Carver breaks ranks and writes up a fellow officer for excessive force, while Omar, back for revenge, spares a foot soldier; Marlo, however, shows Prop Joe no mercy
Credit: Paul Schiraldi

”The Wire” recap: A cop breaks ranks

Carver for president? Last night, The Wire paid close attention to our newly promoted sergeant in charge, played by Seth Gilliam, an actor with such smooth Hollywood looks that I wrongly dismissed both him and his character as one-note and uninteresting in the beginning. But with great patience, the writers have steadily revealed Carver to be as deep and nuanced as any of his flashier peers. The scene of him smashing his fist into his steering wheel after leaving Randy to rot in that terrible place may be the gut-punch moment of the fourth season. And so it was in Carver’s scenes this episode that we also got something of a remembrance of poor Randy, who our newly promoted cop unconvincingly tried to dismiss as “what’s his face.”

As everyone else with a badge bathes in disinterest or high dramatics, Carver seems to have found his moral code. On what should have been a routine roundup, with the corner kids getting the best of the fuzz by planting a bag of feces under a stoop, the unfortunately buzz-cut Tony flipped a lid and started walloping on an innocent teacher in his car. Cop loyalty demanded that Carver cover his boy’s ass, but he decided instead to write him up for excessive force and conduct unbecoming. Later, over beers with Herc, who’s now essentially Levy’s bitch, Carver finally confessed how his friend’s carelessness ruined a boy’s life. “It mattered,” he said. “It all matters. We thought it didn’t, but it does.”

Kima was also making amends for abandoning a child. Startled by the sight of her traumatized little witness, the boy who had hid in the closet while Marlo’s goons blasted through the house, she called up her ex-girlfriend and asked to visit with the boy who long ago spooked her out of a stable relationship. But while she played Legos with cherubic Elijah, elsewhere her colleagues were still skirting their sins.

Ervin Burrell, still unable to admit he cooked his stats, roared like a cornered lion until the chilling city-council president persuaded him to just take a fat pension and a cushy transitional D.C. job and leave his dirt on Daniels’ mysterious past buried. (Also, we learned from Prop Joe that they attended school together and that even back then Burrell was “stone stupid.”) Daniels, just this shy of simpering — “I serve at your pleasure” — again pleaded innocent of plotting against the commissioner. For now, the Eastern District incident remains cloaked in secrecy, and Daniels moved up and into Rawls’ desk. As he settled in, a rather distressing look of self-satisfied accomplishment crossed his gaunt face. Will power corrupt our good man once again?

McNulty, that bonehead, finally slunk home, and Beadie, she of those enviable arm muscles, confronted him. McNulty tried half-heartedly to dodge and weave, but she had him by the scruff of his neck. “I can smell the Jameson’s from here. Jamie and Listerine, your scent.” He wasn’t home for five minutes before the dog slunk out with his tail between his legs, blaming his absence on his hot chase for the serial killer. “Yeah, that’s not all you’re chasing,” his disgusted woman spat back. Change the locks, honey.

NEXT: Two very different villains

What The Wire has always done so well is resist painting its people with broad strokes. I remember a moment last season that humanized even the worst of men, when Chris found out that Michael’s stepdad had molested him. The ferocity with which this usually coolheaded killer went after the man was so startling — evidence, I think, that Chris himself had been ruined by sexual abuse. But there are two characters right now who seem beyond redemption, and it would take a lot to convince me otherwise.

After meeting again with the Greeks and persuading them to cut him in on their wickedness, Marlo pushed Prop Joe closer and closer to the cliffs. (A formidable feat considering that the actor Robert Chew, who we saw in full profile for the first time, may be the fattest man thundering through the earth today.) Marlo turned that rat bastard Cheese against his uncle, and Prop, who assumed it was Omar who posed the greatest danger, met his maker just as he was about to jump ship. I’ll miss Prop Joe, who was as endearing this episode as ever, settling himself down to go over the morning’s headlines next to Herc, lecturing Cheese about his great-grandparents and the importance of legacy and loyalty. (“That boy always was a disappointment,” murmured Joe when Marlo revealed his betrayal.) His little satchel, a purse even, sitting on the table there at the end, was the perfect prop (sorry) to his almost feminine grace.

Marlo sounded almost soothing as he told Joe to relax, breathe, this isn’t going to hurt. It’s hard to think of a more chilling portrait of a dead soul than Marlo’s expression of bemused interest in Joe’s death. The camera cut mercifully away, Chris blew Joe’s head off, and Marlo’s eyes practically danced.

The Sun‘s Scott Templeton — a sweet homage to the rat in Charlotte’s Web, who is described in the novel as a critter with “no morals, no conscience, no scruples, no consideration, no decency, no milk of rodent kindness, no compunctions, no higher feeling, no friendliness, no anything” — isn’t a sociopath. He’s almost as dangerous, though, a small man desperate for the world to see him as important. He had a sad interview at The Washington Post, and the big dogs seemed to smell the desperation wafting off him. Once he gets a hook into McNulty’s manufactured serial-killer plot, he’ll ride that wave to glory for a while. One does have to hope, though, that we’ll be privy to his demise in this truncated season.

It seems then that it’s up to Carver and Omar to hold up some pillars of ethics on this show. Omar, who no one could accuse of lacking a moral code, however unconventional, is back for revenge. In a nice contrast to Marlo’s unsparing brutality, he let Slim off the hook and trained his eyes on Marlo. Tell me, viewers, that it wasn’t Michael he was looking at when he said the way to bring Marlo down was to start picking off his people. Omar may be one of my favorite characters, but that I could not forgive. Please assure me that he was looking at someone else.

Finally, a few words from Gus, who revealed tonight that he is another proud J-school dropout. Yes, perhaps Simon is overromanticizing the last final tastes of the old-school flavor of good newsroom, but so what — bring on the nostalgia. Gus was checking a story and called over to his copy guy to okay the use of the word “incensed.” ” ‘Incensed’ is to inflame with wrath,” said the walrus of a colleague. “Something more nuanced, perhaps — galled, vexed, annoyed. Safer still, displeased.” “You’d take the crab out of crab soup,” Gus happily replied.

What line warmed your soul this evening? What fairy-tale ending have you not let go of despite the fact that you know better? (Mine is that Carver adopts Randy and the two live happily ever after as makeshift father and son.) And finally, settle a bet: I think Lester meant for those teeth to chomp off the dead man’s most private part, while my naïf of a husband insists they were merely to make some random bite marks over the body. What do you all think?

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