Monday, October 10, 2011

The Wire - Hot Shots: An Unfamiliar Land

The Wire: Hot Shots
Season 2, Episode 3
Written By: David Simon, from a story by Simon and Ed Burns
Directed By: Elodie Keene

            One of the most difficult adjustments that David Simon had to make when writing and producing the second season of The Wire was to let go of almost every one of his original locations. In many great television series, there are locations and sets that become a character themselves—the main deck of the Battlestar Galatica, the Bluth model home, or Counter Terrorist Offices of Jack Bauer. But in this second season, we’ve abandoned almost every location save for the homicide offices. Gone is the low rises and Orlando’s strip club and instead we get the shipping docks and the church. It’s a bold move that changes a lot of the ways we view how location creates character, though the cinematography of Uta Briesweitz (who I still argue is the visual auteur of the show) keeps us in the same leveled realism with a shade of dark gray morality.

            As you might tell, there’s not so much heavy in theme for this episode, entitled “Hot Shots,” or at least the narratives being spun together have little in common with each other. Each is great in its own right, though not as much stands out visually. We've also got the return of Omar, which will be fun to watch. 

There is however, one great moment of subversive television. Last week, we learned about the kid who let the girls be used for sex and then had to kill them all, a reveal that seemed quite early for the main mystery of this season. While visiting the morgue, McNulty puts the entire case together and rushes to tell Bunk and Freamon. However, before he can get a word out, Bunk and Freamon put the entire case together themselves and tell McNulty the story. It’s a great moment of playing on expectations, and it’s a risky move by Mr. Simon and stating that The Wire is not a police procedural. While the killer is still unknown (and without a face or fingers), the focus for us can now shift to really seeing who these men that run the cargo holds actually are.

            Unfortunately, at least one plot will be a nuisance all season, that of Frank’s son Ziggy. It’s obvious what Ziggy represents in this second season of The Wire, a young ambitious kid who wants more than his daddy will give him (the scene in which the bartender gives a financial gift to a worker of Frank serves two purposes: to see the generosity of Frank, and let Ziggy feel jealous that he never receives the same treatment). But it still sucks that Ziggy is a whiny and young idiot who is over his head, and can only go down one route. Here he works with his cousin Nick to sell illegal cameras, and while Nick is level headed and knows the score, Ziggy’s over ambition and greed make him much more frustrating. In season one, with younger characters like Wallace and D’Angelo, Mr. Simon knew how to make them intelligent and sympathetic; I hope Ziggy can change as well.

            A character Mr. Simon has been able to change completely is Prez, now complaining to his father-in-law about the detail he is on. Prez isn’t smart enough yet to keep his mouth shut about what went wrong in the Barksdale case, and he gives Valcheck leverage on Burell for shutting down what could have taken down half of Baltimore, though Valcheck uses that information for his own gain. However, he’s an example of a character who seemed like the most annoying character to start the show, and has easily become a favorite of mine. 

            The final plot line of the episode deals with D’Angelo and Avon, starting to take control of the prison, and D’Angelo’s ambivalence to the family.  Stringer visits D’Angelo’s girl Donette and convinces her to go visit him, though not before Stringer and her enjoy a night together (to be fair to D’Angelo, he spent all of last season with another woman). Still attempting to regain their foothold in the business, Avon has a rival dealer’s heroin shipment into the prison spiked, and a number of junkies are poisoned. Not before Avon gets D’Angelo to lay off his own addiction, thus killing two birds with one stone. We end as Avon sits silently in the back of his cell, listening to the pain outside his door. Even from inside the jail cells, this man still controls the streets.

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