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The Wire: The Cost

"What the fuck do you wanna hear? That you're strong enough to do this by yourself?" –Walon

This is a very emotional episode, which demonstrates just how effectively that they have invested us in the characters. They did something pretty typical for TV in their focus on Greggs throughout, leading up to the final scenes. That said I will be honest that it was still a surprise when it turned out as it did.

I think that is because, unlike other shows that have a character in focus for only long enough to get us invested and then BANG, The Wire has given us those character moments for multiple characters (even minor characters) in every episode. In retrospect it was clear who the Cost would be extracted from but it wasn’t as I watched it (okay, maybe I am a bit dull).

If Kima was half the focus of this episode then the other half of the episode was Bubbles and his struggle to get clean and stay clean. This episode had Bubs poised to turn the corner, and Kima (against her professional interests) ready to help. Walon is right though, and has been all season, any recovery from the depths of this kind of addiction is not going to be a quick or pretty one. We are again seeing a parallel between the street and the police where an individual has to be incredibly strong, but really cannot be strong enough to go it alone.

A small but noteworthy development, I asked a episode or two back whether Phelan had the juice to just keep pushing the case even when others wanted to see it ended. We begin to see the potential political cost for the judge in this episode as he is apparently dropped from the Democratic ticket for his actions. It’s worth noting that being off the Democratic ticket in Baltimore is a little like running as the Green Party candidate in Commerce, Texas (you could get elected but the odds aren’t really running for you). So, Phelan is not untouchable either.

The ending also points up something very important about both the police and the criminals. Neither side, despite their posturing, has much interest in doing serious violence to the other. You have to go all the way back to the near-blinding Kevin Johnson in episode 2 to see any lasting damage from violence between the police and the criminals, and that generated immediate and potentially serious consequences. Virtually every other interaction, including rough arrests and a couple of police brutality incidents, had a ritualized quality where both sides know just how far things can go and because of this demonstrate a cavalier lack of concern at the violence. It again points up that in very real ways that the game is a game, except of course in this episode when it clearly is not.

Bits and Pieces

This was another hungry episode (I swear there are weeks where you can just tell the producers were too hungry to concentrate). A couple of Chesapeake Bay favorites were featured: Faidley’s crab cakes which can be had in Lexington Market in downtown Baltimore just up the street from the University of Maryland Hospital. Probably the best crab cakes in a state which is completely obsessed with them.

And then later we see Carver on the stake-out wolfing down Utz Crab Chips, which are genuinely popular and probably proof of my previous point about a crab obsessed state. I just hope cast and crew were well supplied with both delicacies gratis.


"And then he dropped the bracelets..." –Greggs

(This episode’s epigraph, which I like to think, is nicely counterpointed by the quote I used to begin this review. The story is about a world, that of the police, where you have to be strong enough to go it alone, but one where your partners are standing by. It’s particularly powerful given how the episode ends. Here’s the extended quote)

"We chased this purse-snatcher up into these apartments… shit, I ain't even no police yet. You know? I'm just a trainee. And I'm alone. Anyway, I mean, I don't know how, but I find the guy. So I catch him and I hold onto him and I manage to get my radio. We in the middle of this parking lot and we're rolling around and shit, and this motherfucker's steady kicking my ass trying to get away. And I look over and I see these black patents and these uniform blue pants. I look up, and it's Charlie Smoot. Charlie, fucking, Smoot. You know, this guy's a legend. He looks down at me and he smiles, you know, real quiet-like. And he drops his cuffs. He says, 'Here you go, rook.' That's all he says, 'Here you go, rook.' And then he dropped the bracelets and walked away. I mean, I know you don't like it. But shit, I was proud."

(and here is the extended version of Bubs and Walon’s conversation)

Walon: "Look, forgiveness from other folks is good, but ain't nothin' but words comin' at you from outside. You want to kick this shit, you got to forgive your own self. Love yourself some, brother. And then drag your sorry ass to some meetings."
Bubbles: "Meetings?"
Walon: "What the fuck do you wanna hear? That you're strong enough to do this by yourself? Gettin' clean's the easy part. And then comes life."

(Oh Orlando, you really never were that bright)

McNulty: "So what's the name of your fish?"
Wiggins: "Wendell O, "O" as in 'Oh, shit I tried to buy from a State Police,' Blocker."

(Proposition Joe, though, he seems to be)

Proposition Joe: "I'm doing like one of them marriage counselors. Charge by the hour to tell some fool he need to bring some flowers home. Then charge another hour telling the bitch she oughta suck some cock every little once in a while. You know, keep a marriage strong like that."

(and just because it needed to be said)

Judge Phelan: "McNulty, I hold you in contempt!"
McNulty: "Who doesn't?"

3 of 4 rolls of duct tape (much of it was only excellent, the end was really great)


  1. Someone just shared with me that the last Green Party candidate in Commerce Texas got 28 votes.

    So there ya go.

  2. I'm glad that you used that photo of Bubbs and Kima for this episode, Ben, because whenever I see the title 'The Cost' I immediately think of those two. I didn't see the end coming the first time through either, and I remember being incredibly distraught by the ending. Not Kima! And this time through I was incredibly distraught by her telling Bubbs to hit her up tomorrow, and that she'd be there for him. It was almost as hard to watch him struggling to not buy in the park that night, as it was to see the unit tearing around trying to find her.

    I thought there were some nice parallels between Waylon telling Bubbs he had to forgive himself and the struggles of D'Angelo and Wallace. Basically, both are trying to find ways to come to terms with the things they've been involved with. Wallace is at the point where he's trying to get right with himself, but D is still trying to find forgiveness from without (and it isn't working out so well for him).

    Nice to see some follow up on McNulty's questionable parenting. I'm sort of on Elena's side in this. I believe that he loves his kids and doesn't want them to get hurt, but I could easily see it happening anyway due to his poor decision making.

    What a lovely little moment between Lester and Shardene. Them chuckling over her unflattering glasses made me smile.

    Faidley's and Utz crab chips! Yum! We can't get Utz up here in Western New York (or I've completely failed to notice their sudden availability), so my family used to stockpile those crab chips for me. Mmmm ... Utz ... crab chips ... (think Homer Simpson with donuts).

  3. Watching Bubbles in both the previous episode with his sister and this episode in which he is trying to stay clean is incredibly moving. For anyone who has loved someone with an addiction, it perfectly captures the hope that this time they'll get clean, but not really believing it will ever happen. I watch Bubbles and I am sure that he is not finished yet.

    The ending of this episode always shocks me. But, I think the fact that it is Kima who senses the danger, and not the guy from the street, is well played.

    OK -- not to start a crab cake war, but the best in Baltimore are at Pappas. The best in the world are at my mother's table. And, I have a bag of Utz sitting in my pantry as I write this.

    Jess -- if you ever need a care package, let me know. My mom used to ship cans of Old Bay to me when I lived in London. :-)


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