(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.)
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.
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.