The Wire: The Wire
Season One, Episode Six
Directed By: Ed Bianchi
Written By: David Simon, from a story by Simon and Ed Burns
One of the most striking things in “The Wire,” the sixth episode of David Simon’s The Wire, is its ability to emphasize characters who usually have no role in our sympathies. Yes we indetify with former addict Bubbles because he’s in the end a good guy, but what about the street thugs who we don’t even know their names. Well director Ed Bianchi gives us a very curious introduction to Wallace, one of D’Angelo’s thugs. Using a few behind the head tracking shots that are in no doubt influenced by the Dardenne brothers, we see Wallace as he wakes up in his trash home, awakens his five younger siblings, gives them their lunch, and sends them off to school. Why is this kid selling drugs? There’s your answer. However, as patriarchal as Wallace must act as home, he’s not ready to see the image of Brandon, shot, stabbed, burned, strangled, and tortured, a result of his call last night.
The theme of “The Wire” is not so much the simplistic “actions have consequences,” but a more nuanced idea that every debt has to be paid eventually. D’Angelo, having slept with a stripper, makes chit chat with her in the morning, as she asks about his other girlfriend. “She wants clothes, a credit card with her name on it,” he replies, and then says “Pussy is never free.” D’Angelo is realizing that everything he wants comes with a hidden cost, and all the characters get that tonight.
Today’s episode also focuses more on the higher ups in the police department than usual. Rawls (John Doman) and Landsman (Delaney Williams) need McNulty back in homicide, if only to get their numbers up. But they get their real break when they realize McNulty can pin three murders on D’Angelo. The crew knows it’s a mistake; not only will the grand jury fail to get a conviction, but the entire Barksdale organization will be shaken up, and they’ll lose all their leads, including the wire taps that have just begun to give them important information. Daniels is way of arguing to stop the case from going forward, especially when they know their unit is the bastard child of the department. What’s the hidden cost of each?
The break comes when Omar (Michael K Williams) comes forward, after McNulty takes him to see the body of Brandon, while his kids sit in the waiting room. There’s a perfect shot here, as the kids stop playing soccer after Omar screams in agony, and we see the ball roll by on one of the closer circuit televisions. Omar up to this point has been somewhat of a childish character (we saw him whistle his way to a murder last week), but this is the loss of innocence for him, and Mr. Bianchi perfectly portrays that in this shot (we’ll see the director twice in season two—I’m looking forward to it!) .
Omar decides to give up information to help take down the Barksdale crew. Omar helps Freamon and McNulty place the plethora of pager calls from last night to Brandon’s death, and McNulty slaps the photo of the tortured Brandon down on Daniels’ desk as a reminder that had they had the access they need (their taps only allow them to listen in on calls they can physically see happening), they could have prevented the murder—not knowing the cost had once again put them a step behind.
Bubbles gets his own small lesson in hidden costs as well, in a somewhat unnecessary but curious C-plot. We begin with him working a fruit stand as a honest man, but his old friend Johnny convinces him to con a local contractor by selling him stolen copper pipes. The plan might work, but Johnny gets arrested when out attempting to score more crack. It’s pure bad luck, but it is also the inevitable of what Johnny refused to consider.
In a surprise appearance, Avon and Stringer Bell visit D’Angelo and Wallace down in the low rises, handing them their money. Mr. Simon decides not to focus on Wallace, who confessed to D’Angelo about his guilt in the murder of Brandon, but on D’Angelo, who has murdered before. It’s too easy for Mr. Simon and Mr. Bianchi to give us the moral side of a man who knows he has done something wrong, but with D’Angelo, we get to hear promises of movement and a better life for the pawn. He’s doing what he needs to survive. The costs in this episode are even handed—Brandon’s murder results in Omar’s coming forward, and gives Daniels the courage to give McNulty another month. As we see, costs and benefits are all difficult choices when dealing in this profession.