The Wire: Home Rooms

"I'm ready to acknowledge that, um, 18 to 21 might be too seasoned."

The central theme of The Wire is the continuing and possibly futile battle against evil in the form of drugs and crime, and what that battle does to people, especially young adults. "Home Rooms" suggested that it might even be too late for our eighth-graders.

I felt so badly for Prez. He worked so hard to clean up the classroom and prepare academically and he even started out with a joke, but the kids wouldn't sit in their assigned seats or even attempt to solve his deliberately fun math problem. Watching Prez try and fail so miserably on his first day was painful, because we knew it was inevitable. It certainly wasn't Prez's fault. How could anyone be prepared for one girl slashing another for virtually no real reason? Mrs. Sampson was prepared, though. She kept rescuing Prez while assuring him that he'd get used to it. Will he?

I thought that the way the kids reacted to the math problem showed where their heads were at. Their reality was just too immediate and important for them to absorb hypotheticals. They had to know whether it was east Baltimore or west, or if Andre was black or white, in order to relate. One of Prez's students indeed figured out the math problem, but Prez had no way of knowing who it was. And there is already more gum stuck under the desks, and new graffiti ("Fuck Presbo") aimed directly at him.

Prez might eventually adjust to his new job, but Bunny Colvin could not. (Welcome back, Robert Wisdom!) After decades as a cop, Bunny simply couldn't realign his moral center for 50K and a company car; he couldn't take the side of an important john over a victimized hooker. So with Deacon's help, Bunny may have found a better fit – as a field researcher for the University of Maryland's School of Social Work project studying the young who become violent offenders, or as Deacon helpfully translated, "You go out in the hood and get the guy some corner boys to mess with." It is tragic that the researcher's initial target age group, 18 to 21, were already too far gone; Carver and Bunny ended up pushing Parenti, the University guy, toward middle school instead. Maybe Bunny will be able to help our four boys change their reality. It's nice to think so.

Was it one of our four boys that figured out Prez's math problem? I could see it being Randy, Michael or Dukie. Maybe not Namond, who is certainly smart enough but would be more interested in acting cool than doing math problems.

Randy's avid entrepreneurship is sort of fun, but sad at the same time. He's a smart kid with a good heart – note how he quietly passed a bag lunch to Dukie without making anything of it – and he should be excelling at school and thinking about college and a career. Instead, he's pursuing success by stealing hall passes and selling candy at a profit to all three grades using different colored uniform shirts.

Dukie might be mechanically inclined. He picked up a broken hand-held fan early in the episode and fixed it in time to gift it to slasher girl. Why? To appease her? To show her kindness at a really bad time? I was also wondering if he picked up the fan because everyone tells him he smells. Namond's mother wouldn't even let him into her house.


I already like Michael the most of the four boys, but he might also be the most at risk. Big dog Marlo is looking for new puppies and the one he wants the most to acquire is Bodie, who has a strong work ethic. Bodie, in turn, wants Michael to drop out of school and work exclusively for him, making a valid point that Michael might not have much of a future. "What do you wanna be? An astronaut? A dentist? A pay lawyer?" – all admittedly remote prospects for a poor black kid in West Baltimore. And yet, I look at how Michael takes care of his little brother Bug and it's painful to think of him becoming like Bodie, who might be the next Marlo, or Avon Barksdale, or Stringer Bell.

"Welcome New Day Co-Op: Tomorrow's Success Stories Start Today!"
(sign outside the Holiday Inn)

The local dealers are still meeting and talking about their mutual problems, which appear to be the encroaching guys from New York that they compared to Wal-mart, and the fact that Marlo won't collaborate with them. (I always find these official meetings oddly amusing, like they're pretending to be real business people.)

Interestingly, the Co-Op knows where the bodies are. Bunk still doesn't, and it's bothering him. Bunk also doesn't like seeing McNulty as a patrolman, faithful to Beadie and a dad to her kids, limiting his consumption of alcohol and basically going drinking at their old railroad track stomping grounds just to please Bunk. Most guys would be happy to see a friend doing well and shaking his old bad habits, but I think Bunk is just aware that McNulty isn't himself and that it can't last. I loved their conversation about the "lake trout" that you can buy in mini-marts. McNulty is, of course, his own metaphorical lake trout.

The Detail is breaking up, too. The Lieutenant that Lester was manipulating just got transferred to the "telephone reporting unit" which is probably as unimportant as it sounds, and Lt. Marimow ("the man is a virus") took over Major Crimes. Almost immediately, Marimow threatened to take down the wire on Marlo, and five minutes later, Kima and Lester requested transfers. All this, again, because they don't know where the bodies are dropping. What happens when they find out?

"Fuck Days to Go"
(sign on Carcetti's wall calendar)

In election news, Carcetti is closing the gap and Mayor Royce is maybe panicking, just a little. In a streak of childish pettiness that reminded me of the current occupant of the Oval Office, Royce ordered people to take down Carcetti's signs and harass his volunteers. Burrell didn't look happy about it, and neither did Watkins, the delegate in the wheelchair, but I liked that Carcetti's people were amused and encouraged because they saw the harassment for what it was.

That scene at the dead witness' funeral was the most interesting Carcetti scene yet. Carcetti was sleazy enough to notify the press that he'd be at the funeral, but then he couldn't go through with taking political advantage of the situation. Or was that just another calculation? Did Carcetti take the political temperature and decide that refusing to talk to the press would make him look better to voters, or did he realize how inappropriate it was to score political points off of a family's grief? I hope it was the latter. I'd like him for that.

Omar strollin'

I'm not sure how the absolutely wonderful opener fits into our "eighth grade might be too late" theme, but I don't care because I absolutely loved it. Probably because I love Omar. How can you beat Omar waking up, realizing that his honey Renaldo ate all of the cereal, and walking to the store to pick up some Honey-Nut Cheerios? It's not that he did it in blue silk pajamas (after giving the audience a surprising eyeful of full frontal), or that he left his gun behind because it wouldn't fit in his pajama wasteband. Or even that a dealer, understandably terrified, dropped an unsolicited re-up at Omar's feet.


It was just that all of this was so Omar. It always feels to me like, in this world of The Wire, Omar is something of an exception in every possible category. He's a lovable murderer, a thieving Robin Hood, a success and an outcast. I can't help rooting for him. Where else, on any show anywhere, are you going to find a character like Omar?

I guess the one thing this fascinating opening scene pointed out was where Omar is living – in the vacants, where death is also hiding. Please tell me that this isn't foreshadowing.

Bits:

— Omar likes Kima. Or he will until she's a danger to him. I like that Omar likes Kima.

— Hamsterdam, Bunny's unintentional social experiment, was popular with the "college boys."

— Why did Namond's mother buy him all those new clothes and jewelry if he can't wear them to school?

— Lots of election signage in practically every scene. Omar and Bunny Colvin both took signs down.

— The re-up Kima and Omar were both tracking was in a school backpack carried by a little girl. Which fits in exactly with the theme of the episode.

— Just as Valchek predicted, Herc had the expected "What are your career plans?" meeting with the Mayor. I laughed out loud when Herc was reluctant to go in after knocking. He wouldn't look the Mayor's assistant in the eyes, either.

Quotes:

"I love the first day, man. Everybody all friendly an' shit." -- Namond Brice

(Yeah, and if a slashing is what you get on the first day when everyone is all friendly and shit, what do you get the rest of the school year?)

Omar: "It ain't what you taking, it's who you taking from, you feel me? How do you expect to run with the wolves come night, when you spend all day sportin' with the puppies?"

(Lots of references to puppies in this episode, meaning the kids, of course.)

Bunny: "Melvin, I had me a good helping of them downtown, tie-wearing, come-to-do-good, stay-to-do-well college-types last year."

Omar: "They're supposed to know it's me, man. I'm my own trademark, you feel me?"

McNulty: "Cote du Rhone?"
Bunk: "Yeah, sommelier behind the plexi said it was dry."

McNulty: "Lake trout."
Bunk: "Like egg creams in New York."
McNulty: "No eggs, no cream."
Bunk: "Exactly. No lake, no trout."

Omar: "You see the look on his mug? That's the reason why we get up every morning."

Bunny: "Fifty thousand, 80-20 health plan and a take-home vehicle."
Deacon: "I'd be amazed if they give you thirty, an HMO and a bus pass."

Rawls: (to Lester) "You have a gift for martyrdom. I wonder, though, are your disciples as keen for the cross?"

What do you think? Three out of four metaphorical lake trout, perhaps? Or possibly puppies with big paws?

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

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