On ''The Wire,'' from the streets to the schools, the characters suffer for their evil or good acts

By Michael Endelman
September 25, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Wire: Paul Schiraldi

”The Wire”: It’s payback time

Here’s a question for fashion-savvy readers: When wearing a loose-fitting turquoise robe-and-pajamas ensemble, where should one hide a giant handgun? As our favorite thugged-out homosexual and crook robber Omar Little discovered at the beginning of this episode, silk pj’s just don’t have a strong enough waistband to hold up a pistol, in the front or the back. That’s why whenever I stroll out to the corner store for Cheerios, I just leave the gun on the top of the fridge. Besides being pretty amusing, the opening scene hinted that the stick-up man is still on the hunt for bigger ”wolves,” as he put it, something he proved later on in the hour by snatching the re-up package from a bodega. (One quick question for eagle-eyed viewers: What novel was Omar’s boyfriend reading at the breakfast table? That would be Drama City, by George Pelecanos, who also writes and produces for The Wire.)

This episode had a very eye-for-an-eye theme: It was filled with retribution. First up was Barksdale loyalist Bodie, who, after sweating to turn a desolate corner into a busy one, got an unwanted reward: the attention of nascent kingpin Marlo, who basically calls checkmate on Bodie. (Wasn’t it pitiful to see the once powerful Slim Charles capitulate to Marlo’s bullheaded tactics?) Payback #2: After embarrassing Mayor Royce in last week’s debate, the Carcetti campaign is now the target of petty harassment from City Hall, including ear-shattering jackhammers outside their HQ. Payback #3: After getting wind of Detective Freamon’s subpoenas, the always vindictive Major Rawls snuck in his ”Trojan horse,” Lt. Charlie Marimow, to take over the major crimes unit. Marimow is the season’s best new villain, for sure. He says he’s ”not just a suit,” but it’s clear that’s exactly what he is: a smarmy mole whose only purpose is to keep Freamon and Greggs from airing any dirty laundry before election day. And since Marlo doesn’t seem to be ”dropping any bodies,” Marimow orders the pair off the drug case. Showing some compassion for once, Rawls says he’ll try to find space in homicide for the pair of sleuths. Here’s my prediction for the next couple shows: Someone’s gonna find those lime-covered corpses in the row houses soon enough, and once they do, Freamon and Greggs will resume their Marlo hunt. Though this time they’ll be coming at him from the homicide department.

And lastly, payback #4 came down hard on former police major Bunny Colvin — the focal point of season 3’s ”Amsterdam” experiment/debacle — who has now found the only job he can, as a security director at a Baltimore hotel. But just as he learned last year, sometimes what you think is the right thing to do is the thing that will get you canned. The politics of the real world once again bit Bunny on the ass, but he’s landed a far more interesting gig: helping a professor with his sociology experiment, by being ”a field researcher, a liaison operating in the urban environment.” Good for Bunny — his highly developed sense of morals is just too strong for the private sector. I wonder which of the kids from Edward J. Tilghman Middle School the professor will pick for his ”target group”: Dukie? Randy? Michael?

And speaking of school, Prez had a predictably horrible first week, though who would’ve guessed that season 4’s first bloodbath would be in his classroom? It’s obvious that Prez has to get back in touch with his inner tough guy: Neither the ”soft eyes” nor the deer-in-the-headlights stare is working very well.

What do you think? Will Marlo help Proposition Joe and Slim Charles battle off encroaching dealers from New York City? Will Michael stay loyal to Bodie? Or is Marlo going to snatch the smart kid away for himself? And is Bodie going to switch to Marlo’s package or stay loyal to the Barksdale crew?

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