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Category: The Wire

'The Wire': Opportunities beyond the Sun

January 21, 2008 |  3:25 pm

Well, so much for Lester being the level-headed one.

In the wake of McNulty pulling a nutty last week, much of last night's episode followed the many difficulties involved in fabricating a serial killer. Who knew? Oily and sleepless, McNulty started building his case by piecing together details from stacks of old files, but after inspiring only indifference from his co-workers and B-section coverage in the morning paper McNulty needed an accomplice to bring his imaginary friend to life. Someone with an eye for detail.

Lester Enter Lester. Always the dignified conscience of Major Crimes, his awestruck initial reaction to McNulty's plan gave Bunk some hope of gaining an ally in putting a stop to all this, but the horrified look that fell over his face as Lester started offering suggestions was priceless. Nice try, Bunk. Lester wants the manpower to catch Marlo by any means necessary, even going so far as to suggest the killer needs a name to really capture the "hearts and minds." How about the Ribbonist? The Giftwrapper? Suggestions welcome!

Speaking of selling papers, I'm still on the fence with the goings-on at "The Sun." The rumpled Snidely Whiplashes of the Chicago-owned newsroom announced "The Tribune" is up to its old "tricks" -- meaning layoffs, buyouts and bureau closures. Advertising is down, the Internet is still free, and it all makes Executive Editor Whiting wander around repeating "we have to do more with less" like some blissed-out accounting cyborg. His trusty managing editor and hatchet man swears to Gus he's just sick about having to cut jobs, but come on, Klebanow, man up. What's the worst that could happen?

Naturally, this means the paper is losing another hero in buyout-bound police reporter Roger Twigg, a crusty veteran reporter who just might be a broad sketch of David Simon himself (he did, after all, say he was leaving to write the Great American Novel). When word comes down that Daniels is being floated as the new police commissioner, Twigg has just enough facts at the ready to seem somewhere between brilliant and mystical. And contrasting that with Templeton's out-and-out invention of a reaction quote a short time later just smacks of overkill, especially in showing the inevitable fallout on Daniels' end.

Simon obviously shares all the passion of Gus and Twigg, who at one point reverently recount how they got in the newspaper game, but the impact of that passion is cut by the inescapable feeling that they're both less characters than they are ideals. Inspiring stuff, sure, but characters -- and the rest of "The Wire" cast -- are a lot more complicated, and in turn a lot more interesting to watch.

Meanwhile, out on the ever-complicated streets, you almost have to feel bad for wise ol' Prop Joe. All this time he's "civilizing" Marlo in the ways of money laundering (in the figurative and literal sense), and his ambitious little protege is going behind his back and leaving freshly pressed bundles of cash for the Greek. But that wasn't the biggest development -- Omar's coming back. Or at least it sure looks that way once he heard that Chris and Snoop tortured and killed poor blind Butchie, his only friend back in Baltimore. Beachside hideaway or not, Omar is nothing if not possessed of a spaghetti western's sense of vengeance. Marlo's crew will be ready, but Omar is Omar. Who do you like in that match-up?

-- Chris Barton

(Photo courtesy HBO)

'The Wire': What's a little corpse-strangling between friends?

January 14, 2008 |  6:27 am

Bunk_300_2 OK, we knew McNulty was frustrated, but THAT frustrated? It doesn't seem like that long ago that the de facto center of "The Wire's" police department was a carefree patrolman in a happy relationship, and now he's hung over and choking a dead vagrant. Is it Friday already?

Last night's ending was probably one of the more unsettling moments in a show that specializes in unsettling moments, but under "The Wire's" cynical logic, McNulty's desperate act almost makes sense. You could practically see the warped wheels in his head turning at the bar while Bunk (pictured) and Lester lamented that if the bodies piled up by Marlo's crew were white, money and resources for an investigation wouldn't be in question. An interesting point, but does that justify rearranging a crime scene in the hopes of inventing a serial killer? As Lester said to Bunk: "Negro, please."

Seriously, is everyone ready to buy into McNulty taking this turn? He's always thrived on the fringes of by-the-book behavior, but now he's in danger of becoming a trimmer version of the guy from "The Shield." And, given how much the whole stunt horrified Bunk, is he going to let his partner get away with this? Either way, seems there's no turning back for "McNutty" now, but at least he crossed himself before doing the deed. That's something.

Though McNulty's shift toward madness overpowered the whole episode, it'd be a shame not to mention Avon Barksdale's cameo. Seems the whole idea behind Marlo's search for that Russian was to arrange a meeting with the Greek, the source of Baltimore's drug supply. So who shows up when Marlo heads to prison for visiting hours? Avon, naturally. Barksdale's just smart enough to see where Marlo is headed, and as a sort of prison gatekeeper, he wants a taste. A hundred grand to be exact, which seems like a bargain considering the stakes, but Avon chalks it up to Westside brotherhood. Marlo, ever the professional, hardly bats an eye, and a meeting with the Greek's people seems imminent. Isn't it lovely when two people find common ground?

Back at the Sun, fighter for truth and justice Gus Haynes seems to be losing the battle at the Fourth Estate. He's so dedicated he wakes up at night to double-check his work, but odds are he'll be lucky to get any sleep with suspicions that a front-page story on opening day at "Oriole Park" may have been cooked. We don't know this for sure, of course, we only saw the lean-and-hungry reporter Templeton coming up empty while searching for an appropriately "Dickensian" interview subject at the ballpark, but a heartstring-tugging story on a kid in a wheelchair came awfully easily with the day's deadline. Gus objects, but hey, there's the soft-headed editor above him to make the call.

So far, life at "The Wire's" Baltimore Sun seems oddly cut-and-dried, which is surprising given the series' usual fondness for shades of gray. Hard-nosed editors in the trenches, good; upper management with their eyes on the (Pulitzer) prize, bad. Given the standards the show has set, it's a bit disappointing, as is seeing a relatively on-the-nose tale of a budding Jayson Blair / Stephen Glass potentially blooming, but we'll have to wait and see. Any other developments ringing true (or false) for anyone out there?

--Chris Barton

(Photo courtesy AP)

'The Wire': Start the presses

January 7, 2008 |  4:04 pm

Wire1_7_08_500 The final season of “The Wire” got underway last night, and really, isn't it a relief after enduring all those advertisements for the last few months? It's been easy to get sick of all the bus ads, the moody black-and-white photos of Omar and McNulty draped over office buildings on Sunset, the omnipresent “Listen” billboards all over town -- oh wait, none of that actually happened. Sorry. Well, at least Lt. Daniels (Lance Reddick) showed up in a Cadillac ad. That counts, right?

Regardless of the stark contrast between the promotional push behind "The Wire's" final season and that of its network cousin "The Sopranos" last year, David Simon's crime- and corruption-stricken B-More was back in full force last night. A year has passed in the show's timeline, and the beleaguered Western District is more beleaguered than ever thanks to a money crunch stemming from the significantly less idealistic Mayor Carcetti's office, which has its eyes trained too intently on the governor's chair to help. Patrol cars are falling apart, overtime pay is a distant memory and morale is deeper in the toilet than ever. It isn't long before the Marlo-chasing Major Crimes Unit is dissolved, with the exception of Lester and Sydnor who are shifted to the corruption case against profanity stylist Clay Davis from the State Senate. A furious McNulty is shipped back to homicide, and with piles of hours still unpaid and Marlo still walking the street, its little wonder Our Hero is back to spending quality time with his friend Jameson while his girlfriend waits at home. (Sorry Beadie, you should've stayed on the docks.)

Out on the streets there are a few bright spots. Junkie-with-a-heart-of-gold Bubs is fighting the fight to stay clean and crashing in his sister's basement, and Dukie -- the ill-equipped-for-the-streets star student from last season -- is off the corner and babysitting for his friend Michael, who is moving up the ranks in Marlo's crew. The dead-eyed Marlo is still as bloodlessly ambitious as ever, subtly undermining Prop Joe's drug co-op board meetings and, curiously, sending his lieutenant Chris to the courthouse to look up the Russian henchman tied to the dock murders from Season Two. Something ugly is in the works. Maybe they want to compare notes on stashing bodies in unlikely places? After all, a hastily boarded-up vacant is only a few steps removed from an airtight shipping container.

Meanwhile, the much-discussed centerpiece of this season's arc -- the media -- is in no better shape than the department, right down to one of the reporters sharing a line with McNulty ("Someday I want to find out what it's like to work at a real newspaper/police department"). The fictionalized Baltimore Sun's Chicago-based owners want cutbacks, buyouts and in general a whole lot of "more with less" in the paper's coverage (which, um, must be rough), but the all-seeing and all-knowing Metro editor Gus Haynes is bravely fighting the good fight. From pulling a front-page piece out of some City Council minutes to deflecting credit to one of his reporters to questioning his out-of-touch (and thinly veiled reality-based) superiors, Haynes and his grizzled ink-in-the-veins comrades are clearly ex-Sun reporter David Simon's champions. We'll see how that works out -- just ask McNulty, Daniels and the rest of Major Crimes how well "The Wire" treats its champions.

-- Chris Barton

(Photo courtesy HBO)

'The Wire' unwraps a little back story

December 6, 2007 |  9:48 pm

It won't make Jan. 6 (the premiere date for Season 5) arrive any sooner, but for those who just can't wait, David Simon has released three bite-size prequels on's product page for the recently released Season 4 box set.

Hovering around two minutes in length, the shorts feature a young Prop Joe brokering deals in the schoolyard, the first (alcohol-soaked, naturally) meeting between Detectives McNulty and Bunk, and a baby-faced Omar showing his trademark sense of frontier justice during his first stickup. The Prop Joe story may be a bit on-the-nose in revealing the source of the pragmatic East Baltimore boss' nickname, but the foreboding mood and sharp dialogue -- oh hey, profanity! -- of the three vignettes are reminders of why we're so excited for the show's final season. And if you haven't seen it yet, also check out the appropriately grim little Season 5 teaser on HBO's site. Only four more weeks to go.

-- Chris Barton