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Wire Watch: "Think Your Weak S— Through"

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SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this Wire Watch, try to remember where you’ve seen a red ribbon before. A red ribbon! Does that ring any bells?

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Marlo goes to Prop Joe to put out a bounty for information on Marlo. “Why in the hell would I want that motherf___er back?” / HBO photo: Paul Schiraldi

Mercy, people are starting to get whinge-y about this last season of The Wire. First you have the professional journalists splitting hairs over whether David Simon is accurately portraying his former bosses, and I’ll write more about that another day. And then you have the people in a tizzy because McNulty’s serial-killer plot is over the top.

Here’s the thing: Of course it’s over the top. McNulty thinks his serial-killer case is over the top–a desperate measure justified by a desperate situation. The show thinks that what he’s doing is over the top–a foolhardy, audacious Hail Mary and part of McNulty’s self-destructive spiral–and it treats it as such. But what particularly works for me is that Bunk thinks it’s over the top–stupid, unprofessional and wrong–and his willingness to ride McNulty’s ass shows that The Wire is not blind to the stakes and the implications of what he is doing. To wit:

“You’re going to jail behind this s___. Yes you are. you know what they do to police in jail? Pretty police like yourself? Motherf___er! We have kids! Houses! Car payments! Furniture! Jimmy, I just bought brand new lawn chairs and a glass patio table. Now you don’t buy no s____ like that if you plan to lose your job and go to prison.” Culminating later in the greatest reprimand possible: refusing to go drinking with McNulty. “Go home and think your weak s___ through.”

We’ve talked before about The Wire’s devotion to the principle of being good police, but Bunk and McNulty, as tight as they are, have always had different ideas of what that means. To McNulty, it means winning. To Bunk, it means being professional. Generally, their definitions have dovetailed, leading them together to work cases hard and to care when no one else does. But now McNulty has broken Bunk’s code, and Bunk has become the audience surrogate, reminding his buddy what the rest of us are thinking: that this is some crazy s____ even for him.

So there’s that. There’s the Sun, now facing a round of cutbacks. If they were asked to do more with less, now they have to do more-er with lesser. The buyout of the cops reporter, by the way, is another detail this season gets right: the loss of institutional memory. (Here at Time, for instance, a veteran Gulf War reporter was one of many staff cut in a mandated round of layoffs during the peacetime summer of 2001. A few months later, something happened in September.) Another right note: Gus’s recollection of seeing his father reading the newspaper, in enforced silence, each morning, and wondering what the hell was so damn important about that paper.

There’s the brilliantly passive-aggressive Carcetti, realizing that he’s going to have to finally can Burrell for bringing in cooked numbers that Carcetti all but said he wanted cooked. (If for no other reason, because he insisted on crime drops he knew were unattainable while cutting the police budget.) “The one thing that I’m asking above all is that you bring me clean numbers.” “Yes, Mr. Mayor, you made that clear.” The politically connected hack police chief standing in his uniform, with the headline of his doom on his desk, refusing to answer his ringing phone–he was almost sympathetic.

There’s Dookie and Michael on that heartbreakingly short vacation from the streets, picking up girls at Six Flags. There’s Marlo, deviously approaching Proposition Joe for help and Joe thinking that Marlo can be tutored into becoming a rational businessman, putting all that money to work for him through investment/bribes: “They ain’t enough mattresses.” Marlo continuing to obsess about Omar, having Butchie brutally–and unsuccessfully–tortured to give up his friend. “I’d let sleeping dogs lie, son,” Prop Joe tells him. “I know you would, Joe,” Marlo condescends. “You smart like that. Me–” Shrugs. A cold, scary shrug.

And there’s Omar, learning about Butchie–and a great, agonized reaction shot for Michael K. Williams.

Omar back. Omar pissed.

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