Lessons – Episode 8, Season 1 – The Wire
Teleplay: David Simon
Story: David Simon and Ed Burns
Directed by: Gloria Muzio
Opening quote: “Come at the king, you best not miss.” Omar
Spoiler Alert: This is written for those who have viewed The Wire at least once if not multiple times. If you have not viewed, please enjoy the wonderful experience of the series for the first time with the delight of not knowing what is coming next. I encourage you to leave this blog and go watch The Wire, or better yet, buy the DVDs from Amazon (affiliate link). The Wire: The Complete First Season
The episode opens with McNulty at the market with his sons when he sees Stringer Bell. (There’s something particularly delightful about seeing an arch villain picking up groceries.) He has taught them how to play “front and follow” and has them trail Stringer. Sean and Michael do such a good job that McNulty loses them. (There’s something particularly delightful about seeing the star detective trying to provide a description of his sons to the store manager.) All is well, McNulty is reunited with his boys, but even better, Sean has written down the license plate number from Stringer’s Toyota Camry. Yes, when away from the projects, the baddest drug kingpin in town drives a Camry!
Lester frequently admires the discipline of the Barksdale crew. Following last episode’s arrest of Bird, Stinger and Avon have tightened rules and the pay phones in the courtyard on the low rises have been pulled out. This is immediately noticed back in the basement because as Lester notes, “One payphone goes down, don’t mean shit. Both at the same time? That’s a plan. We spooked ‘em.”
Lessons contains several “couplets” – echoed scenes or echoed dialogue. Wee-Bey and the guys are rousting Omar’s crib. Wee-Bey finds polaroids of Omar and Brandon and they all have a giggle over that before torching Omar’s van.
In the next scene, McNulty strolls into homicide, takes one look at Bunk and says, “Takes guts wearing a pink shirt in the BPD homicide unit…guts or a familiarity with alternative lifestyles.”
Damien Price, driver for Senator Clay Davis, circles back into the story. We last saw Daniels busting his chops at the political fundraiser. Information from the wire seems to indicate that drugs from the towers were being picked up. Kima and Carv head to the towers, see a trash bag full of something exchange hands, and follow the Lincoln Town Car. They pull over the car and discover that the garbage bag does not contain drugs, but rather $20K in manicured, banded stacks.
If our Detail was skating on thin ice before – they have really swerved into it now. IID shows up and instructs Daniels to give back the money and let Price go. Daniels takes it to Burrell who tells him, “Give the man back his money. You’re in people’s shit – where you’re not supposed to be.”
Later Daniel’s shares the following with Marla, “This is the thing that every one knows and no one says – you follow the drugs, you get a drug case. You follow the money, you don’t know where you’re going.”
Given how brutal Brandon’s murder is, it’s interesting that it’s the death of Keisha (one of the dancers at Orlando’s) at Stinkum’s party that upsets D’Angelo. D’Angelo is sent to get more booze, and when he returns the party is over. He notices Keisha is not moving on the bed and checks to see if she’s breathing. She’s not. While D’Angelo is visibly freaked, Stinkum, Wee-Bey and Little Man could care less.
Later Chardene tells D’Angelo that she’s worried about Keisha; not only has she missed work, she has not come by to pick up her check. Rather than tell her what he saw, he tells her that he wants to do something else – that sometimes there’s so much ugliness that he can’t even breathe. Interesting that when Wallace was experiencing the same feelings vis a vis Brandon, D’Angelo tells him to just let it go.
While it’s not certain the D’Angelo was the triggerman in the Deirdre Kresson (as he implied when telling the story to Wallace, Poot and Bodie), he is responsible for at least one murder. Remember, the series begins at his murder trial – with the now deceased William Gant testifying as a witness to the murder. So it’s interesting to me that it’s the least violent death (Keisha of an overdose) that gets him rattled.
One of my favorite scenes in the entire series is McNulty following Stringer to the Baltimore City Community College. We discover, with McNulty, that Russell “Stringer” Bell, is enrolled and taking Intro to Macro Economics. While Dominic West’s accent continues to be problematic, his facial expressions are wonderful – we can see his infatuation, surprise and obsession with Stringer as he peers through the tiny window on the classroom door.
One of the conditions of Stinkum getting his promotion and points on the package, is that he has to run the current dealer, Scar, off the corner. Wee-Bey explains how they will ambush Scar; Stinkum will approach him from the front and Wee-Bey will come up from behind. It’s a good plan except for the fact that Omar ambushes them; killing Stinkum and hitting Wee-Bey in the leg. Omar lets Wee-Bey go, with the warning “Come at the king – you best not miss.” And in spite of Omar’s proximity (and the thought that maybe he won’t let him get away), and sirens indicating cop cars are getting near – Wee-Bey takes the time to drop his gun in the sewer before making a run for it. They’ve all learned their lesson after seeing how hanging on to a gun allowed BPD to hang several murders on Bird. Lester is right; this is a disciplined organization.
Almost immediately, Lester and Kima hear on the wire that Omar was the shooter. Since their case hinges on him being a witness, McNulty goes into damage control. He enlists Bunk to talk the detective who caught the case and convince him to leave it be for a while, with the promise the detail will provide him with the close once they finish their investigation. Bunk listens to McNulty and says, but you won’t do that will you? McNulty acknowledges he won’t, but Bunk does him the favor any way.
This favor leads to Bunk asking a favor of McNulty after some heavy drinking at the bar; that he call Nadine and tell her that Bunk will be working through the night. It is Bunk’s intention to go home with a woman at the bar who has been giving him eyes. Later that night, McNulty gets a call from the woman asking that he come and get Bunk out of her house. McNulty finds a very drunk Bunk, in the bathroom, dressed only in a pink robe and a blue necktie, wanting to set fire to his clothing to get rid of any trace evidence.
The episode ends with McNulty dumping Bunk into the bottom bunk in his sons’ room. “You’re no good for people, man,” Bunks says to McNulty, “You damn everybody around you.” Drunken rambling or the truth?
Video – Sarah asks Wallace for help on a story problem (warning language).
A la Carte
- When Wee-Bey and the crew show up at Omar’s, Omar is hiding out at Miss Shirley’s. She’s the once who approaches Omar, Brandon and John asking for a free vial. Omar is paying his rent with Barksdale stash. We see Miss Shirley shooting up as Omar sits by the window, holding the baby, watching Wee-Bay and the boys set fire to his van. The shot of Omar by the window with the baby is beautiful.
- McNulty’s kids have now been exposed to Bubbles at the soccer game, Omar at the morgue, and now Stringer Bell at the market.
- Poot is concerned about Wallace. He shares this with D’Angelo who says that if Wallace doesn’t come to work, there’s not much he can do about it. Poot points out that “He aint about nothing else.”
- Glen Campbell’s 1967 hit Gentle On My Mind is playing when Wee-Bey, D’Angelo, Stinkum, and Little Man go for sandwiches at Pulaski’s.
The Target – Episode 1, Season 1, The Wire
The Detail – Episode 2, Season 1, The Wire
The Buys – Episode 3, Season 1, The Wire
Old Cases – Episode 4, Season 1, The Wire
The Pager – Episode 5, Season 1, The Wire
The Wire – Episode 6, Season 1, The Wire
One Arrest – Episode 7, Season 1, The Wire
Game Day – Episode 9, Season 1, The Wire
The Cost – Episode 10, Season 1, The Wire
The Hunt – Episode 11, Season 1, The Wire
Cleaning Up – Episode 12, Season 1, The Wire