Watching this seg of "The Wire" is kinda like making Jell-O pudding (regular, not instant) when you're at the the halfway point, when your wrist is starting to get tired of stirring but you can see the payoff coming as the milk thickens into chocolate mud.
Episode 5, "React Quotes," penned by David Simon and David Mills and directed by Angieszka Holland, gallops along in advancing, twisting and expanding the plot. In this sea of unsavory characters, no one is more unctious in this seg than Marlo Stanfield's defense attorney Maurice Levy, who's positively giddy at the prospect of being awash in litigation fees when he realizes that his star client is using a cell phone. "Joe gave him to us just in time," says Levy, played by Michael Kostroff (pictured right. Above, Michael Kenneth Williams as drug dealer Omar. He's baaaack.)
Marlo Stanfield opens the seg speaking cryptically to drug connection Spiros (played by Paul Ben-Victor, who was so great in "John from Cincinnati"), and he delivers a great line about the untimely end of Proposition Joe in last week's seg. "Tomorrow ain't promised to no one," sez the man who had him killed. Ice water in his veins, fer sure.
The swagger that Marlo and his muscle Chris demonstrate -- it's a gait unlike any other, wordlessly telegraphing their menace, recklessness and their sense of utter invicibility. Seems a dangerous, but necessary, quality to have in their line of work.
Shining a light on humanity's baser instincts seems to be the theme of this seg. You can see it in city editor Gus Haynes' eyes when reporter Guiterrez tells him that the homeless murders case has suddenly become "sexual" in nature. His ears perk up. He decides to run it past "the 4 o'clock" layout meeting. Mere homeless homicides -- deep inside the book stuff. But add a sexual perversion angle and bingo! Page one. We're all guilty of it. If it bleeds it leads, etc. You never see the headline "999 Planes Landed Safely Today," do you? (I stole that analogy from Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, BTW.)
Speaking of baser instincts, the media reclamation tour that embattled Sen. Clay Davis (pictured left) mounts in this episode is so spot on, it's almost painful. Davis, played to smooth-talking perfection by Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (so funny to see him briefly in quite a different role in the Disney pic "Enchanted"), knows exactly which buttons to push and when to push them. Don't think the word "shit" has ever been enunciated in quite the same way that Davis does ("shiiiiiieeeeeeeetttt") in the scene where he's railing to city council prez Nerece Campbell about how Clay Davis "ain't going down alone."
Another highlight of this episode is watching Dominic West's Det. McNulty interact with Templeton, the conniving, amoral reporter. They're both cut from the same cloth, the kind that make charming con artists, but McNulty at least has something like pure intentions; Templeton is out for his own glorification, whoring himself for a byline and career advancement, nothing more.
McNulty sizes up Templeton in two seconds after they meet in the bar to discuss the "sexual" aspects of the homeless serial killer case. West is so good, he signals it without a word -- McNulty can smell Templeton's line of bull from across the street, and he barely tries to hide his contempt for the scribbler when he sees how gleefully Templeton reacts to the tidbit about the killer being a "biter."
Great choice of ambient music for this bar scene as well: Tears for Fears "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." So true, so true.
Later, when Templeton (played by Tom McCarthy, pictured far right with William Zorzic) stages his phony call to his cell phone by the serial killer, West again demonstrates his acting chops by signaling the moment when he's convinced that Templeton is making the whole thing up. When McNulty tells Templeton and his editors that the serial killer also called the cop shop that day, Templeton doesn't hide his surprise. McNulty then knows the score, and I'm guessing that the significance of Templeton's reaction didn't escape Haynes either, though his reaction is not shown.
It's heartbreaking later in the seg to see McNulty utterly incapable of connecting with his two teenage sons, as they blithely listen to a rock band he's never heard of ("Dead Meadow"). McNulty's reference to the Ramones might as well have been the Four Freshman as far as his sons were concerned. It's enough to make us all feel gabba-gabba old.
There's a fleeting line in this episode that's so good it'll stick with you for at least a week, even if you don't want it to. It's Bunk chewing out McNulty for being on such a psycho-bender: "You're nut-deep in random pussy."
Of course, the Omar-seeks-revenge-on-Marlo plotline is heating up. Omar's back in B-more, waiting patiently with Motown in the background while he waits for his moment to pounce, first on Marlo's muscle. The scene at the end of the shootout in the condo is intense -- no doubt they got an earful at the next condo association meeting -- and where in the world did Omar go after jumping off the seventh-floor balcony? Guess we'll find out next week...
Finally. not much of a "bitch" count in this episode -- only three, by my tally.