Tuned In

Wire Watch: "It's On. Oh, Hell Yeah."

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Tristan Wilds as Michael. / HBO: Paul Schiraldi

SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this post, go see Big Walter. Not big nose Big Walter, skinny Big Walter. Oh, and watch last night’s episode of The Wire.

Like a lot of critics, I’ve already seen the finale of The Wire, so I want to be careful what I say about anything that could seem to hint at what’s to come. Everything I say here, therefore, is just based on what I saw in episode nine, and what I thought at the time.

That said, isn’t it nice to see a few things go right for once?

Nice, for instance, to see Lester’s surreptitious wiretap and code-breaking actually net a giant bust. Nice to see Marlo in cuffs and cooling his heels in lockup. (Good scene, by the way, with him exploding at Chris for having kept Omar’s taunting secret. There was a parallel there with Carcetti at the drug-bust press conference: now that it was convenient, Carcetti claimed the city never gave up on the bodies in the vacants–which it did–just as Marlo now gets to claim he’d gladly step to Omar or Barksdale, now that neither man is an issue.)

Nice to see Namond shining on the debate stage, one good story, at least, coming out of the kids from season 4. Nice to see Lester shaking down Clay Davis–who alludes to season 3, bragging about how he “bled” Stringer Bell when he was trying to turn businessman–to get a line on Levy and his liason work for his drug clients. Nice to see that Templeton’s pattern of exaggerating and lying has left a trail that others are picking up on. Nice to see Bubs making progress.

Nice to think that everything could end nice, right?

Of course, this is The Wire, so it’s not so simple. There was Kima, getting ready to go to Daniels with McNulty’s scam. (Not that I blame her; she’s always been the quiet conscience of the show, hard to read but principled.) Herc, managing to put together in his skul that Lester must have been running a wiretap on Marlo. And Michael.

Michael’s was a feel-good story in a way–I dreaded his entire ride with Snoop until they pulled into the alley. And yet it was hard to feel good about his escape for long. For one thing, I was surprised how much empathy I felt for Snoop at the end, even though she was cold-hearted to the last (“Go in to Wal-Mart or some sh_t, see if they take you when you laid up for a while”). But I was reminded how real Felicia Pearson made Snoop, even at her most monstrous, and the faraway look she got at the end got to me. (“How my hair look, Mike?”) After everything she’d done, there was a person in there, somewhere.

The last ten minutes or so of this episode were among the most poignant and great The Wire has ever done, and theey finally belonged to Tristan Wilds. First we saw him get the drop on Snoop, then we saw how terribly, unfairly he has sacrificed to become the kind of ever-alert soldier who could do that. He saves his life, but in many ways he’s already lost it. He’s lost his family: there have been sad scenes on The Wire before, but–maybe this is my bias from having young sons–I’m not sure anything has given me a knot in my throat like seeing Bug go silently, tearfully to that alien suburb, saying goodbye to his big brother for what he must suspect is likely the last time.

And he’s lost his childhood, which he confronts when he drops Dukie off to live on the streets with the junkie junkman. It’s a heartbreaking turn for Dukie too, who had so much potential if he only had a chance and is now out of options, but at least he’s still able to find some kind of spark in himself, for a few minutes more, enough to try to bring Michael out of himself by reminiscing about the piss-ballon fight in the Terraces. “You remember, Mike?” Michael’s answer is quiet but final. “I don’t.”

Doesn’t, or can’t? Does it matter?

Isn’t it nice to think that things were nice once? Wouldn’t it be nice to think they could be again?