hazelk: (wallace)
[personal profile] hazelk

They say you can’t step in the same river twice and The Wire makes motherfucking sure you can’t go back to the motherfucking projects by blowing the motherfuckers up in the teaser. S3 slowly but surely deconstructs the whole “good police” thing that’s been built up over the last two seasons. It’s subtle, there’s so much else that’s new and distracting - the politics, the big Hamsterdam experiment, big arc developments with familiar characters like Stringer and Omar and the new guys, Cutty and Carcetti, the rise of the Stanfield organization the return of Avon. But the key figure in this season is Bunny Colvin. He appears briefly in S2 and even then is, with hindsight, quite revolutionary in being a high ranking police officer, a Major, who cares about what’s happening on the ground instead of on the whiteboard. In S3 that initial impression is confirmed when he’s impressing on two rookies the need to keep a mental compass during car chases. Details matter, the essence of good police work and yet for Colvin, nearing the end of a long career of (presumably) good police work it’s not enough. It’s not enough to outwit the bad guys. The worst of them are back in the game in less than two years and even their brief absence only shows how nature abhors a vacuum. Avon went down but there’s always a Marlo ready to fill his place and as he ascends so does the death rate. It’s not enough to police the streets, there has to be some way for ordinary people to live on them.

People like Colvin (and Cutty and Bunk) remember a time before the war on drugs consumed their city, a time when there was honour amongst thieves. Watching Bunk’s speech to Omar in episode 7 suddenly all the western motifs (Omar himself as the “Lone Gunman” is one and there are more to come later in this season) fall into place. The folk history of the projects is a Western in reverse - instead of manifest destiny bringing order to the wild lands turning cowboys into farmers and replacing lynchings with the rule of law, the streets became more anarchic with every generation. It’s a great scene. I hadn’t got the love for Omar in the first two seasons, he seemed too obviously mythic to quite believe in. But his getting one of his crew shot as a result of his obsessive war on the Barksdales made him suddenly real and this scene, which starts by hanging a lantern on that Robin Hood status he had both with the audience and within the world of the show was just breathtaking.

Colvin is in the beginning so transparently a vehicle for the author’s ideas that he’s hard to love at first. The big idea is Hamsterdam, the drug trade freezone. Idon’t know if it would work for real but as a piece of writing it convinces as a genuinely honest thought experiment. Also a communal one. Colvin/Simon sets the ball rolling with some realistic (and sometimes hilarious difficulty) and gets his hoped for (minor) reduction in gun crime but has no idea how to cope with the freezone resembling one of the outer layers of hell. Fixing at least in as far as it can be requires input from the characters who live in the area. The community leaders, the ex-con (I love Cutty), Carver (bless) noticing the kids being even more lost for not being exploited by the dealers. I know from spoilers what S4 is about but even if I didn’t I think I’d know from how pervasive the kid thing is here.

And then there’s Stringer, Stringer and Avon, Stringer’s slow rise and sudden fall and I shouldn’t care but I do. I think it’s the educator in me – Stringer Bell is just so absolutely that student. The one who shouldn’t get it but who absolutely does. The natural, the scholar. He’s completely amoral and a cold-blooded killer capitalist to boot but Stringer wants to understand. He goes to meet Bunny Colvin (at midnight, in a graveyard) because, in his words, both of them are trying to make sense of this business. To make sense of it, not to fix it or make it work or make it profitable (which is probably what Stringer thinks he means but not what he says). He thinks before he snatches a life. Stringer’s always thinking (and Idris Elba plays all the shades of “thinking” from calculating through contemplating to sudden inspiration better than any other actor on the show). His procedures to avoid being caught on the wire have the elegance of well-designed experiments. He not only goes to college, he brings what he learns back into his everyday life, he spreads the word, he teaches.

In another life another city another world who knows what Stringer could have been? But he is what he is, the boy who stole a badminton set. Avon was there of course because Stringer is more than the perfect student or the ghetto kid with aspirations. Stringer is a mess. He set his own death in motion when he had D’Angelo killed and he had him killed to protect the money and to protect Avon and to show Avon and because he was jealous of the boy’s connection with Avon. Stringer aspires to be all about business but it’s more complicated than that, always complications. There’s envy and love and pride too. When Levi of all people gets to be the one to break it to him how he’s been played by the “legitimate businessmen,” that hurts. And he carries that hurt back to Avon and confesses and from then on it’s only a matter of time. Time to pass a name on to Colvin, time to reminisce one last time, time to be running again, just as he did from the store detective all those years ago, arms pumping, pigeons flying up, end of line. “Get on with it moth…”
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hazelk

May 2012

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