Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Wire Season 4 Episode 4- "Refugees" review

"No one wins. One side just loses more slowly." - Prez

At an underground, all-night poker game at a westside skin joint, Marlo Stanfield is getting schooled by some old heads who know the game better than he does. Heading out into the early morning sunlight, he calls Chris Partlow before stopping at a corner grocery, where he buys a water and - upon being coldly eyed by the security guard -- brazenly pockets some lollipops and glares at the guard. The working man waits for Marlo's exit before confronting him outside. "You think I dream of coming to work up in this s**t on a Sunday mornin'?..." As Marlo ignores him, the guard gets more riled. "I know what you are. And I ain't stepping to, but I am a man. And you just clip that s**t and act like you don't even know I'm there." "I don't,' Marlo says, before going eyeball to eyeball with him. "You want it to be one way...but it's the other way," he says coolly, before driving away with Chris.

At Dennis "Cutty" Wise's gym, the boys are talking about the bloody attack at school. Dukie Weems heard that the girl who wielded the razor in Prez's class had a father who killed three police and that her mother boils cats and serves 'em. Namond Brice mocks Dukie for such nonsense. Randy Wagstaff finally sets them straight: she's from a group home off Edmondson Avenue, and in those places, he tells them knowingly, you don't need to eat boiled cat to make you crazy.

Tipped off by The Deacon to a better paying job opportunity than his landscaping, Cutty shows up at Tilghman Middle School to see about a custodial job, only to learn from Assistant Principal Donnelly that what they really need is for him to mop up truants. Baltimore city can no longer afford actual truant officers or a anti-truancy program, so Donnelley has learned to keep a couple custodial positions unfilled at the beginning of the year for this contingency.

Still shaken by the attack in his classroom and believing that his students must be deeply shaken as well, Prez prepares a talk for the kids to help them come to terms with what happened. His wife tries to get him out of the house to take his mind off of events, but he's too wound.

Her first day in homicide, Shakima "Kima" Greggs runs into her fellow refugee from the Major Crimes Unit, Det. Lester Freamon, and her new boss Sgt. Jay Landsman assures her she'll get time to learn the basics, working nothing as a primary investigator for a few weeks. She gets a tour and stops to see William "The Bunk" Moreland in an interrogation room; he's lined up a witness to Fruit's murder, and the woman definitively identifies Lex as the shooter who murdered Fruit outside the downtown nightclub. Greggs picks up her first message: a call to a Mr. Lyon about something known as the methane probe protocols. Landsman and Freamon suggest she get right on it, then hang around and wait as she dials. An employee from the city zoo picks up, and when Greggs asks for "Mr. Lyon," she chastises her: "You sound a little old for this." The guys try to contain themselves: The hazing has begun.

At the rim shop, Old Face Andre is trying to buy time from Marlo, calling Omar a terrorist who "blow up s**t just to," and carrying on about the government cutting Delta and the insurance companies and NASDAQ some slack in the wake of similar terrorist attacks because they know "ain't nothing they could do." Marlo takes a shine to Andre's ring, and makes him hand it over before responding: "Omar ain't no terrorist. He's just another nigger with a gun. And you ain't no Delta Airlines neither...So bring me what you owe and talk that global economy mess somewhere else."

After Andre leaves, Marlo tells Chris he needs a hundred and a half for another card game. "Learnin' their ways require some patience." He assures Chris he's gonna take the old heads soon enough. "Else maybe I get bored and send you to take 'em."

Looking thin and wan, clearly quite ill, C.I.D. commander Col. Ray Foerster meets with Commissioner Ervin I. Burrell and Deputy Commissioner William A. Rawls about the murdered state's witness, and finds himself suddenly defending veteran homicide Det. Ed Norris's ability to work the case. Burrell has another idea: give it to the "fresh eyes" of the rookie, Kima Greggs. When Foerster realizes what's really going on - that Burrell is trying to slow and impede a politically sensitive investigation, he asks to keep Norris on the probe but promises to prevent any more press leaks prior to the primary election. "I resent the implication," Burrell responds, and Rawls gives Foerster a quick, subtle headshake: No argument on this. Foerster makes his appeal to Rawls later: "This gets out, who do you think it's gonna land on? I got two years to make forty and a pension bump." Rawls concedes it's a bad call, but says it's the Commissioner's decision to make. "He's the one over City Hall every day getting his ass chewed."

When Bubbles finds out Sherrod has been skipping the first days of school, he gives him an ultimatum: "School or out the business." Given that Sherrod last attended the fifth grade, Bubbles asks Assistant Principal Donnelly to consider returning him to that level where he might be able to do the work. Donnelly explains that because of thin resources, Sherrod has to be "socially promoted" to eighth grade. Besides, she explains, putting older kids with the young ones isn't fair to the teachers - all the harder to maintain order.

Prez tries to talk to his class about the bloody attack, but they appear indifferent, cynical and disrespectful as always. Moreover, someone got wind that he was once a cop, and they want to know if he ever shot anyone, and what kind of gun he carried. He finally caves to their questions, admits he was once police, but insists the job wasn't about carrying a gun, "it was about working with the community." The kids laugh, then mime popping off rounds. Chaos ensues. Prez tries to walk the aisles to get control, but Randy grabs his bag and slips out, followed by Sherrod, who has only moments before been dumped into Prez's class. Changing his shirt to the sixth grade color and using a stolen hall pass, Randy heads to the lower-grade lunch with a bookbag of snacks, ready to make sales. His classroom still in chaos, Prez tosses the notes from his speech, and catches sight of Sherrod outside, picking up discarded books from the blacktop.

Chris and Felicia "Snoop" Pearson do surveillance on the grocery store security guard, checking his hours. "What he do again?" Snoop asks. "Talked back," says Chris. They then head to Hilltop and Bodie's corner to put the heat on Preston "Bodie" Broadus, and realizing he has no choice, Bodie agrees to take their package. When they ask about young Michael Lee's whereabouts, he tells them he's not a regular, just a kid working the corner long enough to pay off a debt. "Why you asking?" Bodie inquires. "Never mind why," says Chris, letting Bodie know his low standing in the Stanfield organization. "Why ain't in your repetoire no more."

Back in the sixth-grade lunch period, Randy's former teacher spots him and drags him back to the main office, where Donnelly accuses him of using hall passes to spray paint walls during classes. "You know I don't." Randy protests. "Then who is?" she presses. He won't give, until she threatens to call his foster mom, Miss Anna. Randy caves as Cutty, watching from across the office while filling out paperwork, shakes his head sadly at the snitching.

Meanwhile, Howard "Bunny" Colvin pairs up with UM Sociology Professor David Parenti to pitch the pilot program to the school bureaucracy. Meeting with an area superintendent, Mrs. Conway, they find that she bristles defensively at first, worried that their program implies a negative critique of the school system. "This isn't about the system," they assure her. They're just trying to get to the troubled kids who are about to fall out of the system altogether. She'll allow it, but with a caveat: "Nothing that gets anyone upset...there's an election going on and we don't want to put our schools in the middle of that mess." Colvin, of all people, knows this score. "No indeed," he replies.

Dets. Leander Sydnor and Off. Caroline Massey shut down the wire room, as Lt. Charlie Marimow, now firmly in control of the Major Case Squad and quite satisfied with himself, watches them head back on the street to pursue low-level arrests.

Armed with an arrest warrant, Bunk and Freamon wait for three marked units to answer their call for backup to search Lex's mother's house. They light up when they see one arriving officer is McNulty, who in turn, teases Freamon about having reached too far with his wiretap unit. Freamon explains that he tried to follow the money and McNulty shakes his head knowingly. When he offers to take the back, Freamon reminds him the man who takes the back buys the rounds.

Back or front, they come up empty except for Lex's distraught-looking mother, who's lit a shrine of candles on her mantle of photos. Noting this, Bunk presses her on whether her son is still alive, threatening to return often if she doesn't give up an answer. "I don't know where my son is," she says through watery eyes. She is not only grieving; she is frightened as well.

At Marlo's pigeon coop, Proposition Joe makes a case for him to join the New Day Co-op - the consortium of citywide dealers. He lays out the benefits of "standing together": good quality drugs always available at the best wholesale prices, lawyer and bondsmen on hand, shared information...and "no one f**ks with you." "No one f**ks with me now," Marlo shoots back, before thanking Joe for his time and sending him away.

At City Hall, mayoral Chief of Staff Coleman arker is pushing Royce to rally his base, concerned about the mayor's thinning lead in the primary race. He shows him campaign posters in African nationalist colors emblazoned with the slogan that the mayor "makes US proud." Royce frowns: "You want me to start wearing dashikis? Go all Marion Barry and sh**t?" Parker says he also wants to put another $75,000 on the street in "walk-around money" on primary day. The Mayor tells him to call another game.

Running against Royce, Councilman Thomas "Tommy" Carcetti wants to meet with Royce's "base" as well - in the form of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance -- despite the fact that he hasn't been invited to their endorsement interviews with candidates and he'll never get their vote. His team thinks it's a waste of time, except Wilson, who agrees with the councilman that, done right, they'll respect him for it and, given that respect, they might be less than aggressive for Royce even after endorsing him. "And if they don't, then at the least they get to see a beggin' ass white man on his knees. Always a feel-good moment for the folks."

At a community meeting in West Baltimore, Marla Daniels and her opponent in the 11th District council race, incumbent Councilwoman Eunetta Perkins, take questions from the residents, along with other district candidates. One complaint involves a halfway house for recovering addicts going up on one man's block. "Not if I have anything to say about it," says Perkins. Daniels tries to point out the bigger picture: that the city's thousands of addicts need to live somewhere. "Though not in white neighborhoods," Perkins interjects. Marla, suddenly on the defensive and showing her political inexperience, concedes her point, but adds, "These are people - our brothers and sisters, our children, our friends, who are trying to change their lives..." Meanwhile, watching from the sidelines, State Delegate Odell Watkins - Daniels' mentor and a power behind Royce, fumes as he spots a pamphlet: Mayor Royce ticketed up with Perkins, not Daniels - despite promises he made to Watkins earlier.

At a hotel suite downtown, Andy Krawczyk and six or seven other fat-cat developers join Mayor Royce in a card game, the second of the month. Privately, Krawcyzk commiserates with a colleague about how hard it is to feign losing hand after hand to the mayor when Royce plays cards so poorly. "Texas Hold 'Em," the Mayor says, smiling as he deals. "I begin to understand the popularity of this game... No limit."

Over drinks with Bunk, Freamon tries to put the pieces together on Marlo's missing bodies and the missing Lex, speculating about dumping grounds and the means of disposing of bodies, but Bunk is only interested in bodies of another sort: hitting on the women across the bar. As Freamon drones on about police work, a tanked-up Bunk watches the women walk out and begins bellowing for his old partner: "Jimmy!"

Snoop and Chris survey Michael's battered rowhouse, an old rummy sitting on the front stoop. They watch as Michael exits with Bug for school, and Snoop speculates they are just going to school so as to get out of their house every day. "Make a good run at that boy, he'll be on a corner, no problem," Snoop says.

Bunk and Greggs arrive at a crime scene -- a body in a field. "Soft eyes,' Bunk advises her, echoing the same advice given to Prez in a teacher's meeting a couple weeks earlier. "You got soft eyes you can see the whole thing. You got hard eyes, you staring at the same tree, missing the forest." Greggs isn't impressed with his zen, but watches as they measure, order tests, use obscure technical terms - and fails to notice as Bunk slips a note inside the dead man's hand. When she takes her turn examining the corpse, she spots it, and they hand over tweezers. She unscrolls the paper: "Tater killed me." The guys crack up. Burned again.

Colvin gets started on his research, observing classrooms that range from out of control to sternly subdued to genuinely attentive. He's almost plowed down by a kid rolling through the hall on a chair. "You can tell the days by their faces," Grace Sampson explains to him later. "The best day is Wednesday. That's the farthest they get from home, whatever's going on in the streets."

Out on his truancy rounds, Cutty learns what his job is really about. The school is only interested in having the kids show up for one day a month in September and October - the minimum attendance that assures each school will be funded for the fullest enrollment. Cutty is incredulous. "Naw, naw man. School is school," he says to deaf ears. "Which one of y'all still needs your September day?" his round-up partner asks the kids in an abandoned lot. Cutty is disgusted.

At Blind Butchie's bar, Proposition Joe Stewart tries to clear the air with Omar, insisting he wasn't involved with Stringer Bell and Brother Mouzone in their play against him - he was merely the messanger. To set things right, he offers him a cut of a high-stakes card game on the west side. Omar suggests that Joe is trying to set him up and Joe denies it. Omar says he will watch the game and see if it is a legitimate target; if not, he promises to come back on Joe.

Marimow's stripped-down Major Crimes Unit gets two fresh new recruits: Off. Dozerman, now transferred to C.I.D. after being wounded in the line of duty last year, and the newly-minted Sergeant Thomas "Herc" Hauk. "I see you just made sergeant after driving the Mayor around for less than three must be a helluva driver," Marimow says to Herc dryly, before letting them both know that like Sydnor and Massey, they'll be on the street doing rip n' runs.

At the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Carcetti makes his appeal to the all-black group. He voted for Royce twice but now he's disappointed and angry - mostly at the crime. "Wherever I go, people want the same things, they need the same things, but they're just not getting them. I'm going to change that." He tells them he's not going to ask for their vote now, but that when he's mayor, "my door is open to you, regardless of who you endorse." The ministers pointedly thank him for coming.

Sgt. Landsman, having gotten the order from Colonel Foerster, assigns Greggs her first case: primary on the investigation of the slain witness. Norris is being pulled off the politically controversial case. Greggs is as surprised as everyone else, thinking at first that this is more hazing.

On the way home from school, Namond says he heard someone's snitching on the wall taggers. "Bam, bam," he says, giving a one-two punch, "do that to whoever be snitching'." Randy keeps his head down. Michael takes Bug home and sits him down to do his homework, ignoring the rambling comments of his obviously drugged mother. Seeing that Bug is cared for, he leaves to go to Cutty's gym.

After school at Tilghman, school police deliver the latest on the slashed girl, Chiquan, to Prez and Donnelly: more than two hundred stitches, and the muscles in her face don't move right. As for her attacker, Laetitia, she'll go to a juvenile facility, "only a little worse than her group home," Donnelly says. Chiquan wasn't HIV positive though, she tells a stunned Prez, who never even thought to worry about such a thing, "if you're looking for a silver lining and all."

After using their nail gun to board up another vacant-rowhouse mausoleum, Snoop pulls out a rent-a-cop badge and shows Chris, smiling. "Souvenir" she explains, as he takes it from her and tosses it into a trash pile. The trouble with disappearing people is that nobody knows, she tells him, implying that this is doing nothing for her reputation. Chris shakes his head.

Bubbles waxes on about his lost innocence to Sherrod: "Everything changes. You know. One minute the ice cream truck be the only thing you wanna thing, them touts callin' out the her-ron be the only thing you can hear." He notices Sherrod pretending to study an algebra text, telling Bubbles that the dictionary he has is a workbook to use with the text. "It ain't no thing," Sherrod shrugs. Bubbles takes in the lie - and Sherrod's illiteracy -- and replies, "I see that."

Cutty takes Michael and Justin to the armory fights, and as the boys admire the boxers, he offers tips about the skills of the men in the ring - and the discipline they've needed to get into fighting form. Michael seems ill at ease with Cutty and was quick to make sure that Justin would be attending as well before agreeing to even come to the fights. Now he offers an off-point comment to Justin about one of the fighters: 'Bet his woman's fine." Cutty is weary at the lack of attention to the sport itself.

Back at the underground card game with the old timers, Marlo is trumping Fowl George when Omar and Renaldo enter with the guard as hostage, armed for bear. "That's my money," Marlo says, as the banker rounds it up for the stickup crew. "Money ain't got no owners, only spenders," Omar tells him, admiring the ring Marlo took from Andre. It takes a pistol under his chin for Marlo to hand it over, but he finally does, with a threat: "This ain't over." Omar, holding the trigger, reminds him, "I can find your people a whole lot easier than they can find me." Marlo nods at the ring. "Wear it in health."

After the fights, Cutty drops off Justin, then turns to Michael to get his address. Michael bolts out of the van with sudden urgency, passing on a ride home. Hiding behind a corner until Cutty drives away, Michael makes his own way down the street, walking home in the Baltimore night.

I was lucky enough to download the torrent of this episode (and episode 5) online so I was able to see and analyze the episodes earlier which is always a good thing. However, I will watch Sunday's episode regardless if I've already seen it or not. This show demands repeat viewings because there are so many nuances and subtle moments that can be ignored upon an initial viewing.

First of all, this episode features more Marlo Stanfield than we have ever seen before. And we do see that Marlo is a different breed than Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell. Whereas Avon was an old school gangster with a certain honor about how he carried business, Marlo is more sociopathic than his predecessors. From the opening scene at the card game (which will be a relevant scene down the road in this episode) when he loses, Marlo then makes it a point to steal two lollipops in front of a security guard- just to demean him. And it does offend the guard who follows Marlo out of the store and confronts him about the disrespect but tells Marlo he is not trying to step to him. And Marlo's line about "You want it to be one way- but it's THE OTHER WAY"- clues us in what is going to happen to this poor unfortunate citizen. The Stanfield organization is far more ruthless and brutal in their approach than the Barksdale organization just because of the way common citizens are becoming casualties. As Slim Charles said in the previous episode- "The old days- them the old days". The sense of order and some perverse rationale during the Barksdale reign has now passed. The new school has arrived and things are completely different now.

It was nice to see Namond, Michael, Dukie and Randy discuss the events of the last episode with Chiquan getting slashed with the box cutter. The continuity on this show is flawless and seamless. And Cutty has a vested interest in turning Michael into his protege because he sees potential in the child. Michael remains a fascinating enigma. He is just trying to get by to help his brother, Bug, out. Whenever I see Cutty's gym and see Avon's boxing poster in the background, I worry that Michael's future could end up as doomed as his. It could very possibly be foreshadowing. And you got to love the fact that the most notorious drug kingpin in Baltimore history (Melvin Williams) is now playing the Deacon. And I love his line:

"A good church man is up in everybody's shit. That's how we do". The more Melvin Williams that is shown on the show- the better. The Deacon has really been a benefit to Cutty.

Poor Kima. She moves over to homicide and she has to go through the hazing process. From the phony phone call Kima was tricked into calling (Mr. Lyan when she calls the number to the zoo) and the note in the victim's hand at the crime scene- ahhh Kima, you are out of your element right now. Meanwhile, Bunk is putting the pieces together what has happened to Lex and gets confirmation from a witness that Fruit was killed by Lex.

I find it interesting how Old-Face Andre refers to Omar as a "terrorist motherfucker" since he does shit and doesn't care who gets hurt and what kind of sense it makes. And he also says that you can't plan against someone like Omar. However, Andre's interesting analogy about the government's prevention against terrorism/Omar's attacks- falls on deaf ears. Marlo's only interested in Andre's diamond ring which he promptly demands (in a very quiet way) to be given to him. And Marlo feels Omar is not a threat- just another "nigga with a gun". However, this misconception is important towards the climax of the episode.

I think it's also interesting to see how Chris Partlow was opposed to giving Marlo the money for his game. I really wonder who is running this organization because Marlo is in charge but Chris seems to be the true mastermind of this crew.

Burrell makes a tragic error when he replaces Detective Norris from homicide with Kima- because he thinks it is something that the Mayor wants after Royce came down on him about information being leaked through the department. Burrell's misfire will come to bite him in the ass in the next episode- and as opposed as Colonel Foerster is to the decision, Rawls seems to be playing both sides against the middle for his own political gain. Rawls informs Foerster that he thinks Burrell is making the wrong decision and seems to delight in the fact that Burrell is fucking up. Whatever it takes for him to ascend to Commissioner, Rawls will do it.

I'm interested in seeing how the Bubs/Sherrod storyline will play out. It seems that Sherrod really doesn't have a vested interest in school because really the school system has passed him by. I hope that Sherrod does try to better himself but I feel the ending will be tragic for him somehow.

Snoop and Chris really a terrifying duo and I like how the guard's ultimate crime was just for "talking back". Again, the rules have changed. And Bodie ultimately had no choice but to accept Marlo's package because he does not have the means to go to war with Marlo's crew. But it means less money for Bodie now since the package that Marlo offers is inferior to the good stuff that he got through Slim Charles. Also had to enjoy Bodie's line when Snoop asked what the answer is:

"Well, I told Little Kevin to shoot ya'll both in the head- TWICE, but since he leaving..."

I hope Bodie's storyline as an independent dealer continues, it's a very compelling turn for the character and JD Williams is just wonderful. Bodie does not want to get absorbed by Marlo but has no choice but to work with him because he is shit out of options.

I had to laugh when Bodie/Chris/Snoop are talking and they turn to see Donut riding down the street in another stolen ride. Great moment.

In the continuing theme of absorption, Prop Joe meets with Marlo in hopes of him joining the Co-Op. Marlo, however, is not receptive to the gracious offer from Joe and is not interested in the threat that East Baltimore (and the Co-Op) is receiving from the invasion of some New York City boys taking business away. He coldly dismisses Joe with a handshake and dismissing Prop Joe is always a mistake since he is a very shrewd and calculating character.

Eunetta Perkins actually has a line! And she apparently is holding her own against upstart Marla Daniels. And Marla's backer, Odell Watkins is shocked that his candidate is not on the Mayor's ticket as promised and Eunetta still is.

Interesting scene with the Mayor's card game and to see where a lot of his contribution money comes from. It is becoming apparent that Royce is less interested in causing change in the city and is more interested in his own political standing.

Drunk Bunk scenes are priceless...and him calling out for Jimmy after being shackled with Freamon at the bar are priceless. My favorite line is:

"You know what the plural of pussy is don't you? Puss-i! Jimmy taught me that"

More Bunk and Freamon scenes- PLEASE!

Prop Joe is anything if clever- denying any involvement in the whole ordeal with Stringer setting up Brother Mouzone. And then setting it up where Omar robs the card game Marlo is playing in and being believable by asking a take in the money that is stolen.

So, Dozerman is back! Nice tie from the previous season. And now the Detail is comprised of Herc, Dozerman, Caroline Massey and Sydnor. And the mandate of the unit is to "rip and run- straight drug busts with dope on the table"? Freamon would cry about what happened to his unit.

I honestly think Carcetti might win the mayoral race because everything is falling apart for Royce and by utilizing Tony Gray (who will not win) the right way- the better it helps Carcetti.

Snoop and Chris are getting a little sloppy by discarding the badge that Snoop was going to take as a souvenir. I think that badge will play a larger part somewhere down the road.

And the climax with Marlo getting robbed by Omar- it's so classic.

Omar takes the diamond ring that Marlo took from Andre- very poetic. And I also like Omar telling Marlo, "Is that how you want to carry it?" mirroring Marlo's line to the guard, "You want it to be one way".

Something tells me that Michael be the victim of sexual abuse because of his uncomfortability around Cutty- which makes Michael an even more tragic character.

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