Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): The Wire - "The Buys" (season 1, episode 3)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Wire - "The Buys" (season 1, episode 3)


Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on June 16, 2002/written by David Simon, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Peter Medak): The Avon Barksdale investigation hits another low point when the crew is ordered to make a bust, undercutting their larger mission and - as it turns out - yielding nothing (the stash was moved a day or two earlier). Disgusted by this decision, McNulty refuses to participate but it's unclear whether he or Daniels will come out of this situation with the upper hand. As it turns out, the brash renegade cop may have dirt on his superior; an FBI pal tells him that Daniels was once investigated for potential financial improprieties. Nobody in the department comes out well in this episode, as the hangover of the Prez beatdown continues to haunt them (Prez himself barely appears, showing up only to man the shoddy office with McNulty as unexpected company while their peers, even Herc, go on the raid).

In the projects, D'Angelo dispenses and receives wisdom, teaching chess to his young associates by comparing the pieces to members of their organization ("the king stay the king," he informs them when they naively suggest the pawn's ambitions) but also receiving some schooling from them about the disposability of their captive customer base. Stringer chuckles about how the worse their product is, the better it sells, and even Bodie and Poot (Tray Chaney) express contempt for a junkie when he shows up too early. The biggest turn of events may arrive with a player outside of both arenas; Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) is a thief who cases the area for several days before breaking into the safe house one night and robbing the dealers at gunpoint (they, and we, learn his name when an associate stupidly blurts it out). It's a brief but memorable appearance and, circumstances and outside knowledge reveal, far from his last.

My Response:
Although I won't be sure until I watch the next episode, I'm fairly certain this is the last episode of The Wire that I've seen before. I remember being surprised, that first time, that it took Omar so long to show up; his name was the only one I was familiar with going into this series and I assumed he'd have a major role to play in one of the two main storylines. Instead, it seems, he comes in sideways - I'm quite curious to find out how he continues to play not just a role but potentially the major one in the series. For now, he's little more than an apparition, and it's D'Angelo who remains the most compelling character in the narrative. We already knew he was too big a fish for the pond he's been forced into after that shooting, but it's beginning to dawn on us (and probably him too) that his unconventional thinking may place him outside even the savvy operators like Stringer, who seems perfectly content with the lazy if effective production/distribution habits of the present operation. What does it mean that D'Angelo is weary of taking the customer for granted, and that he takes so much interest in the way power operates in the game they're playing?

Maybe nothing - perhaps his character will fade away (or worse) as the show moves along (I have to be careful about visiting character pages on Wikipedia and the like, where I may glimpse more than I want to know). But I'm intrigued by the possibility that he's assessing the limitations of business as usual and cautiously formulating alternate paths. Of course he still suffers from a combination of bad luck and poor decision-making, evidenced by his absence during Omar's hold-up. Meanwhile, the police intrigue grows thornier between Daniels' shady reputation and a promotion dangled in front of Santangelo if he can make McNulty look bad. Greggs shoots the shit with McNulty about being a woman on the job (he's surprised to discover she's a lesbian and cheerfully offers, "Figures. Only other woman cop I've ever known who was worth a shit was too."). She makes it clear that she has to be extra tough to earn the respect of her male peers. Later she demonstrates this by racing into a fray, not to break up another bout of police violence but to join in, kicking and yelling at the young perp as he's assaulted by Herc and Carver. Everybody has their move to make to keep the king in place.

Next: "Old Cases" • Previous: "The Detail"

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