In Season 1, Bubbles and Johnny go to an NA meeting (court-ordered, for Johnny), and Bubbles picks up a 24-hour “desire” keychain, an outward symbol of an addict’s desire to try to stay clean for one day. Of course, Bubbles had fixed that morning and he would again that night, but you could see in his eyes a glimmer of that desire, of wanting a different life for himself. We saw that look again later in the season, when he sits in the park clean waiting for Kima, watching the kids and the birds in the trees and trying to ignore the dealers down the block taunting him.
I didn’t get a lot out of that 12-step meeting scene back then, since I was still an active drunk and had a pretty high degree of contempt for anything like AA. The fact that they passed out so few keychains for people with a year or more of sobriety, I felt was Simon’s way of saying “look how ineffectual and pathetic these meetings are”. Only after sitting in a bunch of meetings myself did it occur to me that if you have 10 people in a room, even if they each have decades of sobriety, the statistical probability that any one of them is celebrating an annual “birthday” at that particular meeting is around 1 in 36.
As Season 5 progresses, though, it is clear to me that Simon is using the sickness of addiction and the drama of “The Program” as a metaphor for the larger story arc of the inherent sickness in our society.
Gonna try a straight up drive by recap, west coast style, this week. Like Ashley says, things are speeding up, so let’s keep track of the all the pieces starting to fly around. (I was planning to throw some screen caps up with this but QuickTime Pro had other ideas.)
Scene 1: Yeah, it’s perfect “Wire-nicity” to revisit someone we just got a glimpse of last season, but the real reason Dee Dee is here to give us a roadmap for McNulty. Her “Bitch wants to kill me” echoes McNulty’s Jimmy Bust Balls, “That guy tried to kill me.” Also another great example of how economically The Wire tells a story. Lots of plots, lots of characters, lots of narrative expo and “rules” in the layering. Even though we know it’s been more than a year since last season, and even though McNulty was practically drunk all during the first episode, we need to have the reinforcement about the nature of addiction because otherwise, McNulty’s actions later this episode are going to look like he fell too far too soon, and DeeDee’s share shows us that’s not the way it works, while Bubble reminds us about the timeline. As for Bubbles, he can’t keep holding his heart in much longer, can he?
The very first poster on the TWoP website made an amazing claim about the opening scene:
The woman who was speaking at the meeting has been seen on the show before. She was briefly seen in season 3 buying drugs from Bodie in Hamsterdam from the safety of a pretty nice car. She was seen again in season 4, now a hooker, having a brief chat with Old Face Andre at his store. And now in season 5 we see her pouring out her soul at an NA meeting. I didn’t notice this until it was pointed out by someone else, and I was amazed. What other show would give a nameless character such a devastating but ultimately hopeful arc and spread it out over three single scenes in three seasons? In typical Wire fashion, they just put it out there without drawing attention, and leave it up to us to notice the connection.
Shut my mouth. Really? This production team is not only settling old scores, they’re putting in far-inside jokes and references to make its most obsessive viewers feel extra-smart. Here’s another one for you folks from last night: The two Baltimore county homicide detectives, the ponytailed blonde and the hot-headed guy, were borrowed from the fiction of Laura Lippman, a statuesque blonde who happens to be Mrs. Simon. Nancy Porter and Kevin Infante turn up now and again in Lippman’s stand-alone Baltimore mysteries, and maybe in the Tessers, too, but I’m not sure. Anyway, as I recall, Nancy is described as borderline plump and Infante’s something of a hothead, both of which were captured in their short scenes last night. I think it’s good that we all keep in mind that these people are fictional characters, too. So much of the commentary on the newspaper story line this season has focused on whether the James Whiting character is Bill Marimow in part or entire, and Thomas Klebanow can’t be John Carroll, because Marimow never hired attractive females with big eyes, or some such, and we all need to relax. This is, ultimately, fiction. Fiction in pursuit of Truth, maybe, but not Fact. Can we all remember that?
No spoilers, FWIW.
Episode one a little slow for you? They usually are — Simon and Burns ease you into the season that way. Episode two? Well, that was full of all the setups.