The head shot.

Here’s what I’ll miss most about Proposition Joe: His glasses. “The Wire” runs on a shoestring budget — compared to “Deadwood,” anyway — but you have to take off your hat to a propmaster who pays attention to how a fat man wears his reading glasses, how he bends them at such a sharp angle to the temples, so that he can look down at his tinkering without having to stress his chins too much.

That said, I’m starting to wonder about Marlo. We’ve all known he was bloodthirsty in a particularly cold way, but he looked almost …tumescent at Joe’s last moments. Even his advice was sexual: “Breathe easy. Close your eyes.” But he doesn’t close his. This man likes killing way too much, even for a killer.

And now we have an undisputed king of the corner. (Will Prop Joe’s body be found? I’d assume so — moving a dead body of normal size is no small matter, never mind the big guy — but I’m wondering what sort of investigation we’re going to see, what with Jimmy McNulty’s Strangler on the loose.) The king stay the king, until he starts trusting his sister’s boy with too much responsibility.

A few notes on this episode: “The head shot” — the government coming down hard in jackboots on a casual lending practice — plays a part in a recent Laura Lippman novel (“No Good Deeds,” IIRC). I chided her a bit in an e-mail for being heavy-handed, and she pointed out that this law is deployed fairly often; it’s the spitting-on-the-sidewalk charge of the federal playbook. The G used it on Henry Cisneros’ mistress, as well as a former Baltimore police chief. What it boils down to is this: If someone close to you gives you money for a major purchase (usually real estate), and you pay them back later, and failed to declare the gift as a loan on your credit application, you’re in violation of federal law and, as Rhonda Pearlman marveled last night, face up to 30 years behind bars. Probably millions of people have accepted a little help from a parent when buying a first house. Maybe the money was offered with no payment schedule, just a “here’s $5,000, son, put it on your down payment and pay me back when you can.” Maybe it was more nefarious. But the fact is, if you pay it back at all, the government can call it bank fraud. It boggles the mind.

This season, all about lying, we’re seeing how the forces of civilization lie to achieve their own ends. Pearlman doesn’t mind nailing Clay Davis for spitting on the sidewalk if it means he gets nailed. McNulty doesn’t mind using dentures on a corpse if it gets the OT flowing again. Narese Campbell puts her friend out to pasture and casually explains how he’ll land easy if he just follows the protocol, not telling him the protocol included a nice payout to her friend the developer. On one side, it’s the Head Shot, on the other, a head shot. Breathe easy.

Of the Washington Post interview, I will hold my tongue. Although I’ll say it was perfect, from the proud, confident pantsuit who led Templeton to his humiliation session to the helpful assessment of his clips (“a little raw, language-wise, for what we do at the Post…” Oh, do tell.). Go ahead and toss that visitor’s badge, Scott. Trust me, you won’t be needing it again.

But what does everyone want to discuss? Omar, no doubt. I always think of Omar as the real nod to entertainment conventions in this series; he’s so obviously imported from a Sergio Leone movie, right down to his black duster, but I don’t care. Everybody loves Omar, but I don’t want to love him too much, because we know what happens to the people we love on this show, right? They get the head shot.

Finally, a nod to Wire fanaticism in the appearance of Ziggy’s friend in the homeless camp. Another blog tells me his character’s name was Johnny Fifty, something I couldn’t have recalled with Omar’s shotgun aimed at my head, but I knew his face, immediately. “Does your dog bite?” “He’s got teeth, don’t he?”

Do these characters lie? Their lips are moving, aren’t they?



  1. I knew I knew that guy from somewhere but I never made the connection!

    I love the shot of Prop Joe exiting the flower shop, the huge red flower (heart) on the window in the background, telling the man what to put on the card. I don’t have the quote with me but it was his obituary as well and he knew it, I think.

    There were a fair number of heavy handed references in this script, though I still loved it.

    very nice post, nancy.

  2. Are these comments moderated? I submitted some earlier, nothing happened, tried to submit them again, got a message from WordPress that it was a dupe, but they never got posted. Strange…

    Anyway, I’ll try again.

    One thing I love about The Wire is that the locations are true. That shot with Prop Joe at the flower shot was at the corner of Charles St. and North Ave., and it’s a real flower shop. And whenever they refer to streets by name, they are accurate. A small point, I know, but it makes the show seem all the more realistic and great.

    Regarding Marlo, it sure seems like its going to come down to either him or Omar surviving. I would guess it will be Marlo, since the show seems to be showing so little hope, so little adherence to a code.

    Interesting on the mechanics, though. We’ve never seen Marlo hold a weapon as far as I can remember, so I don’t think he personally could take Omar. I guess I picture Omar taking out Chris, and Snoop taking out Omar. Hope not, but it will be what it will be.

    Regarding Templeton, I thought what I saw was him trying to decide whether or not to lie about his involvement in the series that the WaPo guy asked about. You could see the wheels spinning, trying to figure out the right answer. And when the WaPo editor said it was a great series, and too bad Templeton wasn’t involved, it was over for him.

    He forgot that the bigger the lie, the more they believe.

  3. Marlo did indeed hold a weapon. Season 3, he took out Devonne, the girl that String used to try to get close to him. Point blank stone cold took her ass out in her front yard.

  4. Well I stand very corrected. I went back to look at Season 3 summaries, and saw that, plus the fact that a murder charge on him was dropped when the witness was killed. Both the witness and the girl were shot with 2 in the chest and one in the mouth.

  5. Wow. Can’t believe (oh, yes I can) they did Prop Joe that way. So fitting that the last thing Cheese asks him is why he stays in that house, and Joe tells him it’s all about family and pride and remembering where ya come from. Cheese just cares about where he’s going – and what he’s getting, all short-term stuff. Not unlike the newspaper biz, you know? And Marlo, cold Marlo – “I was never meant to play the son,” or whatever he says.

    I think McNulty’s charade has more to do with being righteous (in his own self-destructive way) than the OT. It reads more to me like sticking it to the man.

    Could Herc be in for redemption? He’s in a position to know more than he should tell, but I thought it telling that he supported Carver. Maybe there’s hope for the guy.

    The newsroom banter is so on, right down to the corporatized co-opted-because-he-could-be-next ME finger-wagging Gus for being too profane and not putting on a happy face for the team. And Zorzi’s response about the beats and a broomstick was priceless.

    Question on names: Are little Randy and Cheese related? Both Wagstaffs, right?

  6. Ki’m, I’ve seen the Wagstaff relation question often discussed elsewhere on other blogs/forums.

    I don’t think anyone knows for sure the relation but yes, they both have the same last name.

    Did you see Ray’s post on Herc? Good post, good comments.

    Re Cheese, I have no spoiler info but my guess, it’s best he’s into short-term, because I just don’t see him lasting much longer.

  7. Thanks for sending me to Ray’s post. I think Ray’s right, but that we shouldn’t overthink Herc’s motivation. He sure wouldn’t.

  8. LOL

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