[I know 56 -The Dickensian Aspect is old news but I need to get rid of this post that’s been rattling around in my head, that I threw away more than once but still won’t leave me alone.]
The first thing we see at the beginning of the teaser is exactly what we do expect and want least to see: a body.
The thing is, it should not be coming from inside the condo, from upstairs. There should be a body right there in front of us already, and it should be Omar’s.
One, two, three different characters, plus the camera itself, do the double take: up, then down. We almost expect the camera to shake its lens in bewilderment.
“It don’t seem possible.”
Indeed, this is some Spiderman shit.
Paradox is nothing new on The Wire. The paradoxical nature of reality, and even more so, of the crueler ironies of American experience, have underpinned this show from the first episode.
That said, Episode 56 isn’t just trying to illuminate or play off paradox and contradiction in the lives of the characters, it is showing us how paradox itself functions, how institutions and individuals experience, and also exploit, contradiction and ambiguity.
Up front we have the contradictory threads weaving through the clusterfuck of the serial killer police case and newspaper story. Related to that, Baltimore’s homeless population is put under a microscope, exploited for political and personal gain, and yet remains invisible to the public at large.
Freamon, McNulty, and Carcetti all make grand pronouncements full of moral determination and resolve, none of which seem connected to the actions they subsequently take, while Bunk also draws some rhetorical lines in the sand of his own, only to be thwarted at every turn.
And of course, there’s Omar, playing out the classic myth of the hero’s fall from grace, literally: leaving his fabled duster behind, he hobbles away on the most Dickensian of crutches as the camera (again, completely self-consciously) pans upward to show us how the mighty have fallen. The hunted warrior, he’s able to hide in plain sight, just another homeless man, rendered invisible by misery.
One of the things that makes Season Five such a meta-rabbit hole is that it’s telling a story about story-telling. The story isn’t just about the telling, but even to a larger extent, about the reception of the story. How do those telling the story(ies) get over on their audience?
Which brings us again, to choice, to knowing versus believing: knowing the irrefutable reality versus choosing to believe the subjective experience.
Why and when do we choose — as human beings, as citizens, as participants in, and beneficiaries of, institutions — to believe what we believe?
More importantly, why and when do we choose not to believe what we see right in front of us?
Most importantly, why and when do we choose to not to see what’s right in front of us?
Do we as individual agents still have the ability, much less the obligation, to exert free will and choose the truth over denial even when competing external forces overwhelm our very perception of the world around us?
This is the meat of Season Five, this is the taste Simon/Burns, et al want to leave in our mouths after the story is over.
“What I saw happen with the drug war, a series of political elections, and vague attempts at reform in Baltimore….What I saw happen to the Port of Baltimore, and what I saw happen to the Baltimore Sun—I think it’s all of a piece.” Should his premonition of the American empire’s future—more gated communities and more of a police state—come to pass and were someone to say he didn’t know it was coming, Simon said, it will at least be possible to pull The Wire off the shelf and say, “‘Don’t say you didn’t know this was coming. Because they made a fucking TV show out of it.’”
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