Nobody except Bunk seems to care about McNulty's fake murderer; plus, Marlo moves on Omar, and Scott publishes another lie
Wendell Pierce, The Wire

”The Wire” recap: The making of a murderer

When the credits rolled on this episode of The Wire, I turned to my husband and said, ”Hunh, I’m nervous.” This borders on blasphemy, but I’m just going to go ahead and risk sharing my worries with you. (I can already feel the venom from some of you Wireheads, but at least hear me out.) This episode was sub-par Wire. Oh, yes, it still beats just about everything else on TV, and the small moments and gorgeous details of cop banter and salty newspaper talk still rule. Any Wire is good Wire, but the serial-killer plot they’ve got cooking smells just this side of hammy. Before I wring my hands over McNulty’s red-ribbon machinations, though, I’m going to linger for a bit over my favorite image of the night: the little plush amusement-park dolphin sandwiched under Duquan’s arm after a day of hooky from the streets. Whatever my worry over a serial-killer subplot, nothing else on TV this week gripped my heart like that Six Flags souvenir.

So I’ll start strong. Michael (and damn, that boy is growing into movie-star looks), still wounded from Marlo’s vengeance and Chris’ cold executions, is growing weary of their world. Dukie suggested a day off, and after forking over a chunk of change for a lift, the boys and Bug hightailed it out of the neighborhood. Kids again! Bug got a Batman mask, and they met a couple cuties in madras shorts and collar shirts. Michael got to hold a girl’s hand, though poor Dukie, without game on the corner or at the carnival, had to settle for a little innocent flirting while his gal held onto — can’t this guy get a break! — Bug’s hand instead. When the three arrived back in the hood, on a colorless evening with everyone looming wretchedly on the corner, waiting for them with angry clown glares, their bubble of fun deflated fast.

But Michael and Dukie weren’t the only ones we got to see, however briefly, out of their usual element. Marlo, on the prowl for a safe place to hide some of his abundant money, got a little free financial-planning advice from Prop Joe (who is a strange physical amalgam of Whoopi Goldberg and Mama). Joe suggested Marlo launder his money in the islands, but the kingpin looked confused, wondering how he would know his money was actually there. (”Ain’t easy civilizing this motherf—er!”) So off Marlo went, with a fresh passport in hand, to the sunny French Antilles to get a load of his loot. He looked like your average tourist boob, lost and unsteady, and yet still the hot French babe behind the bank counter looked like she wanted to rub suntan lotion all over his scrawny body. (A quick complaint: I get that most of the ladies McNulty lures to bed, or to the hood of a car as the case may be, are perhaps women of the night. But what is it about this show that all it takes to get any attractive woman to bed is a sneering glance? Are there, I wonder, any women writers on Simon’s staff?)

While Marlo kicked it tropical style, his goons back home stepped up their hunt for Omar. (Who it looked like might have relocated to the very island Marlo was visiting! That would be kind of cheesy, right? But as disconcerting as it was to see Omar, a man in need of some Honey Nut Cheerios, in shorts and sandals, he was showing the island kids some serious love.) Chris and Snoop trapped blind Butchie — all hail Butchie, a man of high honor — in the bar, and blasted out his kneecaps for information on Omar. Butchie kept his mouth shut and took it like he was the boy’s father. His murder, and Omar’s inevitable whup-ass revenge, might be what brings Marlo down. That, or a serious case of the island clap.

Worlds were crossing all over the place on The Wire tonight. Turns out the all-seeing Norman used to work with Gus over at the paper. The mayor’s eyes, ears, and wisecracking conscience tipped Gus off to the fact that Burrell would soon be out on his arse and Daniels might jump the line into the commissioner’s desk. Gus (and Clark Johnson, you do bring some much-needed sex appeal to the newsroom) wanted the story reported fast, and while Scott looked eager, the bought-out police reporter was the only one who knew the beat. And amaze that old dog did, when he rattled off the skinny on Daniels. Scott, torqued that he’d had his ass handed to him by a man the paper had already deemed dispensable, manufactured a quote about Daniels’ having had it out for Burrell from day one. That quote, and Burrell’s outrage over being dumped, could unearth whatever shady business Daniels and his stoic ex have tried to keep buried for years. You’d think Chris would be my least favorite character on this show, or maybe that slick, chinless creep of an executive editor. But it’s that worm Scott who I’d like to meet Marlo in a dark alley one night.

NEXT: McNulty gets in deeper

Elsewhere Alma, our industrious young reporter, was trying to ferret out a fresh copy of The Baltimore Sun in the middle of the night, and she wandered into the same store where McNulty was buying a spool of special serial-killer red ribbon. If the city won’t give him the resources to bring Marlo down, he’ll force them to pony up the dough to catch a serial killer. Bunk is right. Our hero has gone bye-bye, sailing away on a tidal wave of booze. After planting a ribbon bracelet on a dead homeless man and cooking some files, our man thought he’d saved the day. But nobody cares about city vagrants, and all Alma could do — they finally met over a cup of coffee while McNulty tried to use her in every which way — was get a story buried in the metro section.

McNulty is obsessed with justice. And however ill he’s treating Beadie (sock him with the fry pan if he ever drags himself home!), he’s about the only one. ”Jimmy, I just bought brand-new lawn chairs and a glass patio table,” Bunk said. ”Now you don’t buy s— like that if you’re planning on losing your job and going to prison.” Looked like Bunk thought Lester might talk some sense into our fair Irishman, but Lester got positively starry-eyed about the prospect of breathing life into the Marlo case through the serial-killer scam. Sex it up! he said. Sensationalize it! People want a sick, gruesome story they can really sink their teeth into. Look at any story leading the evening news, or any episode of Special Victims Unit or CSI, and you know Lester has got us all nailed. I appreciate that The Wire knows that a serial-killer angle is trite and that it’s twisted stuff like this that gets people’s blood pumping. So they may be spinning the trope on its head, but there’s still a serial-killer angle on my favorite show. I’d say dump this plot in the river, but I’m probably jumping the gun. McNulty’s right: ”Marlo doesn’t get to win. We get to win.” He’s acting a little bit like a brat there, but it comes from a good place. My criticism is a little bratty too, but it’s just because I don’t want nothing messing with my favorite show.

Finally, the funniest moment of the episode: The boss man has asked his staff to gather round him in the newsroom. Pulitzers? someone wonders. ”If we won a Pulitzer, the executive editor would be tumescent.” ”Tu- what? Speak English — I’m just a police reporter.” ”Tumescent. Engorged.”

Also, perhaps my nerves can be attributed less to where this whole plot is going and more to the fact that I fear the next time my husband farts, he’ll turn to me and say, ”Oh, like Chanel No. 5 comes out of your ass?”

But what did you all think? Are you digging McNulty’s manufacturing of a serial killer? Are Daniels and his ex-wife going to find their way back into each other’s arms? Do you have a subscription to your hometown newspaper? And whose ass would you most like to see kicked on this show?

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