Not that you need to be told by now, but this post has spoilers. If you haven't watched Ep. 4, go away. Now.
R.I.P. Prop Joe. It was a good long run. A great character that the writers on the series were able to shade in exceptional ways. But you should have seen this coming. Marlo was using Prop Joe and Marlo only lives to get what he thinks is his. You know, the crown and all. I'd have to say the killing of Butchie was more of a surprise. Once the Greeks had essentially said that insurance was a good thing, Marlo had already used up the wisdom that Prop Joe dealt out. How to launder money. How to open an offshore account. How to get a passport and check on your money. How to find a shady lawyer to do something with it. In the end, Prop Joe - like Butchie before him - was sold out by Cheese. Prop Joe didn't want to believe that kin would sell him out, but Cheese is all about the cheese, period.
I love that these episodes are, as usual, packed with layers and meaning. Just a quick addressing of the notion, raised in comments, that this season feels rushed because there's only 10 episodes (previous season have been 12 or 13, depending). Part of that is true. But all series that are fortunate enough to know when they're going to end - a real rarity in the industry - by circumstance need to have a quicker pace if they are going to tie up storylines from past seasons. In the case of "The Wire," that's four seasons. Not insurmountable, but plenty. And let's remember that David Simon is a much different storyteller than David Chase. "The Sopranos" was never going to wrap up loose ends because Chase has almost zero interest in doing that. He believed that they were all one hour movies, not necessarily related to any episode prior. I'm not sure he always stayed true to that, but certainly with "The Sopranos" now infamous ending, he stuck to his guns when it mattered most. It appears that Simon wants to go for closure where possible, to wrap up some character evolution, and so if the season seems to be moving quickly, well, that's because it is. I find no fault in that. A storyteller who wants to reward his faithful viewers with conclusions should be cut a little slack if he needs to achieve that by ramping up the speed.
Also, as an aside, I know that it has become some kind of predictable sport to start nitpicking Simon and Season 5, but as I've said before it will take the conclusion of all 10 episodes to do a real post-mortem. And beyond that, whatever happened to giving a guy credit for what he's done in the past. I'm passing no judgment on Season 5 until the appropriate time, but I do know this: Simon dropped four incredibly brilliant seasons into the bin of TV history and he deserves some props for that.
Ah, Prop Joe. How about that last scene?
“My nephew? Boy was always a disappointment…But I treated you like a son,”
he says to Marlo, who has crept in courtesy of Cheese. “I wasn’t made to play the son,” Marlo said, driving home two truisms of "The Wire" - people rarely change (Marlo was gonna get Joe no matter how kindly or paternal Joe was) and no good deed goes unpunished.
“A proposition for you, then. I’ll just step away…” Joe says, deftly played more than a few steps shy of begging for his life, which was a wonderful way to write it . “Joe, you’d be up in the mischief in no time,” Marlo says, with more than an ounce of truth. And then - those cold as steel eyes. That unfeeling killer on display. “Close your eyes. It won’t hurt none,” Marlo, says.
Now, we have other aspects in play here as well. Let's see, where to start....Scottie? No. McNulty and Freamon finding another dead body to frame - this time with bite marks. Nope. Carver learning a hard lesson from Randy's mishandling by Herc's incompetence. "It matters," Carver said. "It all matters." Uh, not that either. What other strand deserves notice after burying Prop Joe's character?
Oh, yeah. Omar back. “I’ma work them. Sweet Jesus I’ma work them.” Him walking down the alley (there's your intro reference again) was almost iconic. He's going after Marlo's henchmen, make the snake pop its head up out of the hole.
Ah, so much to discuss. But listen, I've got my hands full with work and some recurrence of the nagging RSI bullshit, so this post is going to be shorter. I had some e-mails saying I always get the major quotes and leave only scraps for eager commenters, so no better time to ease off on that and let you pick up the slack. Some great dialogue this episode, as usual. Here's what I've got:
+ Burrell looking defeated (though also dangerous with that putter in his hand, standing behind Daniels) was wonderful to behold. And his little act of forgiveness to Daniels at the end - what does it matter anyway now that he's got his golden parachute? - is all for naught now that Nerece has the goods on Daniels.
+ “Have it say, ‘Butchie – woe to them that call evil good, and good evil. Sign it, your true and loyal friend, Proposition Joe.” In his own way, Prop Joe was a Renaissance man. Good with flowers, too.
+ “Out of respect for the man’s skill set, I’m gonna take myself out of the line-up tomorrow after the meeting.” – Prop Joe on Omar coming back. I just loved that line.
+ The Greek: "These are volatile times. It’s not unreasonable to carry insurance. Who can say what tomorrow will show us.”
True dat. R.I.P. again, Prop Joe.
+ “Christ, you’d think I was putting Ray Lewis out to pasture. I’ll I’m trying to do is dump Burrell.” – Carcetti on having to sell the store to oust Burrell.
+ “Some of your feature work is a little raw for what we do here at the Post, language-wise.” Oh, Lord. That was smug.
+ “A few more clips, a little more seasoning, we’ll take another look, okay?” But not nearly as painful as that. And oh, yeah, Scottie, you can just throw away that Post sticky. You're not coming back there just yet.
+ “I ain’t paying you to be my mother.” – Michael to his, uh, mom.
+ Clay Davis and the Grand Jury. “He’s pretty cool about it.” – Sydnor. “The coming out tells the tale.” – Freamon.
+ Bond lays claim to the Senator, tips the press. But Clay Davis knows how to take a punch and come up smiling. What I like about the sleaze that comes from Davis is that it's been that way since the first time we saw him. Lying, or being in denial, is just part of his genetic make-up.
+ Burrell allowed to go out with a shred of dignity, indicting pompous mayors whose mission blows in the wind, and with fickle voters. “You will eat their shit. Daniels too, when he gets here.” That last bit was great subtlety. He's letting Rawls know that his time will be short.
+ An aside to those people hoping Rawls "gay moment" will be resurrected by Simon, well, it's not out of the question because Simon appears to be closing a lot of loop holes (and he does like to stick it to people). But my guess is the Rawls gay bar scene is Simon's version of the Russian in the woods on "The Sopranos."
+ Cheese is given Hungry Man by Marlo. “Give a gift, get a gift,” Chris says. And then he gift wraps Prop Joe. But Cheese is too stupid to know he's on the clock now, too.
+ “Ervin was a year before me at Dunbar. He was in the glee club.” – Prop Joe to Herc (while both were reading the paper - LOVED that scene). And later, when it's clear Herc wants to know what he was like: “Stone stupid.”
+ LOVED the smile on Daniels face as he has the last word on the ushered out Burrell, sitting at the desk in Major Ops.
+ Alright, time to shut it down for me. A lot to dissect in this episode. I'm not watching in real time and thus avoiding HBO's heretofore brutal promos - giving away too much every week - so here's hoping you're skipping those as well.