The Wire: Homecoming
January 6, 2015 2:19 PM - Season 3, Episode 6 - Subscribe

"Just a gangster, I suppose" - Avon Barksdale

Bunny's experiment appears to be working - though he doesn't have an answer for the last remaining legal resident of Hamsterdam. McNulty gets brought up short, only to backdoor Daniels. Avon sets the crew on the road to war, while Stringer tries to be the businessman. Carcetti sees an angle to play for the election. Cutty leaves the game.

One of my favourite scenes in the series: Bunk and Omar meet. As Sepinwall puts it in his review/recap:
Bunk's confrontation with Omar in this episode is one of the series' most memorable scenes for many reasons. First, Wendell Pierce and Michael K. Williams act the hell out of it, whether Pierce doing Bunk's frustrated shadowboxing or Williams doing the red-eyed stare with spit dangling off his chin as Omar tries to conceal just how badly Bunk's words stung him. Second, it's rare to see The Bunk - usually the comic foil to McNulty, or else a representative of how the more traditional way of policing can still work if you're smart and dedicated and lucky enough - become so serious, and so angry about anything. Third, Omar is the only character the show ever comes close to romanticizing - everyone else has to live by the real world's rules, while Omar gets to make up his own code and be damned charming doing it - and so it's startling to have him treated not as the lovable rogue we all know, but as a blight on the community every bit as bad as Stringer or Marlo.

And in that scene, Bunk captures the frustration that so many of the show's characters feel about how bad things have gotten in Baltimore, and in America. "Wire" characters often lament the loss of the good ol' days (Sobotka talking about the glory days of the port of Baltimore, for instance), but Bunk doesn't try to paint the past in brighter colors than when he lived it. There was crime and there were bad men when he and Omar were growing up, but they were never this bad. They had standards. They viewed The Game as something they had to play, not something they necessarily wanted to, and they tried to draw a line to keep out the salvageable kids like him.
And it's interesting to see, as the Barksdale/Marlo war ramps up just how ill-prepared the Barksdale crew is. Very little muscle, not much intelligence, no willingness to be a vicious as the other side (compare Cutty, who is unable to shoot a helpless man, to Marlo's crew who gun down a dazed Barksdale member as he stumbles from the crashed car). Marlo is amped to be fighting - he wants the crown, whatever the cost (and we get our first glimpse of Snoop this episode).
posted by nubs (3 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's a really interesting episode - and I guess fitting for the mid point of the season and the series - in terms of how it also reflects on the changing generations and their ability to play the game: Bunk remembers his growing up, and "it makes me sick, motherfucker, how far we done fell." Cutty no longer has the heart for being a solider. Avon can't let go of his past glory, fighting for his corners, and it gets him in a war he cannot win against a younger, more ruthless opponent. Bunny represents a different kind of policing, one that the younger officers don't understand - to them, it's all about banging heads and showing who is tougher rather than making things better. Given that season 4 takes us to the schools, I guess a focus on the younger side is appropriate, but it also makes it clear that the game isn't improving over time: it's claiming more victims and becoming more ruthless as it does so.
posted by nubs at 4:23 PM on January 6, 2015

Yeah I love that scene with Bunk and Omar, and does help the problem that the show does sometimes make Omar out as a hero. He isn't, he can't be. People die and suffer because of Omar, and the show isn't going to let you forget it.

Nubs: I find it interesting that you suggest Avon can't win his war. I think in a way the show seems to be saying that war with someone like Marlo is inevitable, that the kind of agreement Stringer hopes for won't work precisely because drugs are illegal, so if one upstart decides to upset the apple cart there's no-one to enforce it.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:14 AM on January 7, 2015

Cannon Fodder: I felt like the episode was making it very clear that the Barksdales don't have the muscle or the street smarts to pull this off; the war might be inevitable, but as in the opening scenes of this season - old things are being brushed aside to make way for the new, and the damage from that spills out.
posted by nubs at 9:20 AM on January 7, 2015

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