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'The Wire': React quotes, Vol. 1

January 29, 2008 | 11:35 pm

As we take a breather before Sunday's episode, I thought I'd take a moment to respond to some reader mail received here at Showtracker Plaza. As always, feel free to send any comments via email or the handy-dandy "comments" link below -- we welcome any and all thoughts, feedback, screeds and diatribes.

Let's get this party started. First, a sampling of concerns about Sunday's post:

Thanks to you and your editor for making sure that anyone just glancing at the entertainment page today would be sure to find out about the killing of a major character on a highly acclaimed show. Thanks for ASSUMING  that anyone who is interested in watching the show ALREADY SAW IT. . . Some of us are too busy to build our schedules around watching a show the first minute it's available. Thanks for your consideration. -- Charles Webb

But wait, there's more:

Gah! I was scanning over the site today and I stumbled across the promo for your latest "Wire" post, in which I happened to learn right away that something bad happens involving Proposition Joe. Something involving a gun and Chris? Or Marlo? I tried to look away as quickly as I could, but I feel like the damage has already been inflicted. -- Patrick Day, fellow Times employee and "Wire" fanatic

Dear Charles and Patrick (and all the rest): First of all, I apologize. While I have no regrets about leading a Showtracker post with what was, naturally, the biggest news out of the episode, the way it was promoted on the Entertainment page was a definite spoiler with a capital "S." While that wasn't my decision and the team regrets any hard feelings, I must caution you that the Internet is a very, very treacherous place when dealing with the aftermath of serialized programming such as "The Wire," "Lost" and even "American Idol." The story has advanced, and those who still cling to what's become a relatively archaic standard of "appointment TV" generally want to discuss or read about an episode shortly after it's aired.

We'll definitely do our part to keep the "common areas" of the site free from specifics from now on, but by the same token when you've got an episode simmering in your TiVo (or, however improbably, your VCR), it might be safest to be exceedingly selective with your Web browsing. Entertainment and TV-related sites are fraught with peril, and it might be best to just stay away until you've caught up, as harsh as that may sound. When I missed an episode of "Lost" last year I did everything short of throwing a bucket over my head and hitting it with a wooden spoon whenever I logged on -- you just never know where this news is going to be discussed. While that may be extreme, the Internet is an unforgiving place for those who fall behind. We'll do our part moving forward -- just be careful out there as well.

Elsewhere, a question looking for a bit of background:

Tnx very much for today's column re "The Wire." We just started watching this year, and it's very difficult for us to understand what is going on. Your column helps. One thing we can't understand is what is happening vis a vis the Greeks. Much money is being brought to them in a briefcase -- looks like a great deal of money -- but they don't want it and try to send it back. Why? What is expected of them in return for this money? If you could let us know by Reply email or include it in your next column we will be grateful to you.-- Barbara and Ethan

First, kudos to you both for jumping on "The Wire" bandwagon late. As much as I love the show, it's not particularly forgiving to those who haven't been there from the beginning, so what you guys are trying to do is commendable. But even then, some of the interplay between the characters can be really subtle. For instance, in the case of the Greek (who, in another fun twist, isn't even Greek), Marlo presented Vondas with the briefcase of dough as "a gift" -- or, more specifically, a big sum of money to declare his intentions to buy his way into being their new point-person for drug distribution in Baltimore. Marlo wanted to be -- and now is -- the new Prop Joe for the Greeks.

Now, here's where I'm even a bit fuzzy. As you guys pointed out, Vondas repeatedly tried giving the money back, which from what I gather was a test of Marlo's resolve on really wanting to do business with them. While Vondas seemed perfectly content to continue to do business with Prop Joe as they had for years, something about Marlo changed the Greek's mind at the diner. Was it just that he kept coming back? Is that really all it takes it to just be a pest? Even what Marlo saw as approval for him to kill Prop Joe -- the acknowledgment that there was a viable need for "insurance" on Marlo's investment -- was cloaked in very nonspecific language. Given how security-obsessed every criminal figure in "The Wire's" world is, this shouldn't be a surprise. But was anyone else a little mystified initially that the Greek had, in fact, given Marlo an endorsement to move ahead with his plan to squeeze out Prop Joe?

More of this to come as the need arises. In the meantime, keep listening.

-- Chris Barton


Comments () | Archives (10)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Robert Di Stefano

Chris,
The Wire is a great show and Prop Joe was a loveable sociopath so I am sorry to see this element leave the show. But I do have couple of observations by way of comparisons to he godfather of recent television, "The Sopranos."

The hit on Prop Joe was really amateurish. In reality both Chris and Marlow would have been covered in blood and brain matter. A vertebra might even have deflected the bullet enough for it to hit Marlow. This lack of attention to detail would not have happened in any of the Soprano hits.

Maybe it's the writers strike, but I also can't figure out the logic of two veteran cops risking everything to goad the system into action by staging a serial killer case when no one wants to deal with the real serial killer evidenced by the 20+ bodies in abandoned buildings. It would have made more sense to work the political/newspaper angle to put pressure on the mayor the same way his council and community activists are doing.

Speaking of the mayor, the behind the scenes aspect of politics in a city coping with major urban decay is the most fascinating storyline. It is all very believable. Especially after having had the experience, almost 15 years ago of seeing the area around the famous John Hopkins Hospital on a train ride to NYC. It was a sight to behold and hard to think this is America. One could imagine that almost anything might be happening in that decaying landscape. The Wire does a great job letting us see what we would rather not see unless we are comfortable, safe in our living room.
Robert Di Stefano

erica

This is in response to the "Greek" question.

First I would like to say that I am an avid and fanatical Wire watcher. I love this show more than sliced bread and I do understand that the creators centered it into a five year arch, but I think the stories could go on and on forever and that something needs to be done to try and bring it back for years to come. There is so much more that can be explored and stories that can be clarified. Let's start a petition or something. LOL.

Now, back to the Greeks. In reference to the Greeks and the money being touted back and forth between them and Marlo, I think they really didn't want to deal with anyone other than Prop Joe and initially wanted Marlo to respect that. When Vondas stated, "this money is dirty, it is not clean, all money is cleaned through Joe." Both Marlo and Snoop had no idea what he was talking about and went to Joe to find out. If they had to sense and experience of Joe, they would have went through him first. They would have asked him what they needed to do.

Marlo had the plan to kill Joe, a long time before this episode with the Greeks. If you recall, when Omar robbed their shipments, Marlo insisted that he meet with the Greeks. This was his way in to let the Greeks know that he existed. Marlo does not like to be second to anybody, as was seen when he first stepped on the scene and pushed Avon and the Barksdale crew to the back, i.e. shooting up Avon in that truck. Also, Marlo sucked Joe for all the information he could get, without being obvious, of how to become the man that Joe was. For example, he needed to know how to create offshore accounts, the lawyer, and the counsel in general.

Also, I believe the Greeks thought they were teaching Marlo a lesson when they sent him back to Joe. As you may have seen, when he sat at the diner after cleaning the money, Vondas tried to explain to him how all things between them (the Greeks) and the street went through Joe. He kept saying, "we only deal through Joe, all money goes through Joe." Marlo was persistent and that's when the real leader of the Greeks came from the bar top and stated that Marlo should leave. He then sat down beside Vondas and Vondas said, "he's no Joe." and then the leader said almost sadly, "he is NO Joe." These "Greeks" are smart, they knew what Marlo was planning and because they don't want any involvement in the streets (aside from supplying and getting their money) they could do nothing to stop it. I believe, when the Greek asked Marlo to go, they knew he wanted to kill Joe and that no matter what they said or did, it was no way of stopping him. Because with refusing to work with Marlo and he killing Joe anyway, their business would not thrive; who else do they know to supply to in Baltimore without bringing unwanted attention to themselves. So, there we have it.

PHIL SMITH JR

VONDAS WAS TESTING MARLO TO SEE HOW GOOD A BUSINESS MAN HE COULD
BECOME. IF YOU NOTICE THE ONE THEY CALL THE GREEK, WHO DOESN'T LIKE TO
REALLY HAVE A FACE TO FACE WITH ANYONE, SPOKE WITH MARLO,
MAYBE THEY KNEW JOE WAS GOING TO DIE OR NOT, THEY ARE BUSINESS MEN,
THEY HAVE TO MOVE THEIR PRODUCT. MARLO WOULD NOT HAVE RECEIVED THE
SPECIAL CELL PHONE FROM THE GREEK, IF THEY DIDN'T PLAN TO DO A LONG-TERM
BUSINESS DEAL WITH MARLO. THEY KNOW HE IS JUST A STREET GUY, BUT LIKE
THEY BOTH AGREED ON BUSINESS MUST MOVE ON. IF MARLO KNEW HOW TO RIP
OFF THE GREEKS HE IS CRAZY ENOUGH TO DO IT, INSTEAD HE IS GOING TO UP THE
PRICE OF THE BRICK. I WOULD ADVISE ALL OF YOU NEW TO THE WIRE TO GO BACK
AND START FROM THE BEGINNING, A GREAT SPECIAL SHOW.

LO-LO

I am a wire O.G. My wife is from Baltimore and we spend a great deal of time there. and have a few friends and family members who have either acted in the show or worked on set. everyones comments are great. For years this was the best show no one was watching. and just my opinion but i believe its because the show centered around poor black people. however in its attempt to show the deversified problems of baltimore it swings from black characters woes and whites every other season. the 1st avon and his crew, the second the sabatas and the greeks, then marlo and his crew, then the mayor. now in its final season The Baltimore Sun. as oppose to speaking of how entertaining the show is, i`d like to let you know that all these stories are real. avon and prop joe are based on real ghetto legends in the baltimore and d.c. projects. the problem with heroine in baltimore is epidemic. while the rest of the country moved away from it in the 80`s and 90`s and on to crack baltimore only got worse. the police have been impotent for years they have a 30 percent solve rate for homicides. The white mayor is real what you may not know is the city council lady is really suppose to be a reporter and its rumored that her and the real mayor had an affair for years. if you look at the two in the show and some of the looks they pass its implied. what im getting at is that im glad so many people are entertained, but for those in their ivory world pay attention to how bad the poor really have it in most major cities, and may it prompt you to action.

Nahotep

Just a quick word vis a vis The Greek and Vondas and why they gave Marlo the nod. I've now watched the episode twice (LOVE The Wire so much!), and I think it's clear that Vondas personally doesn't want to take the money because doing so would be taken as a sign of approval for Marlo to kill Prop Joe and take his place as the main contact with The Greek. But the Greek himself is quietly listening at the counter, and he decides to give Marlo the tacit permission to kill Joe, and Vondas must give in gracefully to whatever the Greek wants. He's in charge. After Marlo leaves, Vondas says of Marlo, "He's not Joe." in a disparaging way. The Greek says, "No, he's not Joe," then he SMILES.

My interpretation: The Greek and Vondas respected Joe thanks to his consistency and reliability. But the Greek sees Marlo's persistence and realizes he must let this new blood take over. If the Greek didn't give permission, Marlo would continue press him in possibly some bloody other way that would interrupt business and cost time, effort, and money. So best to let evolution take its course; let Marlo take Joe's place. The smile at the end there tells me that the Greek sees Marlo's lack of seasoning as advantageous. Joe was savvy, always one step ahead. Marlo just got "civilized" by Joe himself. So the Greek sees an advantage in having the less savvy Marlo as his contact now, perhaps hinting at future exploitation of Marlo.

Whew! That's a lot of words to explain a simple smile. But that's The Wire. Subtle and complex. That's one reason why I love it.

Nahotep

Just a quick word vis a vis The Greek and Vondas and why they gave Marlo the nod. I've now watched the episode twice (LOVE The Wire so much!), and I think it's clear that Vondas personally doesn't want to take the money because doing so would be taken as a sign of approval for Marlo to kill Prop Joe and take his place as the main contact with The Greek. But the Greek himself is quietly listening at the counter, and he decides to give Marlo the tacit permission to kill Joe, and Vondas must give in gracefully to whatever the Greek wants. He's in charge. After Marlo leaves, Vondas says of Marlo, "He's not Joe." in a disparaging way. The Greek says, "No, he's not Joe," then he SMILES.

My interpretation: The Greek and Vondas respected Joe thanks to his consistency and reliability. But the Greek sees Marlo's persistence and realizes he must let this new blood take over. If the Greek didn't give permission, Marlo would continue press him in possibly some bloody other way that would interrupt business and cost time, effort, and money. So best to let evolution take its course; let Marlo take Joe's place. The smile at the end there tells me that the Greek sees Marlo's lack of seasoning as advantageous. Joe was savvy, always one step ahead. Marlo just got "civilized" by Joe himself. So the Greek sees an advantage in having the less savvy Marlo as his contact now, perhaps hinting at future exploitation of Marlo.

Whew! That's a lot of words to explain a simple smile. But that's The Wire. Subtle and complex. That's one reason why I love it.

Nahotep

Just a quick word vis a vis The Greek and Vondas and why they gave Marlo the nod. I've now watched the episode twice (LOVE The Wire so much!), and I think it's clear that Vondas personally doesn't want to take the money because doing so would be taken as a sign of approval for Marlo to kill Prop Joe and take his place as the main contact with The Greek. But the Greek himself is quietly listening at the counter, and he decides to give Marlo the tacit permission to kill Joe, and Vondas must give in gracefully to whatever the Greek wants. He's in charge. After Marlo leaves, Vondas says of Marlo, "He's not Joe." in a disparaging way. The Greek says, "No, he's not Joe," then he SMILES.

My interpretation: The Greek and Vondas respected Joe thanks to his consistency and reliability. But the Greek sees Marlo's persistence and realizes he must let this new blood take over. If the Greek didn't give permission, Marlo would continue press him in possibly some bloody other way that would interrupt business and cost time, effort, and money. So best to let evolution take its course; let Marlo take Joe's place. The smile at the end there tells me that the Greek sees Marlo's lack of seasoning as advantageous. Joe was savvy, always one step ahead. Marlo just got "civilized" by Joe himself. So the Greek sees an advantage in having the less savvy Marlo as his contact now, perhaps hinting at future exploitation of Marlo.

Whew! That's a lot of words to explain a simple smile. But that's The Wire. Subtle and complex. That's one reason why I love it.

Nahotep

Just a quick word vis a vis The Greek and Vondas and why they gave Marlo the nod. I've now watched the episode twice (LOVE The Wire so much!), and I think it's clear that Vondas personally doesn't want to take the money because doing so would be taken as a sign of approval for Marlo to kill Prop Joe and take his place as the main contact with The Greek. But the Greek himself is quietly listening at the counter, and he decides to give Marlo the tacit permission to kill Joe, and Vondas must give in gracefully to whatever the Greek wants. He's in charge. After Marlo leaves, Vondas says of Marlo, "He's not Joe." in a disparaging way. The Greek says, "No, he's not Joe," then he SMILES.

My interpretation: The Greek and Vondas respected Joe thanks to his consistency and reliability. But the Greek sees Marlo's persistence and realizes he must let this new blood take over. If the Greek didn't give permission, Marlo would continue press him in possibly some bloody other way that would interrupt business and cost time, effort, and money. So best to let evolution take its course; let Marlo take Joe's place. The smile at the end there tells me that the Greek sees Marlo's lack of seasoning as advantageous. Joe was savvy, always one step ahead. Marlo just got "civilized" by Joe himself. So the Greek sees an advantage in having the less savvy Marlo as his contact now, perhaps hinting at future exploitation of Marlo.

Whew! That's a lot of words to explain a simple smile. But that's The Wire. Subtle and complex. That's one reason why I love it.

Scott thriLL!

Surely Prop Joe knew when Marlo asked to meet the Greeks that it was only a matter of time before he was obsolete. Joe could climb out of his grave only so many times. The Greeks saw Avon (and possibly Stringer since Marlo is told only his second) come and go and probably many before Joe, I'm sure.

Did the bushes look like Omar landed on them? 5 stories? This man is wild! Uh... Maybe he has a utility belt that he got from Christian Bale at sawed-off shotgun point. Guess Omar's gonna need enforcements including old girl.

Michael was all up in that apartment with burner in hand letting off rounds galore. I wonder how many gunshots were fired in that scene. Anybody count?

Michael is the real deal fishscale that's for sure. I bet he rises really quick if he can survive this war.

Chris - LATimes

Scott, you're right in bringing up Michael's progress through the ranks. I was a little surprised to see him there blasting away given the minor crisis of confidence that he caught during the hit on the guy who basically talked out of turn -- not to mention his trip to Six Flags with Dukie where he left his corner. I'd thought he was going to start looking for a way out at that point, but it appears not.

One half-baked theory I saw flying around the Wire message boards on HBO was Michael taking out Marlo by season's end. For all the good that would do, if it was so he could be the new kingpin, that would be a really depressing finish.


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