5 seasons of The Wire are finished.
60 episodes. Finished.
Yes. I realize that I am several years late to this party.
Each and every episode is still with me, stuck to my bones. Days later and I’m still thinking about it, still talking about it, still hoping that someone out there is listening to my plea and is going to create a season 6 just for me. (Please David Simon and Ed Burns, it’s all I want for my birthday).
I won’t lie, I went in with much hesitation. I assumed The Wire was just another cop show. There’s typically a formula there—we love the good guys (who always win), we hate the bad guys (who always lose). Well, The Wire takes that formula, chews it up, and spits it right the hell out. It’s not about good guys or bad guys. It’s about THE GAME. The game, of course, means different things to different people, because, in reality, it’s ALL a game. Whether it’s the drug trade, or the longshoremen, or a flawed police department, or the boxing ring, or a crooked politician, or the falling-apart-at-the-seams school system, or Hamsterdam. It’s all part of the game. That game that is Baltimore—the top-billed main character of this series.
The good guys are not always the good guys, and the bad are not always the bad. Mostly, everyone is kind of, well, both. Each and every character on the show—cop, dealer, addict, lawyer, longshoreman, judge, politician, writer—is complex, is likable, is unlikable, is flawed, is perfect, is multi-layered.
It’s predictable…until it’s not. Every scene is important, every minute has meaning. Every character is crucial to the storyline, and yet no one is safe. No one.
It’s all in the game. It’s all in the game.
And now that the game is over, I’m not ready to let it go.
(Warning: Spoilers ahoy!)
14 of the Best Scenes From The Wire. Ever.
(Warning: Spoilers ahoy!)
1. Brother Mouzone and Omar Little Have a Little Showdown. Season 3
I could have watched these two banter for an entire episode. Strange bedfellows, indeed. One who wears a bow-tie and glasses. One who wears a trench coat and whistles children’s songs. Terrifying as hell, these two. Omar could have killed Mouzone. Mouzone could have killed Omar. Instead, the two team up to take out Stringer Bell, the man who screwed them both.
I almost included the scene where Stringer finally faces his death with the memorable, “well, got on with it, moth*…” but chose this one instead. Stringer’s demise, which tragic to me and to many fans, came as a surprise to no one. The show had to stay true to the show, and the game had to stay true to the game. And Avon was right…Stringer Bell wasn’t reckless and strong enough to handle the streets and corners and yet he wasn’t smart enough to make it as a legitimate businessman. The Stringer Bells—even though you find yourself sitting in front of your TV rooting for them, really wanting them to make it out the game—they don’t make it. Someone was going to kill Stringer. But I never thought it was going to be the tag-team of Little and Mouzone.
2. The King Stay the King. Season 1
This scene. It’s not just D’Angelo teaching his boys Wallace and Bodie about the game of chess. He is teaching them about THE GAME. Their game. The Kingpin. Avon Barksdale. The Queen. Stringer Bell. The pawns are them, the soldiers. They are the ones who protect the king at all costs; the ones who are out of the game early. It’s a harsh truth, really. But it’s how they do.
3. WHERE’S WALLACE? Season 1
D’Angelo, in this moment, knows. He knows that he made the wrong decision. He had the chance to get out. He was never meant for this life. He was in it because of his family’s legacy, but he was never in it. And he had the chance to get out, to make something of himself, unlike his friend Wallace. But his mother convinced him that family was family and he owed it to the family to buck up and serve the time. After all, a good soldier like Wee-Bay would take the time, take the murders…all he needed was some more food and another drink and he’d confess to whatever they threw at him.
We, in this moment, know, too. We know that we are looking at television at its finest.
4. Omar on the stand. Season 2
Omar has a code. And he lives his life 100% by this code.
He rips and run. He robs drug dealers. And, apparently, wears a tie to testify against Bird to get revenge for Brandon. Code.
It’s hard not to love Omar, which is interesting, because he’s a lethal killer. But you have to respect a man who lives and dies by a certain code. And a man who can compare himself to Maury Levy the lawyer. “I got the shotgun; you got the briefcase.” Fabulous.
5. Bodie and Poot Kill Wallace. Season 1
This scene just about the destroyed me the first time I saw it; and it still haunts me today. Wallace, a boy who wasn’t quite a soldier. Bodie and Poot following their orders to be good soldiers. He was a good friend, a good caretaker, a good person. But the game was the game, and while he cried and pleaded with his childhood friends, Bodie pulled the trigger.
The season 5 revisit to this moment was almost equally as heartbreaking.
6. Randy Watches Carver Walk Away. Season 4
“You gonna help, huh? You gonna look out for me? You gonna look out for me, Sergeant Carver? You mean it? You gonna look out for me? You promise? You got my back, huh?”
Randy Wagstaff was probably my favorite of the season 4 boys. That smile. The smile that had all but disappeared. Randy—and Carver—knew that there was no way to help someone like Randy. The police didn’t help him, the boys on the street didn’t help him. He was going to get swallowed in a group home. That smile would never return.
7. Avon and Stringer on the Rooftop. Season 3
“I told your ass not to steal the badminton set!”
This shit is crazy right here, Avon was right. As the two reminisce about the old days, when they were growing up, it’s all a little bit too forced. They are laughing too hard, smiling too artificially. We know, at this point, that both Stringer and Avon have sold each other out. Partners. B&B. And even though Avon and Stringer don’t know what shit is about to go down, they know. Avon wants his corners, he wants to dream. He’s just a gangsta, he supposes, remember. And Stringer knows that the dream is over. Stringer was content to run the show when Avon was in jail, joining co-ops and running meetings using Robert’s Rules of Order. Avon is loyal to THE GAME; Stringer’s ambition and drive want him to move up and out of the game.
They won’t admit it to each other; that their brotherhood and partnership is over. So they smile and talk about stealing badminton sets.
But their actions? They speak volumes.
8. Snoop Buys a Nail Gun. Season 4
Snoop gets schooled in a fake Home Depot in the season 4 opener. I will admit, I had my doubts about season 4, as I couldn’t imagine The Wire without Stringer Bell. And yet. Season 4 blew me away from the opening scene. Things are changing on the corners, and a very new kind of killer shows up. We learn very early on that The Marlo Stanfield organization is NOTHING at all like The Avon Barksdale organization. Snoop is a very special kind of badass; she’s buying a nail gun, as we’ll find out, to close up the vacants after she has killed and killed and killed and then, just like that, makes those bodies disappear.
“You earned that buck like a motherf*er, man.”
9. Stringer is Hard Enough, Avon. Season 3
“You know what the difference is between me and you? I bleed red. You bleed green. What you been building for us? Huh? I look at you these days, you know what I see? I see a man without a country. Not hard enough for this right here. And maybe? Just maybe not smart enough for them out there.”
Oh Avon. You had to touch that nerve. Well, Stringer’s going to tell Avon just how hard he is. That HE was the one who had D’Angelo killed because it needed to be done and he knew that Avon would never be able to kill his own nephew. So, there’s you go, Avon. Stringer’s still tough. Stringer’s still your faithful lieutenant; still in the game. Well, until he sells you out.
The beginning of the end of the Barksdale organization, right here.
10. Bunk and McNulty Use the F-word. Season 1
What a team, these two.
Seriously, is there anything better than watching McNulty and Bunk working a case together?
11. Bodie Goes Down Defending His Corner. Season 4.
I still can never forgive Bodie for pulling the trigger on Wallace, but by the end of season 4, I had tremendous respect for the good soldier. He really was a man without anyone. He was old for the game, as he told McNulty. He did as he was told for years and watched as the Barksdale organization came crumbling down in front of him and watched as the neighborhood changed into the Stanfield organization and Bodie wasn’t having any of it. He was who he was and he wasn’t getting off that corner…even when they came gunning for him.
D’Angelo was right about the pawns, and Bodie was the last pawn on the board.
12. Brianna wants to know why McNulty didn’t tell her that D’Angelo Was Murdered. Season 3
“Why go to her? Why not come to me first?”
“Honestly? I was looking for somebody who cared about the kid.”
This right here? That’s Jimmy McNulty at his best.
(Well, perhaps at his second-best, because, honestly, there’s little more satisfying than a drunk McNulty.)
McNulty, against the advice of just about every single person out there, cares about what happened to D’Angelo. Because he knows, after spending just a few minutes with D, that he wasn’t going to kill himself. He knows just a little bit too much about the players in this game to know that D’Angelo was too smart for his own good, and that something happened in that room in the prison library, but it sure wasn’t a hanging. What he also knows is that Brianna’s son is dead because SHE went to him and told him to take the years, used words like FAMILY, while in the end it was his FAMILY that did him in (Yes, yes, technically it was Stringer and not Avon…but still. It’s all in the game, yo.)
The look on Brianna’s face when she is smacked with this harsh truth? PRICELESS.
13. Michael says goodbye to Dukie. Season 5.
Michael Lee, in this episode. There were several scenes I thought about choosing ”Michael’s “You look good, girl,” as he plants a bullet right into Snoop’s cornrows, the look on his face when he realizes that he is being set up, the look on his face as he says goodbye to Bug. They were all powerful. But this moment, with Duquan, as they both know the roads that lay ahead of them.
“You remember that one day, Summer past?”
It makes us remember that one day, just before school started in season 4, when four boys were just kids. They were throwing piss balloons and eating ice cream. KIDS. And now, here they are, just a short time later, but they haven’t been kids for what feel like a lifetime. So long that Michael doesn’t even remember. He doesn’t even remember being carefree and happy.
14. Bubbles is Finally Allowed Upstairs For Dinner. Season 5
(It’s at 3:06. But the whole montage is worth watching. At least twice.)
There were a few Bubbles moments that I considered, but truth be told, there were very few Bubbles moments I didn’t consider. Bubbles grows through the five seasons of The Wire from this tragic, goofy white-shirt selling dope fiend to a man whose world is broken from the death of Sherrod, to a man who turns his life around and finally, finally, finally does right enough by his sister and she lets him come up the steps for dinner. Bubbles accomplished what many on the streets of Baltimore will not, what Duquon likely won’t. And he’ll hold on to that grief, but he will make sure to leave room for other things.