Half awake in a fake empire


Snot Boogie died because he couldn’t change things up, even a little. Omar tried changing but it didn’t take. Dukie didn’t even know how to change unless someone else did it for him.

The tree that doesn’t bend breaks.

Bubbles and McNulty both tried and failed more than once, and they lived through it but others paid the price.

Stringer Bell, Burrell, Bunny Colvin. They changed too much, or the wrong way at the wrong time.

Bend too much and you’re already broken.

Just don’t ever forget the game is rigged. You can play the game, you can play the other guy, and he may play you, but the house always wins in the end. The Wire finale reiterated that survival is seldom about winning as much as it is about trying to stay on the board. Maybe you can put a little aside, maybe you have a place to lay your head and someone there next to you, maybe you get yourself a shopping cart or a Senate seat or the handle to the drug connect, and you try to hang on in your little square till it’s time to either make your move or get moved by someone or something else, on to the next square. If you’re lucky or if you paid the right guy the right money, if you wise up or you work your program right, you get a better corner, a higher office, a second wife, a chance to eat your meals upstairs. If not, you’re out of the game. Either way, someone else is waiting to take your place.

The first thing we ever saw, five years ago, was blood on the street. McNulty’s bemused, on the scene with Snot Boogie dead in his square, another player off the board, formalized with a little elegiac word play we’ll hear echoed for the next five seasons, “He’s Snot forever.” No, he’s not forever. This is Baltimore, no one lives forever.

At the end, standing on the edge of the freeway, McNulty sees the whole board below him. As noted here and elsewhere, the creators of the show did a fantastic job of resolving loose ends in a realistic manner, and it’s fitting we leave McNulty here. He didn’t win but he did adapt. Like Michael, like Slim Charles, like Daniels and Pearlman, he did change things up a little.

We had a seat at the wake but whether Jimmy Bust Balls has finally been laid to rest, we don’t know. McNulty may be a self-described “fuckin’ joke” now but he still has a place on the board. Is it resignation or gratitude we see when he turns to go home, or is it some of both?



  1. VT can’t resist full circle, all the way back to the beginning.

    For my money, “who shot Snot?” is a much better beginning than Call me Ishmael or even “what do they call a quarter pounder with cheese in France?”.

    McNulty had the love of his tribe in the end… what more could anybody really want?

  2. McNulty had the love of his tribe in the end… what more could anybody really want?

    I think for McNulty, it’s more than want, it’s appreciating, starting to see that he matters and the tribe matters to him. The way he looks at Beadie, the glistening eyes when he tells Kima it’s okay she turned him in, he’s feeling something. And that’s more than we’ve seen. This season, it was like his kids, his ex, Beadie, weren’t even real to him any more. So, I’m encouraged. He’s got a long road, Ray would say, and I’d agree, he needs to go to a meeting. He’s gonna fuck up again, but he’s changed in a way he didn’t before.

  3. Hey, Jimmy gave the homeless guy some money.

    The “I’m caught up in my case, FTW” McNulty would never, EVER do something like that. He didn’t even like paying Bubs. The new Jameson McNulty. Natural murder po-leece.

    Maybe he could get a job with Levy? (don’t hit me…)

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