Thursday, February 28, 2008

"I've seen the future of rock. And it sucks."

Yeah, but what about TGTV?

(Ah, yes. I really do have a soft spot for Graham Parker, since back in my rock critic days. And he's currently in the 6-CD mix in the car right now. And I just love that line.)

But anyway, as "The Wire" winds down, I thought it might be time to address the future of this blog, since some people have asked me what's next, others are still confused by The Bastard Machine/TGTV duality, still others have claimed (rightly, it turns out) that this site is primarily geared toward "The Wire" and there's the issue of people having trouble/suffering through the annoyance of leaving comments.

Let's go in reverse order:

1. Is leaving comments really a pain? Any other woes?

2. Honestly, it wasn't meant to be a "Wire" only blog. My intentions were many and complicated and probably not too well defined, but it was never about one show. I think it's important to have my "own" blog, since I don't actually "own" The Bastard Machine, despite what all the content lawyers on my block told me I should do to protect my work. My free work. My mistake. So, anyway, I tried to rectify that. Everybody close to me said to do it. Besides, there was a lot of what Variety calls "non-pro" work popping up on SFGate that revolved around television - of course nobody asked me about it - and so why not have my own side project. (Now? I've seen the future of those blogs. And they suck.)

Strangely enough - follow the logic here - I also started a second blog to blog less. Pause. It's true. Over at The Chronicle there's this unspoken pressure to get a lot of hits and blog frequently and blah blah blog. We get e-mail reminders of what blogs are doing well. You can get caught up in that. I mean, it's EASY to blog. Plus, you just press the "publish" button and...well, you know. Instant gratification. Of course, the more you blog, the more hits you get. Feeding the machine, as I say. But then you go on vacation for a couple of weeks and the whole audience implodes and you have to build it up again. Pretty soon you realize what I already knew before I started The Bastard Machine - you're working a second job. For free. This is an industry-wide concern among writers, as it should be. I wrestled with it (as most of you know from me thinking out loud in public before I started TGTV.) There were no good answers then. I still have no good answer now. Because I like to blog. If something is breaking, I'm inclined to write about it. If issues pop up between my three-times-a-week column in the paper - as issues tend to do - I want to post. But for a long time I've been battling annoying "repetitive stress injuries" - RSI - and sometimes no amount of Aadvil can fix that. So I paid for acupuncture (I miss you, Master Ken Luke. Move back!) And massage therapy. And really good wine. Out of my own pocket. That's called blogging at a deficit.

Sometimes, as Billy Bragg sang, "the only way to disarm is to disarm." So I figured if I got off the treadmill, so to speak, over at The Chronicle and contributed but didn't exactly get caught up in the horse race part of it, I'd be fine. Strange logic, but it worked. I'm not caught up in the numbers over there. I do periodic posts. I keep the lights on at The Bastard Machine. I podcast. And I do TGTV when I feel like it. All told - less blogging. Still haven't started the book yet, though.

3. I started this blog before "The Wire," but I also knew that the best show on television would migrate smart, funny, insightful readers over to TGTV. And I was right. Thousands of Bastard Machine readers - and others - from all around the country (and the world, for that matter - more than 40 countries with people from there being regular visitors, not just one-timers) check in. That certainly validated my decision. But again - the bulk of "The Wire" posts are just a timing thing.

4. I can't imagine this duality thing would mess people up, but if it does, let me know. Which do you prefer? What would you like to see more of on this blog - because I'm changing its direction after the season finale of "The Wire." And the name, too. See below.

5. I thought of a bunch of great titles. Really creative shit. Or so I thought. Then I changed my mind. Then I lost interest. I mean, if I really want to do cool names, I can do that in my Fantasy Baseball League(s). So I'm just going to call this site Tim Goodman. I know. But still.

It's not going to be just about television. And I'm too anal retentive to leave the "TV" part in "TGTV." I like order. And meaning. Anyway, I'll be blogging about a lot of things, from TV to music to film and books even (somewhere, Oscar Villalon just fell down and hurt himself) and who knows what else. But there will be a primarily critical bent to it. I've been lucky enough to be paid for that for years now, both as a rock music and television critic. So, do what you know...Can't say how often the posts will pop up, though.

6. I'll probably start blogging more regularly on The Bastard Machine (especially if people prefer that). I know, life is strange. (Acupuncturist references welcome.)

7. On the plus side, I got the book outline done. And the RSI has calmed down a lot.

8. "I forget what 8 was for."

9. I like these music sites, and hope you do, too: imeem, Pandora, The Hype Machine. I've got the itch to write about music more often.

10. A heartfelt thanks to everyone who came over and supported TGTV.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"The Wire," Season 5, Ep. 8: "Clarifications."

(This post is going up a bit early because I'm covering the Oscars on Sunday night and won't have time to write it then. Not that you need to be told, but this de-co contains spoilers. And I'm sorry to say, one of the most depressing spoilers I've ever written.)

Damn.

You can prepare yourself all you want for what happened in this episode - because anybody who really understood "The Wire" knew it would end like this - but the sight of Omar falling won't soon be forgotten. He was going to "get got." He already had his superhero moment. He will live on as a legend in the streets of West Baltimore (and in TV critic history), but he was never going to survive this season. No chance. Still - it got to you.

Before I go into this a little deeper, let's be clear on something. "The Wire" stayed true to its mission, its storytelling goal, its innate honesty. All the things that make this series so much better than anything else could be seen in Kenard acting completely on his own and mowing down Omar, the most feared Robin Hood in West Baltimore. The fact is that Omar ended up being a character far greater than he was originally envisioned. Credit here goes to the writing, of course, but also to the outstanding work of Michael K. Williams, who turned Omar into a cult hero, took a few clipped scenes and made them levitate and forced his character to grow. And when that happened, Williams had the chops to create one of the most captivating, intriguing and - dare we say it - lovable villains in television history. Unfortunately, Omar is not back. Omar is dead. And as true as that is to the spirit of the series, it really takes an emotional toll.

True dat.

Omar had to fall. You knew that. Or you should have. He wasn't a classic anti-hero in the truest sense but there was something in him that made you root for him. The man had a code. Amidst the chaos and urban decay and relentless downbeat cynicism of both West Baltimore and "The Wire" in general, the character of Omar was one the audience could root for and take satisfaction in when his brand of vigilante justice prevailed. When he knocked over Marlo's card game? Not to be forgotten. A triumphant, brilliant scene. And there were a lot more. But that's not how "The Wire" is. This isn't Rambo. What made his death more powerful - hinted at by a lot of savvy folks - was that it was Kenard, the littlest corner boy, who took him down. Kenard is hard. He looked at Omar, in his gimpy-limped current state, and he had no respect. That's life on the street. They're getting younger and younger. There was a cruel precision and truism about it. And it was handled deftly, without passion. And later, in the episode, Omar's was a tale told with frankness, not fondness. Few other dramas would have handled it that way.

Omar was a brilliantly conceived character. I'm going to miss him. But there was a lot of other important turns in Ep. 8. McNulty is coming unraveled just when his ruse - as ill-conceived and asinine as it is - has begun to pay dividends. Lester is close - not just "two more weeks" as usual. The police work that comes from good funding is getting good results.

But the overall lesson here, in Ep. 8, is that corruption is king. There's a corruption of the soul in Carcetti, who has lost his way more than ever (politics will do that). There is Clay Davis' corruption going unpunished - unless Lester has some more corruption he'd like to employ and level at Davis. The corruption of life - the lessening of its value - ends with the shortest corner kid around taking down Omar - a pumpkin shot, no less. There's corruption of the heart with Beadie realizing how low-down and unreliable McNulty is - then finding out no matter how bad she thought it was, it could always get worse. Scott's ethical corruption is blowing up in his face. At least McNulty's corruption at work looks like it will lead somewhere - but who doesn't think the end result will be so tainted it won't stick?

That kind of rust? It never sleeps.

Here are some more thoughts:

+ “A lie ain’t a side of a story. It’s just a lie.”- Hanning, the scarred vet. Here's the problem with Scott: Even a great story that tells itself isn't enough for him. He always wants more.

+ “The bad news, gentleman, is we’re actually gonna have to catch this motherfucker. The good news is, that our Mayor finally needs a police department more than he needs a school system.” – Rawls.

+ Great direction on that shot – last part of the punchline just shows McNulty surveying the crowd, silently, his eyes alive but dead, thinking, “I did it. I just sold them the lie.”

+ All hail Poot - he got out still breathing. At least so far. But he's out and off the corner. “Shit just got old.”

+ Poot telling Dukie he's too young to get a job in the shoe store: “So I guess you just gotta bang a little while longer, then come back and see if we got something.” Man, that's a visceral punch to the stomach for those who think Dukie needs to be saved.

+ One of the things I love about "The Wire" is that whenever it heads into complicated storytelling, nobody freezes up and sells out - like they would at the network level. There are so many times during these episodes when the dialog gets dense and the motivations murky and you think, "What? What’s happening? What’s the connection here?" It's not an easy show to follow. And that's high praise.

+Pulitzers run on the calendar year. After the New Year, who cares about the homeless?

+ Kenard drops Omar. Just as he was getting his Newpo’s. Might have seen this coming when Kenard was the only one who didn’t run just a few scenes earlier when Omar appeared.

+ “And we didn’t have coffee. We had chocolate milk.” - Hanning, illustrating how many little lies Scott is capable of.

+ “Bunk once told me, ‘I’m no good for people. Everyone around me, he said.” – McNutty.

“Was he drunk?” – Kima. “Yeah, but still.” – McNutty.

+ A shorty lit Omar's ass up. Bunk: “How short?” As short as Kenard.

+ Then the hoppers rolled him for souvenirs. That’s not old school. That’s Old West.

+ Bunk looks at Omar's list of Marlo's people. “Back on the hunt, were ya?”

+ “Write up the fire. Scratch the murder. We don’t have room.” - Gus, deciding what gets four inches in the paper. And so it goes: R.I.P. Omar Little, age 34. A death that nobody who gets the Sun will ever learn about.

+ “Juvenile suspect is being sought.”

+ Damn. The Quantico guys who gave the profile of the non-existent killer just totally nailed McNulty. The look on his face. God, rewind that.

+ “He likely is not a college graduate but nonetheless feels superior to those with advanced education. And he is likely employed in a bureaucratic entity – civil service or quasi-public service, from which he feels alienated. He has a problem with authority and a deep-seated resentment of those he feels have impeded his progress professionally…the suspect has trouble with lasting relationships and is possibly a high-functioning alcoholic.”

+ McNulty: “They’re in the ballpark.” A great scene. One we'll remember fondly as McNutty goes down.

+ Beadie’s note: “Jimmy. One possible future. Be back tomorrow or the next day. Or not. Think about it. B.”

+ McNulty: “Fuck.” – He’s rocked.

+ Chris Partlow. We’ve got your DNA. Come on down.

+ Feds walk away from Clay Davis – to teach the city a lesson about power and structure.

+ “No shuckin’, no jivin’ just good ol’ police work. How about that, Jimmy.” – Bunk.

+ McNulty: “Without my bullshit, you’re still waiting on lab work.”

+ “If someone picks up a phone around here your shit is critically fucked….Two nights and a road car.” – To play some golf at Hilton Head. Oh, Jimmy, the end has got to be near. Now you're not God, nor "boss." You're just a guy in over your head, getting shook down for a golf weekend.

+ Marlo’s never even heard of Kenard, doesn’t even know why he did it. He just wants to go to Atlantic City. He looked happy. Chris look more than mystified at the strange ways of the street.

+ Quanico guys: “You’ve caught a strange on here.” Ya think?

+ “Many are trapped for hours in darkness and confusion.” – on Gus’s computer.

+ The police work from Freamon to get Marlo is good. It’s efficient. It gives you hope. They’ve been down for so long. It so strange to feel a ray of hope on "The Wire."

+ Dukie looking for a job. Seems to have found one with the Junk Man. It might not be selling sneakers with Poot, but it's a start.

+ Clay Davis! Alive and well. And happy to be playing politics for two seats on the liquor board. Did he look like it was all a whole helluva lot of fun or what?

+ Carcetti laying down the soul and the gospel in his new campaign for homeless protection. What I like about him most is when he says “Thank you,” he exits the microphone like a rock star, head turned, with conviction, like he gave it all he had and he’s out, let the cheers come cascading down.

+ What the hell is Lester doing with Clay?

+ Carcetti’s wife, long the benign non-player, is used in this episode to show that it’s not what he can do that matters to Carcetti anymore, it’s winning, period. The end is justifying his means, but it wasn’t always like that. He’s changed.

+ “Now that I’ve done all this and I’ve watched myself do it, I can’t even stand it.” – McNulty to Beadie. I loved that scene. It's so subtle. A small booze buzz from McNulty. A wake-up call sent by Beadie as she takes the kids and walks out of her own house. Just tremendous. He wants to confide, and does, but he's looking for a shoulder to cry on because he's not the hero he thought, and Beadie nails him for making a unilateral decision that will adversely affect her kids. There's a lot of phenomenal television in that little scene.

+ They had the wrong tag on Omar. But they fixed it in the morgue. And then they zipped him up. And the music kicked in. That’s damned sad. What an amazing character.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"The Wire," Season 5, Ep. 7: "Took."

There is a wonderful feeling as you're watching Ep. 7, and it's the knowledge that whatever creative devices and dangerous angles the writers took at the beginning of Season 5 are beginning to pay huge dividends as a television story arc. And that, more than anything else, is the main purpose of any show. Tell a story on television. Make it as great as you can. That's a daunting task for anyone, even the most creative in the business. A television series, as I've noted, is not a documentary. Pure authenticity is a fine goal but it's not even in the same solar system for most series just trying to serve the story. That "The Wire" has brought viewers so close all the time to this notion of institutional failure - the bleakness of the mission at hand, where victories are few and far between and forgotten almost instantly by yet another daily atrocity, is a real miracle.

But a television story has many other masters to serve first before utter integrity and pure authenticity. You need compelling action, real drama, maybe some comedy in your violent world, motivation that suits the characters but fuels the story and a premise that is alluring, that keeps people coming back instead of surfing for something easier or more enjoyable. If you can't make compelling television, nobody will be there to see the greatness that you really want to show. More than anything, the coming together of all of the storylines on "The Wire" is an impressive feat. That they did it most notaby in the 6th and 7th episodes gives us some hope that a full stride run at 10 episodes will be enjoyable if not, as I suspect, completely definitive as it pertains to the characters and their lives as we've come to know them over 5 seasons.

Oh, we'll see some endings. We'll get hints at future directions - and that should be satisfying enough. But do you think it will all wrap tight? It seems less and less likely even when the pace is electrifying and entertaining.

What I liked about this episode is the notion that ambition for personal gain is almost always met with defeat in "The Wire." It may take some time, but it's a lesson dished out. The parallels here between Bond losing so spectacularly to Clay Davis' outsized personality - with all the internal implosions we could see Bond experiencing - is not unlike what McNulty is going through (and undoubtedly headed toward) as he plays God and puppetmaster in his elaborate homeless death ruse. Both Bond and McNulty wanted to make the grand gesture, to be the hero. But it went terribly sideways in one case and appears headed that way in another.

Anybody else in "The Wire" experiencing maximum hubris? Yep. Marlo. Three more episodes to make that lesson. Of course, the definitions set forth here on the hero/hubris thing would probably also apply to Omar. He came back looking for revenge. Will he be the one who survives when God - or some Great Force - slaps him back for the whimsy of wishing to be omnipotent. After all, he did survive getting set up on by Marlo. Or is Omar's fate also just a matter of course? Again, three more episodes.

Sorry for the late post. Went off to the wine country. If the option is to sit up at Bella Vineyards and drink some poetry in a glass while looking at open valleys, surging mountains and row after row of grapevines - or stay at home and be on time for a blog post - well, hell, you know where the answer is there...

Some thoughts:

+ “That was him. Again.” – Scottie. Subtle. And funny.

+ “They thinkin’ short when they should be thinkin’ long. Shameful shit.” – Clay Davis. Shold this be everyone's new motto for 2008? Or just the Giants new marketing slogan?

+ “He’s using you.” –McNulty. Scott: “I kind of resent that, actually.” McNulty: “Well I don’t know. It’s kinda working out for both of you, isn’t it?”

+ Carcetti soliciting money instead of mayoring. I like that he's a weasel with good qualities. He so perfectly personifies why I hate politics.

+ Well, the homeless murders, or should that be faux murders and a kidnapping, have finally snapped the napping, inefficient, creaky bureaucracies of Baltimore into action, from the mayor’s office, to the po-lice, to the Sun.

+ Loved how the storylines came together. The bigger the lie…

+ “Man, you ain’t even been to no dentist.” Michael to Dukie, who's probably not going to get that receptionist gig.

+ Were the corner boys, in their endlessly creative ways of naming the drug at hand, saying, “Truth hurts, come and get it.” Man who doesn’t love this show?

+ “I don’t believe in much of anything at this point.” – Bunk

+ “They turned on the fucking tap, Jimmy. They’re finally paying for police work again.” – Landsman.

+ “Ikea.” – McNulty on where to get kids furniture. True dat.

+ “Shame on ya’ll. And I mean it.” – Bunk. Still mortified after all these episodes.

+ “Go with God,” – McNulty, before the power of being "boss" finally started to strain him.

+ Scotty out with the homeless in their "darkest hour"? Gus doesn't like the first person, the pandering and the falseness. “He’s writing more as an essayist.” – Whiting. Oh, well, I guess that makes it just fine.

+ Gus knows Scott has barely put the time in. “It ain’t exactly Studs Terkel.”

+ Daniels is cut. But the dude needs a burger in the worst way.

+ “Media’s going crazy. City hall, too.” – Daniels. That's just the buzz of a good, dramatic storyline, Cedric.

+ “If Marlo has a code, we can break the code.” – Freamon. What? Marlo has a code? Nah.

+ “This shit’s bigger than I ever thought it would be.” – McNutty. Understatement of the year, first ballot.

+ “Get me out of this Lester, as fast as possible.” – McNutty.

+ Clay Davis. "Prometheus Bound." Fucking classic. “I can not tell you how much consolation I find in these slim pages.” Oh, that is rich.

+ “I get a road car and expenses, I can put it down.” – Norris (the second, but not the last, to come calling to Jesus). And the look on Bunk’s face – priceless.

+ “Ain’t you the little king of diamonds.” Bunk to McNulty.

+“Shit, half the neighborhood be up in here a week before check day.” – Bubs, asking the reporter why the newspaper always goes to soup kitchens looking for homeless, when the soup kitchens are a safety net for the whole ‘hood.

+ Perhaps my favorite cameo yet on “The Wire” – Richard Belzer as Det. Munch, just sitting in that bar.

+ Gus is back being a reporter – tracking down the dirt on Scotty.

+ “Whose gonna complain? Guys are working cases – and getting paid.” – McNutty, perhaps not thinking it all the way through. As usual.

+ “That’s Omar? Gimpy as a motherfucker.” – Kenard. He’s a tough little bastard.

+ “Maybe prosecutor O’Bondma can enlighten us. But in my world, it’s strictly cash and carry. And I AM Clay Davis. My people need something, they know where to find me.” Who needs facts when you've got feelings.

+ “What the fuck just happened?” – Bond. “Whatever it was, they don’t teach it in law school.” – Pearlman.

+ Kima can’t assemble the Ikea (anybody who has been through that particular bit of hell could relate) and she can’t, apparently, stock her fridge better than a college student.

+ “Good night moon. Good night stars. Good night po-pos. Good night thieves. Good night hoppers. Good night hustlers. Good night scammers. Good night to everybody. Good night to one and all.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Is this the funniest sitcom of 2008?

Yeah, I know, it's been all "Wire" around here ever since Season 5 started. I'm partly concerned about that and have been contemplating ways to expand the idea behind TGTV without, you know, doing a ceaseless and unrelenting amount of care and feeding. Why do I have two blogs, again?

Anyway, you may have seen this already but I thought I'd share. Even if you don't have HD or even care what format is going to win the format wars - HD-DVD or Blu-ray - the video is still hilarious. Of course, I think that because it incorporates two of my favorite comedic devices - anger and swearing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"The Wire," Season 5: Ep. 6: "The Dickensian Aspect."

The bigger the lie...yeah, well, it's pretty big now. And once a lie gets out of the bottle, it's hard to put back. Three people in "The Wire" are telling lies that look, for all the world, like they are going to come back and haunt them.

There's McNulty, who's homeless (sexual) serial killer story has blossomed (beautifully, by the way), from a kooky idea on how to get funded to do real po-lice work into all sorts of tragicomic turns. The original lie has now ensnared an unsuspecting liar and plagiarist at the Baltimore Sun, caused said real po-lice work to get put on the back burner while everyone chases a non-existent killer, forced McNulty to expand the lie because Lester can't get it done with the limited resources he once said he could, and has now led to a stomach-turning bout of kidnapping a mentally imbalanced homeless man. (It may not have technically been kidnapping, but there's no getting around the sadness of the act.) The only good thing the lie has done is give Carcetti an issue to ride to glory on. But that doesn't feel too good either - oily politics are just that, no matter who gets helped in the short term.

Scott's lie - check that, "lies" plural - are spinning sideways at just about the same rate as McNulty's. His are well documented, but picking up steam. Gus seems to be slowly playing his hunch that Scott is cutting corners and you can see him setting traps for Scott - and Scott steps right into them. "Star time," says Alma. But Scott looks like he's going to puke.

The other lie comes from Marlo, who tried to pin Prop Joe's killing on Omar (but most everybody else in the New Day Co-Op has a bullshit detector like Gus' and they are not buying it). Marlo's lies - being responsible for the killings of Hungry Man and Prop Joe and taken "the connect" from the Greeks while everyone else sat on their hands, has also emboldened him. But whereas the lie McNulty told has forced him to become ever more desperate, Marlo's lie comes from his belief that he wears the crown and everybody else must bow down. He's not desperate at all - he's overconfident and sloppy because he's all powerful.

No doubt the lies of all three men will guide "The Wire" to a careening, intense, intellectualy satisfying four more episodes. This is a train barreling along right now and it's a joy to watch.

Of course, Ep. 6 had other major developments as well, not just lies gone haywire. Omar lives. He didn't fly. But he survived the landing, though his leg appears to be a painful mess. It's clear that the writers wanted the legendary Omar to be hobbled in some way, to appear more vulnerable, more human and less the iconic street figure. Strange - or perhaps funny, depending on how you look at it - that they chose a near superhuman event to make him more human. "Don't seem possible," Marlo says, looking up at the balcony where Omar jumped. "That some Spiderman shit there."

I loved the opening scenes. Everybody staring up, silently, in wonder. Like, WTF?

Omar is definitely changed. And credit goes to Michael K. Williams for conveying the make-over. He doesn't have the swagger now. Coming out of hiding on the broom/crutch, he was probably the least dangerous man on the streets, more vulnerable than vicious. The writers' intent was to cut him down to size, chip away at the myth. That scenes alone did wonders - the gimpy walk. But Williams has even changed his way of speaking. Less cool, less assured. Omar now is a little bit hysterical (probably from the pain - and of course getting suckered into an ambush and nearly being killed). His voice is higher, with desperate tones in it. He's talking about how Marlo isn't man enough to come down to the streets. It's all about vengeance for Butchie (and friends) now - and Omar sounds like he's half wanting to cry in pain (and frustration) and half wanting to scream in anger. But he's certainly making the most of his injury. He's putting himself out there, disrupting Marlo's world. He's a man on a mission and no amount of searing pain looks like it's going to stop him. The question is, does he have the wits to see this through, or is blind rage making him take just as many chances as Marlo's feeling of invincibility?

Alright then. Some thoughts:

+ It's good to see Chris pissed that he failed. It's good to see him rocked. People have been waiting for this for two seasons now.

+ Marlo: “We missed our shot. Now he’s gonna get at us.” It's never good to disappoint your boss.

+ “Fuck you for tearing down the port of Baltimore and selling it to some yuppie assholes from Washington!" A great moment after Carcetti's speech about the dock renovation/gentrification.
“Who the hell is that?” – Carcetti says, after being heckled and his aide says, “Oh, it’s nobody Mr. Mayor. Nobody at all.”

+ Hell yes it's somebody. It's Nick Sobotka from Season 2! Still pissed!

+ Whiting: “Wonderful story, Scott!” Templeton: “Yeah, kind of wrote itself.” It sure did, Scottie.

+ The national news comes calling for Scottie. “Just remember you’re an ambassador for the paper,” says Klebanow.

+ “I regarded that decision as illegitimate.” – Lester on the cops pulling off Marlo because they couldn’t fund the investigation into the 22 murders.

+ “Somebody finally touched Prop Joe, huh?” – Bunk.

+ They found the sealed Grand Jury indictments at Prop Joe’s. Bunk: “Who don’t we trust at the courthouse.” Better yet, as Pearlman says succinctly to Bond: "We've got a leak."

+ “Homeless murders? How does that case tie into this?” Sydnor. “Hard to explain.” – Lester.

+ Loved the great, small acting of the people behind Carcetti when he went on a rage about the homeless killings. Rawls with a kind of, “What is he doing now” look. Daniels listening, then having his eyes roam while he thinks more. Pride welling in Norman with just the smallest muscle reflex smile on his face. Wonderful stuff.

+ Rawls tried to undermine Daniels – catching him off-guard – but Daniels rose to the occasion.

+ Randy – lost. Bigger, harder, without hope. Lost.

+ Going into the New Day Co-Op, two of the guys say that whoever has “the connect” killed Joe. “No doubt.” But Marlo pins it on Omar. Except Slim Charles ain’t buying it and wants no part of being a CEO for Marlo. Cheese jumps at it. And Marlo says that not only will there be no more meetings, if you’ve got a problem, bring it to him “or sit on that shit.” Worse, the price of the brick is going up – an extra $30,000. Cocky? When you’re the king, sometimes you don’t think straight with that crown on your head.

+ Scottie on Nancy Grace. Classic. “That makes you the Jimmy Breslin of Baltimore.” Ugh.

+ “I mean, fuck already. How many shitballs are there?” – Carcetti. He’s stressed. Very stressed. No wonder he wants a promotion out of Baltimore.

+ “Homelessness? Huh. I’ll be damned.” – Carcetti suddenly has a national issue.

+ Lester - “You’d be surprised what you can get done when no one’s looking over your shoulder.”

+ Scottie visiting the homeless and looking scared and put out. And wearing his Kansas City Star shirt…fame’s a bitch already?

+ I don’t know what was more interesting – Snoop talking about bringing toys to Chris’s kids or Chris completely off his cool.

+ Omar burns the money in the car. “It ain’t about that paper. It’s about me hurting his people, messing with his world." Message received. (Good to see the shotgun back in action, by the way.)

+ “You and Lester started some shit here. Now a DOA brings everybody in a heartbeat.” – Oscar, the Sesame Street Cop.

+ “How do I write that into my bullshit killer’s M.O.?” – McNulty, pained that he can’t get Lester the high tech stuff to land Marlo’s photo-sending phones. Lying is some complicated shit when it starts to spin.

+ “You’re a supervisor’s nightmare.” – McNulty to Freamon.

+ “As far as this guy? They’ll write it off as some fraternity prank.” – McNulty, taking a lot of desperate chances. It’s kidnapping, Lester says. But McNulty says it was an opportunity for dinner and a chat. There's a great shot of McNulty with his eyes lit, like he's just constructed the greatest ruse ever. Contrast that with the look on his face after the act is completed, just as the ending music kicks in...

+ That whole thing just leaves a pit in our stomach. How can it not? The homeless guy just evoked that sense of helplessness that made the whole thing seem sick and sad.

+ Bunk sooooo pissed off that the homeless killings are getting all the attention and diverting manpower. Especially from his DNA work. Wendell Pierce is playing all kinds of disgruntled. I love how he's washing himself clean of McNulty's ethical lapse by diving in to the row house murders with fervor.

+ “This one feels like the real deal. What I like most is that you didn’t overwrite it. No extra color, no puffy adjectives, just tight declarative sentences. And you really just let this ex-Marine tell the story.” – Gus. See Scott? Fact is better than fiction.

It's a lesson that might be learned the hard way by three people in "The Wire."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"The Wire," Season 5, Ep. 5: "React Quotes."

There's always something to love about "The Wire," but many times it comes back to how it doesn't pander. Early in this episode Chris tells Marlo - without using any names: "Sat outside of Monk’s all night. Left before morning, though. They’ll be back – no doubt.” What he conveyed, which was totally opposite of what the camera had been conveying for two episodes, was that they had already set up on Omar. When Omar thought he had the jump on them, he didn't. They were waiting for him. So the camera could catch a great line where Butchie's friend says, "Most likely, they're expecting you to make a move." Omar: "And here I am. How about that." It gave viewers what they wanted to see in the anti-hero Omar - that he had rode into town and his revenge was just about to happen.

But it didn't. Marlo had set him up. And the defining moment of that ruse was established in the middle of a scene with no garnish whatsoever. A network drama not only would have spelled it out for you, it would have beat you over the head with it. That's a pretty big development to all but bury.

And, of course, that led to the biggest moment in this episode, probably (though there were many others). That is - Omar can fly.

He certainly escaped death very narrowly in the apartment. The question is, did he survive the jump? Did he really jump. My guess is the HBO previews for next week probably gave that away (did they?) but it was a great moment no matter what.

We are now exactly halfway through the final season and I have to say that this was the episode where the conceit with McNulty and the dead bodies - stretch or no when it happened - has culminated in a wonderful strand to carry the rest of the episodes. The writers fully engaged the paper storyline with the cop storyline and let two lies stand as one. I mean, the look on McNulty's face when he realized Scott was lying about getting the call from the serial killer was a thing of real beauty. And then Scott's look when McNulty - who's the one in charge of all sides of this lie - says the killer called earlier. "He made another call?," Scott says, stunned. And that it all leads to a wire tap - illegal or at least manipulated - is another fine twist. It gets Lester back on the wire tap where he does his best work. It lets McNulty feel better that his ruse is paying off for some real po-lice in the face of the budget stagnation. And Scottie finally has his story with legs.

But there were plenty of other meaty moments as well. Clay Davis' drive to stay alive is lovely to behold (and listen to). Marlo's fascination with wearing the crown has him in business with the Greeks and wanting to celebrate, but the introduction of the cell phone and the interference of Herc (who passes the number to Carver, who passes it to Freamon, who in one call about pepper steak knows he's got the king cornered) makes everything that much more interesting.

We got a cameo from Cutty. And Royce. And Callie Thorne! And Beadie in uniform. We've got dirty journalism and situational ethics at the police department. We've got Bubs worried about serving people because he's convinced he's got AIDS (and what a negative test means for what he now has to confront - life).

And oh, yeah. What's really going on with Omar? Dead? Alive? Love it. Here's a few thoughts and quotes from the episode:

+ “Is the killer now sodomizing homeless men?” – Alma

+ “You’re gonna need a statement. Nothing too joyful. You don’t dance on Clay Davis’ grave until you know the motherfucker is dead.” – Norman to Carcetti.

+ Dookie’s beat down. He’s just not a fighter, that one. And Cutty knows it immediately. Hope and wishes. That's all anyone can give Dookie.

+ “Joe gave him to us just in time.” – Levy, because he knows the cell phone is going to be the downfall of Marlo.

+ Good to see Cutty, isn't it. I wish he'd get some more roles on TV.

+ “How do you get from here to the rest of the world?” – Dookie. “I wish I knew.” – Cutty.

+ “We need something with a twist.” – Scott. “A sexual serial killer isn’t enough?” – McNulty.

+ “He’s a biter.” – McNulty.

+ “Embracing the hard choice. It’s one of the burdens of command.” – Carcetti to Daniels.

+ “A gift from your one true partner.” Herc gives Marlo’s number to Carver, with echoes of Prop Joe’s salute to Butchie.

+ “Think I’m gonna be the scapegoat for the whole damn machine? Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.” – Clay Davis.

+ Dookie finds out that fighting will lead to more of it, guns will lead to more guns. He needs to get out. He doesn't have a map for that, however.

+ “Dead Meadow? What the hell is wrong with the Ramones?” – McNulty to his two sons, who are way past caring that he’s not there.

+ Royce and Clayton at the rally. Classic. Just classic. And timely in all sorts of ways.

+ “Yeah, well, 10 minutes ago I would have said this whole thing is complete bullshit. Shows you what I know, I guess.” – Gus. You knew, Gus. You knew. You just couldn't have any idea how fucked up it all is now. And how much weirder it promises to be.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Chris vs.Wee-Bey. Two men enter, one man leaves.

Kicked this around a bit at work recently. I think it was either Book Editor Oscar Villalon (oh, don't let that book title fool you - the man watches TV, oh yes he does) or Pop Culture Critic Peter Hartlaub. What if Chris got popped and went to prison where he met...Wee-Bey.

Who's the toughest of these two? Just some fun before the weekend.

I'm going with Wee-Bey all the way.