'The Wire': A Valentine to the Best Show Going
With apologies to Aretha Franklin: Who's zooming whom? McNulty, using a voice-cloaking device, calls Scott, pretending to be the serial killer, complete with a thick B'more accent. ("Biting's not sexual; biting's biting," he says.) Scott nearly loses it in the newsroom, because, as we all know, he's been only pretending that the serial killer has him on his speed dial. So now the con man is getting conned.
But the one doing the conning -- McNulty -- is finding that it's getting awfully hot under the spotlight, what with everyone in the cop shop treating him like their own personal ATM machine, dispensing OT pay like good King Midas. McNulty's both loving and loathing all that attention. He wants to do good; that was his motive behind staging his elaborate serial-killer shell game. But he also gets off on the power, at the same time that he's scrambling to stay a step ahead of his elaborate lies.
Which is why, even though this season at times strains credulity 'til it's busting at the seams, I love this show. I love the twisty-turny plotlines, the Machiavellian machinations, the human foibles, the snappy and oft-times incomprehensible dialogue (thank God for DVR), the guess-the-Baltimore-icon-behind-the-cameo. So consider this entry my belated Valentine to "The Wire," which remains, in my mind, the best thing going on TV. Well, for another several episodes. Heavy sigh.
I love Omar, love that he's on the rampage, crutch in one hand, gun in the other, avenging Butchie's murder, picking off Marlo's boys and leaving the survivors with a message: "Tell him I'm going to drop all his muscle until he gets the heart to come down to the street and dance." Poetry! I love that he's a hardened criminal -- and that he's totally whipped by his boy-toy.
I've grown to really love Clay Davis, love the way he draws out his favorite expletive as if hitting the perfect note, love how he pulls the race card, or, as Gus says, "not just the race card but the whole deck." The way he declares, "I am Clay Davis." The way he whips out his copy of Aeschylus and quotes him to the press corps. (This is a beat-you-over-the-head reminder for those of us who didn't get the memo that "The Wire" is Simon's 21st-century take on Greek tragedy.) He's so oily, he oozes.
I love the Baltimore cameos, playing guess the reference. Baltimore lawyer and former judge Billy Murphy (a dead ringer for my grandfather) working the system to win Clay an acquittal. Richard Belzer a.k.a. Munch, showing up at a cop bar in a scene with his old "Homicide" buddy, Meldrick -- I mean Gus. I mean, Clark Johnson.
I love Bunk, with all his bad attitude and bad behavior, how he's fundamentally a good brother wrestling with his conscience, watching his partner losing his ever-loving mind. He's flawed as all get-out, but his heart is so in the right place.
I love Simon's take on the machinations of the Sun newsroom, even if it feels at times like circa 1988 rather than 2008. I love to hate Scott, love to hate the way the Sun's powers-that-be are snowed by him and that Gus isn't. The Jayson Blairs/Stephen Glasses/Janet Cookes of the world are few and far between in journalism. But though the make-up-the-news-aspect of the plotline is made-for-TV, every paper's got least one smooth operator like Scott, maneuvering his way up the corporate ladder. I hope he gets his. Soon.
I love Bubbles. I repeat: Love. Bubbles. Love the way he bonded with the good reporter, Mike Fletcher. Love that his junkie lesions have cleared up. Love the way he struggles to walk the tightrope of the straight and narrow. May he never fall off.
I love it all, the grit and the grime, the way one small action has a ricochet effect through all the layers of this incredibly complex society, from the cop shop to the corner to the courthouse to Carcetti's office.
And I love the coda to Sunday night's episode: Kima sitting in the window with her little boy, reworking that childhood classic, "Good Night Moon": "Good night po-pos. Good night thieves. Good night hoppers, good night hustlers . . ."
-- TERESA WILTZ
February 19, 2008; 7:09 AM ET
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