himself into rather a pickle. He thought he was making the smart business moves that Avon wouldn’t make, but in the end, his secret maneuvering was for nothing. Avon came around to accepting the deal with Prop Joe, and all Stringer did was buy himself a prospective world of hurt, with both Brother Mouzone and Omar looking to settle scores with the person that set them up. The future looks challenging, indeed.

Omar: “What you see, Butch?”
Butchie: “Too much, boy. Too damn much.”

The Upshot

4 of 4 Wrap-ups and Set-ups

11 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Congratulations on finishing season two, Ben and Jess!

(I remember my jaw dropping when I saw that scene with Lance Reddick. Wow.)

Jess Lynde said...

Thanks, Billie! And much thanks to Ben for including me in the reviews. And for doing all the heavy-lifting!

My notes for that Daniels scene actually say "Such a sad home life for Daniels. Lance Reddick is fit." He really does make the jaw drop. Wow.

Billie Doux said...

It was just so unexpected! I always just thought he was thin and wiry, and then boom. Wow.

And I'm not saying much about season two, am I?

I thought Chris Bauer did a terrific job and it was, as always, compelling drama, but season two is my least favorite of the series. Maybe the focus on the docks just didn't do so much for me.

mazephoenix said...

Season two was the weakest for me. Even if everyone did a good job with it. It moved the plot forward at least. That said; yowsa at Lance Redddick in that scene. Terrfic reviews as ever.

Jess Lynde said...

Season 5 is my least favorite. Season 2 used to be lower in my esteem, but it has actually grown on me with time. I liked it more the second time I watched it, and I enjoyed it even more this time through. It probably still falls near the bottom of my season rankings overall, but only because 1, 3, and 4 are so good.

ChrisB said...

I found the initial scene to be tough to watch. The stevedores all looking at the police boat, without knowing what was about to happen, made me very sad. The looks on their faces as they peered at the body were all heartbreaking. I thought the touch of McNulty's partner on the boat being the one to fish Frank's body out of the water was a great way to bring the season full circle.

As was the rest of the episode. I found this season ender to be much more depressing than last. No one seems to have come out on top and, like a mouse on a wheel, everyone goes back to where they started. Older and wiser, but no better off.

Agree about Lance Reddick. Wow.

I loved re-watching this season and reading the reviews you both did. They certainly add a whole other level. Thank you for doing them, Ben and Jess.

Ben P. Duck said...

Thanks to Jess for her great work this season, I occasionally need a check on whether I have completely lost it in my thinking about the series and her contributions are great and additionally always get something I missed.

I am going to take a little bit before starting into season 3, but we will return with more of The Wire before you know it.

wasatch said...

1, 3, & 4 are my favorites, too. But I love Season 2, and think the dock story is an important part of the whole. It's not just about the dying unions, it's about the death of work, which pushes more people into the drug trade. There is a direct line between all those rusting factories we see and the rows of empty vacants.

One upon a time, a lot of people moved to Baltimore to work in those factories and work the port. When the factpries close, and the port work dries up, some people move on, but what alternatives do the rest of the people left have? No wonder the trade and use of drugs looks so attractive. There aren't a lot of choices left when the jobs go away (and wages for what work remains stagnate as the unions die). It's a problem that's not unique to Baltimore. What do we do with all the "extra" people?

-d

Anonymous said...

Why did you stop reviewing this series?

Ben P. Duck said...

Have no fear, we will be returning with reviews for season 3 this fall!

Remco said...

Seasons one and two are my favorites so far. ;) What I liked this season was the expansion of the Baltimore world. Season one was a bit claustrophobic, just about the sales end of the drug trade in one small neighborhood. Season two opened the story up to the supply end and brought many new locations and communities with it.