Cleaning Up – Episode 12, Season 1 – The Wire

The most dramatic and heartbreaking scene of Season 1

Teleplay: George P. Pelecanos
Story: David Simon and Ed Burns
Directed by: Clement Virgo

Opening quote: “This is me, yo, right here.” Wallace

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

Yes, I cried the first few times I watched this episode. Wallace’s fate has been foreshadowed all along – but it doesn’t make watching it any easier. Like D’Angelo, we have grown fond of Wallace; he has a kind heart, a smart mind, and a bit of innocence.

I think the emotion of watching that scene distracted me in the past from some very interesting things that happen in this episode.

Was D’Angelo set up by Avon? By Avon and Stringer? Was it just a sloppy mistake?
Daniels is now “all in” when it comes to seeing this case through (a complete 180 from the beginning of the season).
The detail, while they haven’t caught Kima’s shooters, has dealt a staggering blow to the Barksdale organization in seizing all of their supply at the stash house.

The episode begins with both sides having to change things up. Following the bust of the main stash house, Stringer goes to the low rises and collects all the pagers and tells them to stay off the phones. Supply is running low at the low rises and D’Angelo asks when they are going to see a re-up. Stringer informs him that when the stash house was hit, there went their supply.

As a result of Stringer’s orders, nothing is going on within the detail. The phones have gone dead and there is nothing to monitor. So the detail has to change things up.

Lester enlists Chardene to help. Newly outfitted with contact lenses compliments of the BPD, Lester believes that she can see well enough to put faces to voices at Orlando’s. She’s wired up and outside the office, but nothing much is going on.

Levy has met with Stringer and Avon to get them thinking about any loose ends that may come back to haunt them. Avon is frustrated by the turn of events and asks when did this all start to go bad? I find it interesting that the first thing that comes out of Stringer’s mouth is “About the time your nephew beat that charge.” He quickly follows up with “Or it could have been after that witness turned up with lead in him.” But he is pointing the finger at D’Angelo.

D’Angelo counsels Wallace to leave the Game and go back to school

D’Angelo is called in to meet with Stringer and Avon who want to know where they can find Wallace. “We need to holler at your boy,” Stringer says to D’Angelo. D’Angelo looks at Avon and says, “He’s out the Game.” Stringer persists, “We just want to talk to him.” D’Angelo looks at Avon, “Let the boy be. Just let him be.”

We are introduced to Brianna Barksdale. Of all the characters in the projects and the Barksdale organization – she’s the good mother – but only if being compared to the likes of Wallace’s mother who says that if she would see Wallace, she would “slap the bright out of his eyes.”

I find it interesting that Brianna wasn’t in the courtroom (episode 1) when her son is being tried for murder. And while Brianna gives Avon an earful on the circumstances of D’Angelo being pulled over with the kilo, she ultimately talks him into shouldering the prison sentence and not giving prosecutors any information on Stringer and Avon. Like Avon, she speaks eloquently on the importance of family. But for D’Angelo, family has only meant murder and years in prison.

Cedric Daniels knows how to play politics. In this episode he masterfully handles Burrell and Clay Davis. But it will cost him.

Daniels and McNulty enter Orlando’s to arrest Avon

Previously, Burrell had dangled being major in the Northwest before Daniels. We discover as Daniels discovers that he has been passed over for Major. However, when Burrell punishes him by taking away manpower from the detail, Daniels doesn’t fall for the trap of identifying who he’d like to keep. So Burrell pulls Santangelo and Sydnor (Sydnor is a real loss) but let Daniels keep Lester and Prez.

If Burrell only knew that it was Lester and Prez following down the money – the findings of which have been giving him so much heartburn – he’d hate Daniels even more than he does.

I love the look Daniels gives McNulty when McNulty say, “With Wallace gone, that’s Stringer out of the box.”

This episode gives us wonderful doses of Herc. His jubilant table dance upon seeing that he outscored Carv on the test is priceless.

Stringer and Levy come to meet with D’Angelo who only has one question.

McNulty and Daniels arrest Avon Barksdale.

A la Carte

  • Wood Harris, who plays Avon Barksdale, has a small part in the movie “As Good As It Gets” – he’s the busboy at the restaurant Carol (Helen Hunt) works at.
  • When Avon gets arrested, Stringer turns around to get cuffed too. He seems genuinely surprised that they are not arresting him. McNulty leaves with an intentional “Catch you later.”
  • The teleplay for this episode was written by George Pelecanos – a great crime writer. His novels include the impact on poverty, crime and violence on kids. He scripts Wallace’s murder adeptly.
  • Rhonda Pearlman has great delivery and wit. She shines in this episode.
  • Stringer won’t shake Bodie’s hand in the beginning of the episode. Later he recruits him to kill Wallace. A great example of the wonderful little things in The Wire – the subtle way it shows the relationships.
  • How slick is Clay Davis? What a delightful crook.
  • Avon is sentimental about his safes.
  • “I gotta say Lieutenant you got mad suction with the federales” Herc

Recaps and reviews – Season 2

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

Lessons – Episode 8, 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

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