Monday, September 25, 2006


The Wire No. 40: Home Rooms

BLOGGER'S NOTE: As always, know that spoilers lie below, so don't venture further unless you've seen the episode or don't care if you know what happens.

By Edward Copeland
School is back in session — and so is Omar. Oh, indeed. Keeping with The Wire's tradition of saving Omar (Michael K. Williams) until each season's third episode, the rip-and-run artist returns, complete with a new boyfriend and, in what I hope is not foreshadowing of his fate this season, living in a rowhouse apartment hidden behind one of those same plywood signs telling who to contact if there is a trapped animal — the same signs that Snoop and Chris (Gbenga Akinnagbe) hide Marlo's victims behind. In what has to be one of the funniest Omar scenes yet, he is distressed to find that he and his lover are out of his favorite cereal, so he ventures out in the street in his blue robe — unarmed — to the cries of neighborhood children shouting, "Omar's coming." Once he gets some cereal (not even the kind he wanted) and some smokes, he leans against a building only to have someone drop their drug stash to him unprovoked. You can see the disappointment in his eyes. His "job" is a game to him, and that takes all the fun out of it. As he tells his boyfriend, "It ain't what you takin', it's who you takin' it from." Later, when they pull off an actual score from a dealer working out of the same convenience store, he beams, "That's the reason we get up every morning."

Omar is not the only major character finally putting in an appearance this season. The now-retired Bunny Colvin (Robert Wisdom) returns as well. Since his exit from the Baltimore P.D., Colvin has been working security at a posh hotel, but once a cop, always a cop. When he insists on cuffing an influential businessman for roughing up a hooker, he soon finds himself unemployed again. However, opportunity comes his way again in the form of an academic at the University of Maryland School of Social Work who wants to use Colvin in a program aimed at saving kids from the thug life of the streets. The naive professor (played as being a bit too naive I thought by Dan DeLuca) originally suggests targeting youths between the ages of 18 and 22, not realizing that by that point, if they are in the game, they are long gone. An encounter with a hardened member of that age group soon changes his mind and while he still thinks high school, Bunny suggests going even younger and accepts the assignment, which will take place at Edward J. Tilghman Middle School, where Prez now is working as a math teacher. One of the episode's funniest moments comes when Assistant Principal Marcia Donnelly (Tootsie Duvall) braces herself for the opening of the school's doors for the school year, standing like a statue at the top of the stairs leading from the doors, pausing only long enough to cross herself. Prez's first day predictably is rough with his hard-to-control class, though Randy already makes nice with the teacher while he's palming a handful of hall passes so he can sneak out to other grades' lunch periods to hawk his snack foods. The real problem though comes from two of the girls, one of whom (and I wish I could find the actress's name) has one of the meanest glares I've ever seen. The class also includes Dukie, the object of much derision because of his "odor." It's not just the kids who are mean to Dukie either — when the three teens show up at Namond's house in the morning to go off to school together, Namond's mom refuses to let Dukie in. Dukie also provides one of the episode's most touching, quiet moments when after an act of violence in the class, he sits down on the floor next to the perpetrator and uses a battery-operated hand fan he found to cool her off before leaving it beside her as a gift. In one other school-related moment, we learn that McNulty didn't snag the binder for his own sons but for the children of Beatrice Russell (Amy Ryan), the port patrol officer from Season 2 whose doorstep McNulty showed up on at the end of Season 3.

Administrative changes are happening all over Baltimore, both on the streets and in the police department. Rawls lives up to his suggestion to Burrell and sends a hard-ass arrest-oriented officer, Lt. Charlie Marimow (Boris McGiver), to take over as head of the Major Crimes Unit. He even tries to sell the department switch to the retirement-obsessed former head as a promotion. Needless to say, Lester and Kima are not pleased and start immediately looking for their lifeboats, with Lester going first to homicide. Rawls — if he is to believed — tells Lester he actually respects his work, but not his gift for martyrdom. Kima seeks help from Daniels, who says she's too good to go back to the streets. Daniels asks Rawls to find a good spot for Kima, perhaps in homicide, but Rawls says he's just filled that vacancy before reconsidering and telling Daniels, "Let's see who I don't love no more." In the mayor's office, Herc finally is called into a post-fellatio meeting with Royce, who also has ordered his staff to play dirty with Carcetti, tearing down campaign signs, towing cars in front of his headquarters and sending work crews to tear up his sidewalk. Of course, neither Herc nor Royce acknowledge the true reason behind their meeting as Herc tells Royce about his low rank on the sergeant's list which Royce promises he can take care of, telling Herc that he's too good a policeman to be wasted on chauffeuring politicians around. (A sidenote: By pure happenstance, I caught a first season episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. I had forgotten that Bayless (Kyle Secor) had come to the homicide department from the mayor's security detail.)

On the street, which Bodie had to see coming, Marlo starts making noises that Bodie's lonely corner should belong to him so he should join Marlo's team or lose his spot. Bodie seeks help from his supplier, Slim Charles (Anwan Glover), the former Barksdale soldier who escaped the jail cell and now serves as Prop Joe's lieutenant. As Bodie laments the way things used to be, Slim reminds him, "The thing about the old days, they's the old days." Meanwhile, the drug co-op — the Baltimore drug equivalent of the five families in The Godfather meet to discuss an outside threat from New York interlopers — and how to get the independent-minded Marlo on their team, if only for the muscle he can provide.

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