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'The Wire': Hell's around the corner

February 10, 2008 | 10:00 pm

Mcnulty Well, if McNulty hadn't already booked a personal sauna in Hell before this week's episode, he's guaranteed himself an E-ticket at this point.

Just as I'd gotten somewhat adjusted to the idea that the backbone of "The Wire's" police department could make the leap to inventing murders to fund investigations, now Jimmy's expanded his oeuvre to include kidnapping the homeless and shipping them across the country. Sure, why not?

We're nudging the ragged fringe of suspension-of-disbelief again, but it's at least encouraging to see the whole game taking its toll. Still unable to wring more than a single detective from the department to send Lester's way (even after Carcetti's blustery press conference), McNulty had been taking out his frustrations on everyone from Lester to a stern-looking statue on Baltimore's waterfront (any Charm City natives out there who can identify who that was? *** I looked everywhere). McNulty even appeared appropriately shaken after arranging for his pathetic 'victim' to unwittingly be shipped off to Cleveland. Still, as perfect as his whole plan seems for getting Lester an equipment upgrade to crack Marlo and the Greeks' picture messages, I'm curious how many people are still buying into the whole storyline. Is McNulty's amoral madness flirting with a little criminal deus ex machina?

I'm still along for the ride, but that may have to do with all the fantastic storytelling and policework blooming elsewhere. First, the Bunk is back. Finally tired of his thankless work as the ignored angel on McNulty's shoulder, Bunk's chasing Marlo's bodies from the vacants again, and like everything else this season, things are moving fast. Some readers had asked why the police hadn't yet caught on about Prop Joe's death, but that big body finally turned up somewhere -- and with it, the knowledge there's a leak in the DA's office since Joe had a bunch of sealed grand jury documents in his desk. That's Rhonda Perlman's worry for now, but Bunk kept busy, first with home-hardened Randy from Season 4, then with Michael's strung-out mom. Watching Bunk in that interview was pure investigative artistry, but he's still queued up behind "the serial killer" for any department resources. Now it's a question of who will get to Marlo first: Lester and McNulty's dirty wire or Bunk and his hard-nosed police work?

(And hey, speaking of cameos, how nice was it to see Nick Sobotka heckling Mayor Carcetti down at the docks? Ah, Nick. Glad to see you're bouncing back.)

At any rate, the smart money on who will catch Marlo first has to rest upon "Spiderman" Omar. Forgetting for a moment how improbable it is that our hero found the one janitor's closet in the building just out of sight from Marlo's very motivated crew, it's been fantastic to see Omar back in his element. Sticking up crime bosses, wrecking havoc on Marlo's deliveries -- these are the pleasures you just can't get in tropical hideaways. And this time, it's "not about the paper" -- Omar wants all of Baltimore to know he wants a showdown with Marlo.

While I can't imagine the bloodless Mr. Stanfield being silly enough to face anyone man-to-man at this point, this week's shot of Omar holding his trusty shotgun and vowing revenge while an Escalade burned to the ground behind him was stunning and worthy of the best of the old Clint Eastwood westerns (though what first came to mind for me was a scene from 1993's goofy "Tombstone" but with better facial hair. Seriously, though, watch the clip). Hell's coming with him, Marlo, and something tells me the co-op you just dissolved won't pay much attention to your upping the bounty on Omar's head.

Meanwhile, back at "The Sun," Templeton is "the Jimmy Breslin of Baltimore" thanks to his and McNulty's creation. Whiting and Klebanow, David Simon's hapless Glimmer Twins of the newsroom, were indeed tumescent through much of the episode, but even Templeton had a minor change of heart and did some actual reporting while spending a night with the homeless. Ignoring the undeniable fact he finally found his notebook once an approachable white homeless man crossed his path, Templeton's piece on an Iraq war vet even wowed the un-wowable St. Augustus of Metro, who said without a trace of irony that it "looked like the real deal." Here's a theory: Templeton will eventually get caught cooking at least one of these stories and, aw, shucks, his one true story will get tainted.

I hope I'm wrong. Not because I don't want Templeton to get his due, but more because I hate thinking I can predict where the unpredictable "Wire" is headed. Besides, it may not be cynical enough. Any more half-baked theories out there?

*** UPDATE: Mystery solved! Russell Fine, Director of Photography for "The Wire," has gotten in touch to explain that the statue is of Major-General Samuel Smith in Federal Hill Park. Certainly an appropriately authoritative figure for McNulty to consult. Thanks again, Russell!

(Photo courtesy HBO)

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