McNulty juggles a red ball on 'The Wire'
Dominic West's directorial debut on The Wire this week may have pushed this season's story ahead only incrementally. But experience teaches that with this show, things that don't seem huge right away can add up to something huge down the line.
Sadly, that's a mere three weeks from now. Get your spoilers while you can.
That's not to say, though, that nothing happened this week. Something fairly significant did go down right off the bad: Jimmy and Lester finally push the police department to a tipping point with a call from the "killer" to Sun reporter Templeton and the accompanying cell-phone photo of homeless Larry.
The call, masked to disguise both McNulty's voice and its true origin, animates both the department and the paper in ways we haven't seen all season, as both institutions get an infusion of cash and manpower to work the case/cover the story. I really liked the cutting back and forth between Daniels and Gus addressing their respective troops; nice work by both writer Richard Price and director West there (good editing, too).
It also yields the equipment Freamon needs to capture the photos that Marlo and Vondas' people use to communicate. What he gets, though, is just a code: a series of pictures of a clock, with different times in each photo. It also gives McNulty access to more overtime and manpower than he knows how to use on his bogus case -- which is, in fact, what he was hoping for back when this thing started.
Here's the thing, though: Having created the monster, McNulty now has to feed it. Landsman, who in turn is feeling heat from above, is on him to allocate his resources -- which includes, once again, pulling Kima off her triple murder on Daniels' orders -- and provide progress reports. "The trouble with making this thing into a red ball," he laments to Freamon, "is that people start treating it like it's a f**kin' red ball."
A light of sorts comes on, though, when he sees a young detective cursing the brass and the lack of resources in the parking lot. Hearing the cop's lament about needing just a little bit more help to corral an eyewitness, McNulty offers to divert a couple men and some overtime from the serial case and bury the paperwork in his reports.
Word spreads through homicide quickly, and soon other detectives are stopping by with their own sob stories about cases that just need a little more work ("Ain't you the little king of diamonds," Bunk snorts derisively). By the cracked logic of the Baltimore Police Department, McNulty's scheme is almost working -- "they turned on the f**kin' tap," as Landsman puts it, and actual police work is getting done. Except Jimmy's getting farther and farther from his original objective, taking out Marlo.
Remember that? While Jimmy is handing out chits, Bunk is still chipping away at the case using entirely above-board means, this time bringing Michael in for questioning about the beating death of his stepfather. He doesn't get much -- Michael is as stone-faced as Randy was last week -- but the Bunk knows he's onto something now.
Another potential problem for McNulty is one that's entirely outside his control -- Gus' rising skepticism about Templeton's reporting. Bugged by both the over-playing of Templeton's first-person account of the call from the "killer" and the reporter's explanation about an older story in which he got "took," Gus grills Western District Lt. Mello (played by the real-life Jay Landsman) to see if Scott's version of events holds up. It doesn't, which means that Gus is now questioning everything Templeton has done, including the homeless story (part of which, ironically, is the only honest reporting we've seen Templeton do all season).
Other happenings this week:
State's Attorney Bond and Pearlman get ambushed by Clay Davis, who puts on a bravura performance at his trial for pocketing money intended for non-profit programs that instead ended up in Clay's pocket. "You give me $20,000 for a basketball and an air pump, I'm gonna pull goodly on that for whatever and whoever comes my way," Davis says. "... Excuse me if I didn't ask that old arthritis woman for a receipt, or the young mother who needed Similac to sign a damn piece of paper so I don't have to be up here in this damn box now explaining to people who've never been in our neck of the woods how things truly are."
It was a helluva show, and it got Clay off -- which likely means that all those people who told him to go quietly are in for a bit of a squeeze. Certainly it's not going to help either Bond or Carcetti, who despite a fresh round of fund-raising success has some pretty sobering realities bearing down on him: Keeping homeless shelters open all the time will require cuts elsewhere if it goes on much longer, which in turn could threaten his run for governor.
Omar, meanwhile, has turned completely away from the no-killing pledge he made to Bunk last season. The Wire seems to be reminding us that for all his outlaw swagger and status as the last free man on the show, Omar is still a bad man. By killing Savino -- a former Barksdale crew member not seen since season one -- for being only tangentially associated with Marlo, Omar has reached a point of no return.
Consider, too, the scene where a gimpy Omar (he's either still really hurt and planning his raids exceptionally well, or playing up his injury when he's out in the light of day) confronts Michael. How'd you react? For me, there was a real sense of dread -- Michael probably isn't save-able at this point, considering he helped Chris and Snoop try to take out Omar only a couple of episodes back. But he's shown a humane streak more than few times this season, and to see Omar threaten him made me fear for the kid.
And a couple of notes:
- Loved the scenes with Kima getting ready for her son's overnight visit. Anyone who's ever put together cheap furniture, Ikea or otherwise, knows exactly how she was feeling in those moments. And her take on "Goodnight, Moon" was a perfect Wire moment: "Goodnight, thieves. Goodnight, hustlers. Goodnight, po-po."
- Have we ever seen Landsman genuinely happy about doing his job? I can't think of a time, which makes the joyful smile on his face after the serial case gets the full go-ahead all the more interesting. He's only ever been presented as an obstacle to good police work, so it's nice to see he can, in fact, care.
- Yep, that was Richard Belzer as John Munch in the cop bar where Gus talks to Landsman. That makes eight different series on which he has appeared (not counting a Sesame Street episode in which the character was Muppet-ized) and ties The Wire to the likes of Homicide (no surprise there; David Simon wrote the book on which it was based), Law & Order: SVU (Belzer's current gig) and The X-Files (where he appeared in the Lone Gunmen's origin story).
What did you think of McNulty's patronage, Omar's actions and the rest of The Wire this week? Have you come to terms yet with there being only three episodes left?