In the first episode of the season, we got the beginnings of a plot development with Herc and Levy, and (speaking as a social Sunday-night watcher, not some On Demand dope fiend) thus far we haven’t seen anything further on it. VirgoTex and I chatted about it in email a little a few weeks back, then events got in the way and I never blogged about it, but let me think out loud about it and see what you think.
It’s become clear to me so far this season that the Barksdale crime family is alive and well. Even with most of their soldiers dead or in jail, the family is still in The Game. Avon (and presumably Wee-Bey and others) are tight with the Russians in prison. On the outside, they’ve got Slim Charles temporarily affiliated with Prop Joe. And most importantly, they have Levy.
Levy has never been just a corrupt defense attorney. He has always been the consigliere, the Tom Hagan to Avon’s Michael Corleone. In Season 1, he all but ordered the hits that took out Wallace and the female security guard witness. He’s provided high level strategic advice on consolidating power. And he’s on the outside, and he is still very active. Just as Hagan ran the Corleone interests while Michael Corleone was in hiding, Levy is no doubt managing the remaining Barksdale assets and looking for ways to return the family to power, since he does well when the Barksdales do well. He’s a sharp mind, a brilliant strategist, and you know he is thinking at least two steps ahead of Prop Joe, four ahead of Marlo, and miles ahead of the police.
Herc has never been bright, and never particularly ethical or honest, always looking out for himself first, but he has always been on the side of the good guys overall. He’ll steal a bundle of drug cash before it’s been inventoried, but he would never take a bribe to betray a witness or to tip off the suppliers that a bust was coming down. He’s naive about how the political game is played, not understanding why he was passed over for sergeant the first time, and having to have Valchek explain to him how the whole mayoral blowjob episode worked in his favor (and to this day he probably has no clue about the larger implications of sharing that info with Valchek, thinking of him as a trusted confidant.) But he’s always been a drug warrior.
So if you’re looking for somebody to use as a mole to get inside info from the cop side of the game, you can’t find a better man than Herc. Play to his self-interest, stroke his ego, make him feel important and wanted, and trust that he will never realize the complex strategic implications of what it is you’re trying to accomplish through him. So you can send Herc into a cop bar with an expense account, have him use his guileless doofus charm to get information from his police buddies, have them run some tags for him, and he won’t really question what it is he’s doing. He’s getting paid, he feels proud of his innate investigative skills, and his boss loves his work.
The thing is: Herc is now working for the Barksdales. He’s the only major character from the police side to completely switch teams in the game. Does he have any idea what it is he’s done? Gone over to work for the team that shot Kima? That those tags he had run might be for enabling a hit, or for some witness or jury tampering?
I don’t think he does. I think he’s clueless. Or in denial. I just cannot believe that Herc would knowingly and willfully go become part of a gang of drug dealers who shoot police.
Virgo Tex disagrees (if I follow this right, and I’m sure she’ll bitch slap me if I get any of it wrong). She thinks Herc is just a man with a price, and after getting fucked by the department one too many times, Herc was vulnerable to being bought, and Levy and the Barksdales were able to find his price. She believes that Herc is in the game strictly for himself. Strictly. Much like Clay Davis. He knows how his money gets made, but as long as he keeps an emotional distance from the bloody details, it’s all in the game.
The discussion between Levy and Herc at the end of 51 is where VTx and I differ. Levy says, “One of our clients is in the paper today” and Herc, holding the sports section, jokes “You’re representing Tiger Woods now?” VTx believes that the sports reference is a deliberate flashback by Simon to Season 3, when Herc and Carver discuss which guy you’d fuck to get the Olsen Twins as your permanent love slave. Simon is reminding us that Herc has a price; he even has a price that’ll make him “switch teams” (har har) as long as he’s pitching, not catching.
I think that it’s simpler than that. Herc just doesn’t care, because he’s too stupid to care. Not because he’s callous, but because he lacks the intellectual curiosity to know what it is he’s doing. He’s the kind of guy who grabs the sports section first, and maybe never gets around to reading the rest of the paper. He knows that he’s working for Levy, but he’s not smart enough to do the math to figure out that he’s also working for Kima’s shooters. He goes with his gut, not his intellect, and all his gut is telling him is that this lawyer is finally paying him what he’s worth to use his heretofore under-appreciated investigative skills.
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