Why Lester, why?

Goddamn. I knew something was up with Lester, but I didn’t think it would be… this. Or this soon. Lester is jumping on board with Jimmy’s plan to create a serial killer. Damn, Lester. Why did you do it?

Allow me to get started on the overanalysis.


This picture is Lester doing great police work. The consummate investigator. It was Lester’s methodical drive, intelligence, and experience that led him to this point, and he knows he could be on to something big. He is soon to discover the first dead body in the vacants. This is also Lester in the midst of revelation, a vision. Walking ahead of Bunk, he stands with a staff in his hands. Is it the wizard’s wand? Has he been wandering in the wilderness? He hasn’t taken a board down from a vacant yet, but he is experiencing a vision of some kind, and it is telling him…what? Well, I say more than the fact that there are dead bodies nearby. Hell, perhaps the measly stick he holds is no match for the crowbar he will need to physically open the building in front of him. No matter. Lester knows what is inside the vacants, and he knows things will not be the same. We leave that episode with Bunk staring almost helpless at the huge “vacant” building and the sound of railcars kicking in. As Lester breaks open the case of the 22 dead bodies, the one that gets national press, you might even get the idea that in addition to wisdom and experience, Lester has “the touch,” maybe, that intangible that separates the good from the best. Lester loves his work. Lester loves being a player. And the 22 murders are looking to be quite the score for him. That’s what players do…they score.

At the end of S5 episode 3, Bunk is present in the small interrogation room while Jimmy explains to Lester “the lie”that is Baltimore’s next serial killer. Lester thinks, then tells Jimmy he is doing something wrong with this fabrication of a criminal mind. Bunk watches on and gives in to a look of relief, momentarily believing that Lester’s wisdom can be imparted to Jimmy. Bunk just bought new patio furniture, we learn. He is not having any part of the Jimmy’s shenanigans this time. Come on, Lester! Help Jimmy see the light! But Lester just leads in to his own ideas on how Jimmy’s fictional serial killer can successfully bring the money, and the game, back to their police work. It is true… no money, no game. And Lester wants to play.

I had Lester pegged wrong for a while. I was thinking of him as a cop, not a player. This is a mistake in a world where the game is the game (see Ashley’s post ). I forgot that nobody can have one side, good or bad, in this show. The cops and the crooks here are playing the game. One game. It may even be a rigged game for some, for those little bitches, but still, the game it is. Lester could “die happy” bringing in the Clay Davis case on the high level money trail. We have no idea who may fall, but Lester would consider it a crowning achievement to a life’s work. A big score... just like a damn drug dealer.

Before jumping on Jimmy’s serial killer plan ( a runaway train if I have ever seen one), Lester spends much of the previous episode on stakeout, waiting for Marlo to fall into pattern. “They always do.” Lester has a thing for patterns. He is alone in his car, without pay, reading, watching and listening to some great old school soul music. Black Coffee is playing at one point:

“I’m hanging out on Monday my Sunday dreams to dry…”

The song is about someone waiting on a lover, one who maybe isn’t coming back. Heh… Lester is waiting on Marlo, and we know he will always come back. But will Lester’s opportunity to play the game? It is the Sarah Vaughan version of Black Coffee, the oldest version by my count. It is no secret Lester is an older cop. The workings of the BPD, this season and before, cannot be giving Lester any faith that he has a secure place in a player’s position. A guy like Lester, who wants to make the big score and “die happy”, perhaps is feeling the ground move beneath him. He knows he can’t stand still. He wants to play and score even if it means sharing credit with the Feds, who Lester and Jimmy asked for help… but poor Lester didn’t know that idea was already as dead as a body in a vacant.

No local money, no state money, no federal money. To borrow a phrase popular in the New Orleans blogosphere and elsewhere, it is as good a time as any for Lester to have a Sinn Fein moment. Ourselves Alone. Lester said, ” if 300 white people were killed in this city every year, they would send in the 82nd Airborne.” I found the words out of character for Lester because it is such a militant, political statement. And being a player, the Lester I know doesn’t care about the bigger politics so much, or where the money comes from. The player wants the score. But we should also remember, as Ray points out here, that the language about bringing in the military for dead white folks mirrors language used about New Orleans after Katrina and the flood.

Now we have Lester acting somewhat out of character, going along with Jimmy and the fake serial killer scam. Why? His people are broke, alone and abandoned in the face of a tragedy. They are on the verge of not being players anymore. They think surely we will be rescued. Surely the Government wouldn’t do nothing in the face of 22 murders? This is America, we shouldn’t be abandoned!

Well, give it up Lester. No one is coming to help you!

Maybe we should go easy on Lester and his people for their actions… maybe after all they have been through, the tragedy, the 22 bodies, the broken promises, the outright denials from those who could help, perhaps they are just shocked to find themselves still alone, on the verge of not even being players anymore. Shocked, I say. And in times of shock, trauma or abandonment, people are vulnerable to ideas they might otherwise turn away. Lester is on board the runaway McNulty Express now, thinking up devious sensational twists for the serial killer’s next victim.

Dare I say, more to follow…



  1. That’s IT.

    You could just as easily title this post “WWCKD?” (What would Colonel Kurtz do?)

    Lester’s comment seeming uncharacteristically cynical and militant in the last episode was prepping us for him to resort to methods which have “become unsound” in this episode. McNulty is driven by revenge and drunkenness, Freamon by a cynical despair, but they’ve both decided that if the city and the feds and the PD will endlessly twist and turn under insane forces, then they are going to do some twisting back, rather than just twist in the wind like the other cops. Bunk still has too much invested in minding his career and doing things by the book…he’s like the early seasons’ Daniels, not willing to make waves because he’s on a fast track to major and he doesn’t want to fuck it up. McNulty, and increasing Freamon, have nothing to lose.

    But Bunk also has a code. McNulty never much had one. You would have thought Freamon had one just because he’s good studious police, he’s the old wizard you describe, but hasn’t he done things in the past like conspire to get the judge’s signature on some wiretap approvals without the judge’s knowledge? We’ve mistaken Freamon as a man with a code because we’ve been duped by his mild manner; his “fuck the rules, do what it takes” actions in the past have been so quiet and subtle.

    I’m still not sure I like it, I’m still not totally convinced about this episode, but I think the theory has legs.

  2. How did Lester get busted from homicide down to pawn detail? For getting a connected fence to testify. 13 years he was in pawn detail, and that didn’t break him.

    How did he get out of pawn detail? Because the bosses thought he was a hump who played with toys. Inconsequential, so he’d be perfect for the Barksdale detail.

    He is good police, great detective, but he realizes that the rules are put in place by the people who don’t know the game. So he has in the past, and probably will continue to break them. End justifies the means.

    He’s looking at the horizon. 13 years on pawn and the five years since mean he’s ready for his pension, and could take it now. But he wants that final score. He’s not going to get any promotions, so what does he have to lose at this point?

    Oh, and considering his actions, I’m guessing Shardene is long gone.

  3. End of Season 4

    Bunk re Lester, “He think he after Pol Pot or somethin”

    and Lester to Bunk: “Yes sir, I’m proud to be chasin Mr. Marlo Stanfield”

    Racy, how ’bout you hook a sista up with a dimebag of that Ritalin? Damn, girl. Damn


    Well, give it up Lester. No one is coming to help you!

    Like the kid who stole the school bus to get his people out of NOLA or Dr. Pou euthanizing patients to keep them from dying in agony.

    Lester is a cynic, yes, and Lester does have his grudges, yes, and yeah, he can retire tomorrow, no harm no foul. As you note, what makes this resonate is how Lester, the seeker of patterns and needles in the haystack, is able to grab the slight strand of grace from Jimmy’s vainglorious trainwreck. Somewhere deep inside him, under the ocean of booze and guilt and anger, Jimmy’s impulse is a just one, but left to his own devices with the momentum he’s cranked up, he couldn’t bring it home by himself. Hell, he may not even survive the ride.


  4. Thanks for the props group.

    I hear what you are saying Ray. All things considered at this point, I still think there is an unavoidable pinch of plot twisting in the stew here; yes, it still seems a bit of a stretch that Lester signs on with Jimmy’s plan. I put my see-all-sides lawyer hat on and made my best case for Lester’s decisions. And yeah, it feels a little like this is a subplot twist needed later in the newspaper world.

    Ray, like a true NOLA peep, has a more sensitive palate than the Houstonian, and doesn’t like his roux from a jar. Carry on, dude.

  5. Just a nit: Dr. Pou didn’t euthanize those patients. She kept them anesthetized enough that they wouldn’t suffer while they died from “natural” causes in a barely functioning hospital.

    VTx, your comments about Lester and McNulty made me think of them conspiring in that interrogation room, trying to figure out how to really fake something up to make it look real, and it reminded me of Bubbles and Johnny in Season 1 rubbing dirt on those fake $10 bills to give them that money feel. Lester is teaching McNulty how to give his victims that real serial killer victim “feel”. But McNulty is a fuckup, and when he goes out to try to do what Lester teaches him, he’s gonna botch it and he’s gonna get beat down like Johnny did.

  6. […] there’s Lester, as noted yesterday in Racy’s post: Now we have Lester acting somewhat out of character, going along with Jimmy and the fake serial […]

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Comments RSS