The Wire Final Season

Week 8: I'm Stunned You Still See Idealism in Carcetti
Talking television.
Feb. 25 2008 3:21 PM

The Wire Final Season

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Dear Jeff,

Did you know that Gus Haynes is Barack Obama's closest friend? Did you know that a beagle owned by Gus Haynes won this year's Westminster dog show? Did you know that Ralph Lauren bottles Gus Haynes' sweat and sells it as perfume?

David Plotz David Plotz

David Plotz is the CEO of Atlas Obscura and host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

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I've always liked Carcetti's wife because of her combination of sweetness and brittleness, exactly what you'd expect from a careerless political wife. She didn't give much away in that scene last night, but you really didn't detect her unease with her husband? Also, I'm stunned that you still see idealism in Carcetti. The homeless speechifying is entirely cynical, purpose-built to humiliate the governor: He doesn't have any substantive policy to back up the gasbaggery. Carcetti has betrayed everything he once said about how he would govern: He's clinging to stats, seeking cheap PR victories, casting off allies, all in the service of his own power. What action has he taken this season that was not designed to promote Carcetti?

(Oh, I just thought of a third example of woman as conscience: Unlike all the male cops, Kima refuses to play along with the serial-killer sham and rebukes Lester.)

David Simon, mind reader: A few weeks ago, I rapped The Wire for ignoring the working world of black men:

The Wire shorts a key and tragic point about American life. The lives of the dealers are grim, but the lives of the working poor may be sadder still. There's little glamour serving chicken on the 4 p.m. to midnight shift at Popeyes, and it's hard (though perhaps not impossible) to make a career selling sneakers at Foot Locker.

Now Episode 8 shows us Dukie trying to get a legitimate job at a Foot Locker-like store and getting ruefully turned away by Poot, Bodie's old corner-running buddy.

You're right, of course, about the Chris-Marlo tension—that Atlantic City exchange was electric. I agree that the show is setting up some kind of spectacular denouement for Chris: His unease with Marlo, Bunk's DNA evidence against him, the budding conflict between him and Michael, his anxiety about his children—all of these point to some kind of showdown. So from an emotional perspective, your Marlo murder scheme makes sense. But I still don't think the worldview of The Wire would permit the kind of void that Marlo's assassination would leave.

The death of Marlo, taken together with the deaths of Prop Joe and Stringer Bell—and the imprisonment of Avon—would suggest that the smartest and most ruthless drug dealers really can be stopped (even if the police don't do it) and that the drug organizations really can be degraded. (You're a journalist who studies Israel: The entire premise of Israel's policy of targeted assassination is that killing the smartest and most capable leaders of Hamas will paralyze the organization because the surviving lieutenants won't be as effective.) But less effective drug gangs would mean progress on an institutional scale, and that is something that The Wire refuses to accept as a possibility. So I think the only way Marlo can die is if someone is established as an equally brilliant, equally ruthless heir, and none of the gangsters we've met—not even Chris, who's too pensive and moody and facing airtight DNA murder evidence—has the brains and skill to replace Marlo.

But I've been wrong about everything and you've been right, so Chris will probably pop one in Marlo's skull five minutes into Episode 9.

David