POSTED BY STUART LEVINE (Cynthia's comments follow)
Jimmy McNulty, how low will you go?
McNulty's utter contempt for the inadequate resources given to the Baltimore Police Dept. — and the lack of respect given to the mission of the BPD as well — came to a head in the final scene of Sunday's night's episode, when he arrives at an abandoned storefront with Bunk and tampers with a dead body.
Having seen the first seven episodes, I know where he's going with this and don't want to spoil it for everyone else. However, it's obvious at this point that this is a move of desperation, even for McNulty, a man whose moral compass is constantly in need of repair. But McNulty's disregard for the law (as well as his philandering and boozing ways) are born not out of being a smart ass and rulebreaker but, rather, the frustration with being unable to do his job because of, as he sees it, nobody giving a damn.
McNulty caught wind of a coroner (or "cutter" as the term was used in the episode) who called a drug overdose a murder because of bruising around the neck and shoulders of the victim, when, in fact is, the guy had died before the bruising took place. The info was crucial, though, as McNulty now knows how to make dead bodies appear as murders.
And just before McNulty chokes an already dead victim, with Bunk looking on in horror, he crosses himself, knowing he's not only violating the deceased but stepping over a line that is repugnant even to him. All that being said, though, he figures it's the right thing to do given the circumstance.
While watching the wheels spinning in McNulty's head was priceless, it was a pleasure to see Bubbles continually trying to piece his life back together. The first scene of the night, with the magnificent Andre Royo chatting up sponsor Steve Earle, reminded me that while there is so much darkness and decay in "The Wire," Bubbles' efforts to resurface with his dignity in hand is, in a word, simply uplifiting, a term rarely heard on the show. If he doesn't make it, I'll be devastated.
Other observations while wondering if the Orioles won on their opening day at Camden Yards:
-- While staking out Marlo one night, Lester is reading Miniatures magazine. No wonder no detail is too small for him while trying to decipher cases.
-- Nice to see Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) again. Avon, effectively and without raising his voice, gives a lecture to Marlo on how he controls the prison in Jessup, much the same way he ruled corners before Marlo took over. Nothing goes on there without his say and for $100,000 given to his sister, Avon will allow Marlo to speak to the Russian who's also behind bars. Marlo, the businessman that he is, figures he needs to talk to the Russian to get to the Greeks, so he can cut Proposition Joe out of the loop.
-- Loved the exchange between McNulty and Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman (Deidre Lovejo). When McNulty reacts angrily to the fact that the gun charges against Chris and Snoop were postponed, Pearlman says, "Those are the rules, Jimmy." To which McNulty replies: "There are no fucking rules. The fucking game is rigged."
-- Simon continues to make Baltimore Sun editor James Whitting look like a buffoon. Not only does Whitting want a piece on the lives of Baltimore's children read "Dickensian" and without much context, to the chagrin of city editor Gus (isn't it nice to see Clark Johnson back in front of the camera again), but he's completely OK to run a front page story about a kid in a wheelchair, notwithstanding the kid has no last name, no parents to be found, and, even worse news for newsroom editors, there's aren't any photos of him. On "terra firma"? No way.
-- Carcetti is already trying to figure out a way to run for governor. With Norman and chief of staff Michael Steintorf on his side, plotting away, it seems awfully doable — even if he's only on second term as mayor and crime stats are still dreadful.
-- In a smack to tabloid journalism and what accounts for national news these days, sitting in a bar with Bunk, McNulty says the only way murders will get the public's attention is if it's "an ex-cheerleader tourist missing in Aruba." To which Bunk adds, "This ain't Aruba, bitch."
Yeah, Baltimore might not be as bad as Simon makes it out to be, but Aruba, no. Not so much.
There were so many great things about this episode, especially for those of us who make our living as reporters. However, the quote of the episode for me comes not from the Sun newsroom but from the inimitable Det. Griggs, early on in the seg as she, Bunk, McNulty are sitting around discussing the "bone" thrown by the mayor to allow raise- and overtime-deprived cops to work as many hours on secondary jobs as they wish. Apropos of Bunk's comment that he might be able to get work as a jewelry store security guard, Griggs observes:
"Stand around some shiny shit and get paid; Work murders and starve...What kind of shit is that?"
Beyond the Wisdom of Griggs, the highlight of the ep for me was Steve Earle. The actor-musician is soooo good as Walon, the Narcotics Anonymous sponsor of Andre Royo's Bubbles. Earle brings an authenticity to the role because in his life, he's been there and done that (and even some hard time before he was able to slay his dope demons).
"You got to let it out to let it go," Walon implores Bubbles after the N.A. meeting in the church. Doesn't that sound like the title of a country and western song?
Of course, the newsroom scenes had special resonance for us hacks. The loading-dock discussion among editors of the dangers of being a "mother of four" was priceless, as was the comment from the other older editor about the extinction of "statuesque blondes" and "buxom blondes" in the post-feminist era.
Loved McNulty and Officer Bobby Brown comparing hangover cures. Loved McNulty beating up on the beat-up car while Boston's "More than a Feeling" blared away. (Call me crazy but my insta-react was that it was David Simon's nod to "The Sopranos" and its use of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' in the finale.)
Loved Det. Freamon's barrom observation that "if 300 white people were killed in this city every year, you think they wouldn't send in the 82nd Airborne?"
And finally, I agree with Stu that being able to see the wheels turn in McNulty's head as he decides to dress up his run of the mill drunken-bum stiff to look more nefarious is a testament to Dominic West's skill as an actor. And yes, the crowning touch is McNulty crossing himself before he begins to add the faux-strangulation touches to his victim.
Bunk, who's seen a lot in his time on the beat, is palpably repulsed by McNulty's actions.
"Jesus Christ," he tells McNulty, "you sick fuck."
Also, the "bitch" count in this seg: At least 5, maybe 6.