The Wire: Boys of Summer

"How do you hold that much real estate without making bodies?"

Good question. And we got the answer.

When I thought about this episode afterward, what stayed with me was Snoop, in shadow on the seesaws, waiting for Lex at the end of the street like a mythical monster. This sort of killing felt colder and heavier, somehow. It wasn't like Wallace's murder, a tragic act full of waste and loss of not just Wallace but also his killers, Poot and Bodie. Or when Omar and Brother Mouzone executed Stringer Bell, which felt like just desserts for a man who was not only a coldhearted monster, but who had spent an entire season betraying his closest friend. I guess what I'm getting at is that there's been a lot of death in this series, but not like this.

And I thought it was particularly effective how it started with the almost comical opener, Snoop at the Hardware Barn with the confused clerk, the super nail-gun and her matter of factness about what she was looking for. Those closed-up vacants were creepy enough in the previous season when they were the setting of the ugly Hamsterdam drug free-zone. Here, they became the home of even uglier and still hidden death.


The earlier execution of the first victim with the braids was – I'm trying to apply the perfect adjective, but I keep arriving at "businesslike," and that doesn't quite fit. "Soulless" might be a better descriptor. The vertical lines of wood like prison bars framing the shot, the opaque plastic sheeting, the lime to keep the smell down, Chris and Snoop in silhouette like they weren't fully realized people. Chris seemed surprised when their victim vomited with fear, like the guy should have realized that his own death was all in a day's work.

The scenes setting up the final murder of Lex seemed utterly soulless, too. While Lex committed a crime of passion, walking up to Fruit and shooting him in the head because he still loved Patrice (that scene made me jump), Marlo Stanfield didn't even know who Lex was when he ordered his murder. "He did one of us, he has to fall."

The boys of summer

This season, the drug dealing and violence frames the experiences of four neighborhood boys. For them, the summer vacation of childhood is winding down, and a difficult adulthood is right around the corner.

Namond, Randy, Michael and Dukie

Randy, the junk food entrepreneur, was the standout this time. He is clearly the smart one, the idea guy, although he probably should have re-thought the piss balloons. Tricked into directing Lex to his death, Randy was sitting on stoop outside in the dark at the end of the episode, facing knowledge and guilt no child should ever have to face. In an echo of Snoop and Chris, he went inside his home at the end and closed the door.

Namond, an older boy with a big fluffy ponytail, was suspended from school and is already working in the drug trade for Bodie, although like most kids, he would rather be playing. Michael was tough enough to brave a beating by the "Terrace" boys. The unfortunate Dukie, the one they all picked on, was filthy and wearing rags, but he wasn't stupid – he knew the white pigeon the boys were trying to trap and sell wasn't a homer. Those pigeons were pretty obvious symbolic stand-ins for the boys themselves, their unrealized potential and uncertain futures.

Catching up with the Detail

It was sad to see our cops all split up. Daniels is now a district commander who can't get McNulty out of a radio car and a blue uniform. McNulty is with Beadie and her kids, not drinking, and is pretty serious about acquiring school supplies. Herc has a cushy new job as bodyguard to Mayor Royce, and Carver is still partnered with the obnoxious Colicchio.

Lester and Kima are at the Detail's old office with a board that has Marlo Stanfield at the top, realizing that chasing Marlo isn't as honorable and straightforward as chasing Barksdale and Stringer Bell. (That might change when they realize bodies are indeed dropping in the vacants.) Kima even sucked up to the detail's lieutenant who had no interest in what she and Lester were doing and wasn't even paying attention to what she gave him to sign. At least we know that Lester and Kima are honorably doing the work.

The guys acknowledged that they certainly missed Pryzbylewski when it came to chasing paper, which was a nice segue to Prez's new job as a math teacher at Edward Tilghman Middle School. In one of the to-the-point scenes that The Wire does so well, the teachers were being schooled on IALAC ("I am lovable and capable) and complaining about delinquents assaulting them, as the cops were being schooled on soft targets and terrorism as they complained about delinquents assaulting them.

Prez was given an ugly shambles of a classroom, although he didn't seem to lose his optimism for his new job. It has always been obvious that while he is plenty smart, Prez never had the temperament to be a cop. Maybe teaching will suit him better.

Last, and definitely least, politics

It's four weeks before the Baltimore primary, and the day of the white mayor is gone. So wither Carcetti? There he was, throwing tantrums about the pointlessness of his campaign as he sucked up to one bored constituency after another, treating his managers like mean babysitters and playing darts instead of making cold calls for contributions. It's pretty clear that Carcetti isn't a bad guy, but I'm already so impatient with his scenes. I wish I liked him more. But maybe that's the point. I'd love to see the smarmy, graft-loving-but-denying-it Mayor Royce go down, but is Carcetti really a worthy replacement? Will Carcetti make a difference in Baltimore, or will it forever be SSDD (Same Shit, Different Day)?


For me, the Carcetti scenes were made worthwhile by Reg E. Cathey as his campaign manager Norman, explaining why black will vote white but not the reverse, and why he wasn't even voting for the man he was managing.

And the scene at the waterfront bench where a cop rousted an exhausted Carcetti who was simply looking at the city for inspiration just as Snoop and Chris were murdering Lex was pretty much perfect, showing us by example how the police in Baltimore weren't where the crime was actually happening. Something Carcetti as mayor could fix. Perhaps.

Bits:

— Each season features a new cover of the Tom Waits song, "Way Down in the Hole." When each season starts, I think it doesn't sound as good as the season before, but by the end, I always think it's the best version so far.

— I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds the credits disturbing, and this season particularly so. It features kids eating popsicles, playing games and going to school interspersed with drugs, death and Snoop in shadow at the end of the block. Message received.

— Bodie is all that is left of the original dealers we met in season one. We learned that he got out of last season's bust by claiming entrapment by Bunny Colvin. I sort of like Bodie. Or more accurately, I like how the actor plays him.

— Last season, the heroin was called "WMD." This season they were calling it "Pandemic." It's almost like a particularly good example of truth in advertising.

— There was a sign on the boards covering the doors and windows of the abandoned buildings: "If animal trapped, call…" with a phone number. Wow.

— I miss Idris Elba. I'm a huge fan of his and am sad that I'm picking up reviews of this series after his character's demise. Oh, well. Stringer Bell probably had the best death scene in the series, in what was probably the best episode of the entire series, and that's saying a lot.

Quotes:

"Lambs to the slaughter here."– Marcia Donnelly

(In this first epigraph of the season, Donnelly clearly meant the new teachers, and Prez in particular. But obviously, the lambs are the neighborhood boys who are coming up with this criminal drug culture all around them and who will most likely be its victims.)

Chris: "We good?"
Snoop: "Yeah, man. The man said if you want to shoot nails, this here is the Cadillac, man. He mean Lexus, but he ain't know it."

(I love what she was going for there. It made me actually think about the difference between a Lexus and a Cadillac.)

Herc: "Council president's hot as balls."
Other bodyguard: "I'd fuck you to fuck her, man."
Herc: "Yeah? You'd fuck a guy for a chance to fuck a hot broad? You don't think that makes you a faggot or nothing?"
Other bodyguard: "It's just an expression, man."

(I've always thought that Herc doth protest too homophobically much when it comes to the gay.)

Mayor Royce: "Two debates. Shit. That lost-ball-in-high-grass motherfucker Carcetti. He needs to get used to life in the wilderness."

Carver: "Where's the love, Bodie? Where's the motherfuckin' love? I go back so far with this kid, I was chasing him through juvy."

(I really enjoyed this whole conversation between Carver and Bodie, and it wasn't just for the sake of cordiality. Carver has been improving his police skills and is trying to build a relationship so that maybe Bodie will talk to him someday if something happens. Carver's partner Coliccio didn't get it.)

Terri: (talking about Agnew) "One man's shithead is another man's vice president."
Norman: "True today as it ever was."

(Is it ever.)

Lester: "You know, it's strange. We're not seeing bodies. This is the first drug hit in months, and it's Marlo's boy who falls."
Bunk: "I thought Marlo was the new power."
Lester: "He is. Shit, he's got everything from MLK to Fulton now."
Bunk: "How do you hold that much real estate without making bodies?"

Bunk: "The hell with Norris. You my real partner, Lester. My life partner."
Lester: "Don't tease, bitch." (walks away)
Bunk: "Look at that bowlegged motherfucker. I made him walk like that."

(I usually don't like guys who sexualize everything, especially when they joke gay, but I enjoy Bunk so much because he's so lovable and I always enjoy how Wendell Pierce delivers his lines. Does it come off as homophobic? Readers, help me! What do you think?)

Santangelo: "No disrespect to your appendix, but if them terrorists do fuck up the Western, could anybody even tell?"

McNulty: "You beast."
Bunk: "I can't help it. You stirred my manhood, little boy blue."

Guy: "The nigga went up the block. He ain't never coming back down."

I'll admit that I've been postponing my Wire reviews because this show is so good that I find it intimidating. But now I've begun. So I'll have to finish. Right? And by the way, great big thanks to Ben P. Duck and Jess Lynde, who did such a terrific job reviewing the first three seasons.

Four out of four pigeons, or lambs to the slaughter,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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