Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Wire Season 5 Episode 4- "Transitions" review (SPOILERS)

What a dynamic episode. A good portion of this review is going to have to be devoted to what happened to Proposition Joe. What a great character and I was completely saddened to watch him meet his brutal end. However, when I saw that most of the episode featured Prop Joe and fleshed out more of his character than we've seen before- I knew it was the end. And if you didn't think so, you obviously have never watched or don't understand this series.

A recurring theme of this series is how family is sacrificed for the greater institution. If you think about it, Joe's demise fits in perfect with the story. We have seen Avon Barksdale sacrifice his nephew, D'Angelo, for the game. Then, when D'Angelo takes a long prison term for his family and begins to assert himself as an individual, he is killed. Then, Avon gave up his best friend, Stringer, who was trying to reform the drug trade. All in the name of the institution. And in the end, Avon's sister deserted him- and she was the last piece of family he had left.

In season 2, we watched as Frank Sabotka sacrificed his family for the greater institution. Ziggy was locked up for killing George Glekas who cheated him out of money. And then, Nick ended up being in witness protection. Frank, ultimately died for his union that he tried so hard to keep afloat. And the stevedores threw their very union on the sword because they didn't want anyone other than Frank to be their head.

In season 4, we watched as Michael sacrificed his very soul and gave himself to the institution (Marlo Stanfield's organization) just so his brother can be safe from the step-father who molested Michael previously.

It all ties together and like Freamon has said before, "All the pieces matter". What makes me sad is that Joe's death feels like the end of the era. He was truly old school and had value in family and history. When he told an uninterested Cheese about why he stayed in the home he did and how important it was for Cheese's great-grandfather to be the first black man to own his own property in Johnson Square, you gain a respect for Joe.

Don't get it wrong- Joe has pulled enough dirt in the past and eventually it caught up to him. However, there was a sense of morale in Joe. He didn't commit violence unless there was a reason and always used good judgment. However, him taking Marlo under his wing proved to be his undoing. Marlo learned everything from Joe- how to clean his money, how to use a lawyer to handle that money, how to invest money in overseas account, how to not talk on the phones, etc. And after Marlo learned all that he deemed necessary, he no longer needed Joe around. All that concerns Marlo is the crown- and he is obsessed with that crown. With Joe out of the picture, and the Greeks ready to work with him- Marlo has that crown within his grasp.

I found it interesting that the shirt Marlo wore when he walked into Joe's house was "Royal Addiction" (which I hear is a clothing line Jamie Hector is involved in). Very symbolic nonetheless.

And it is sort of fitting that Cheese was the one who gave him up. I think they have foreshadowed Joe's death since season 2. In "All Prologue", I remember Joe having a chat with Sergei (over the whole issue of Ziggy's prized burned Camarro) and Joe saying: "I got motherfucking nephews and in-laws fucking my shit up. And it ain't like I can bust a cap in their ass and not hear about the shit come Thanksgiving time." Joe stood tall for Cheese when Marlo wanted his head after the whole shipment was robbed last season. And I guess what makes it worse is that Cheese had more sympathy for his dead dog than when he gave up the uncle that did everything for him. Cheese is all about the money and little else matters to him. Little does he know that he's expendable to Marlo now and is probably on borrowed time. But, Marlo played him like a violin. What a cold bastard, Marlo truly is.

Even though Cheese and Marlo (who Joe admitted he treated as a son) disappointed in the end, the one person who treated him as family was Slim Charles. He stood tall for Joe even when confronted with a gun by Omar (which I will discuss later). He told Joe to do something about Cheese (who was the only person who could give Marlo the info on Butchie). However, Joe, couldn't bring himself to harm family.

And what did it get him? A bullet in the head.

Nice to see Joe buy Butchie's flowers at the same flower shop that Bodie went to in season 2 when he needed flowers for D'Angelo's funeral. Nice bit of continuity. Also, nice foreshadowing, when you think that Joe would be the next person in line to receive a funeral. He also was able to give us more shadings into Butchie's past. Butchie apparently worked for Teensy and caught himself a slug that robbed him of his sight early on. However, he still was involved in the game off-and-on but kept it as quiet as "a puppy walking on cotton". There is something about that line that is just magical. I have to say it's David Simon and Ed Burn's writing and also the magnificent delivery of Robert F. Chew. But that line proves why Joe is such a wordsmith.

Also, you have to like what Joe put on the card to Butchie:

"Butchie – woe to them that call evil good, and good evil. Sign it, your true and loyal friend, Proposition Joe." Joe was quite the wordsmith. I wish I had a friend who could write something that good for me when I pass. I think Joe's tombstone could actually have the same thing on it following the events of this episode.

And when Slim tells Joe that no sweet card is going to stop Omar from coming after him, Joe admits that Marlo is Marlo. However, out of respect for Omar's "skill-set", Joe was going to take himself out of the equation and flee. However, as this show displays, you can never truly escape from where you come from. And Joe's escape was thwarted.

And the scene with Joe, Marlo, Levy and Herc at Levy's law office was sublime. Marlo had to make a dig at Herc regarding the missing camera from last season that cost Herc has job. And it's obvious Herc still dislikes Marlo's arrogant ass. Joe reading the paper and telling Herc that Burrell was a year behind him at Dunbar and in the glee club was also wonderful. And when Herc is burning with curiosity to know what Burrell was like, Joe immediately tells him:

"Stone stupid".


It's intriguing how Burrell and Joe's fates both mirrored each other. Burrell, at least was able to resign with a nice cushion to land on- that was given to him courtesy of Nerese Campbell and the ministers. Joe's dismissal, didn't let him have a plague in his honor, a pension or a parade. All that retirement means for Joe was a bullet in the back of the head. Even his final proposition was in vain because Marlo (actually very insightfully) realized that there is no way Joe can change and that he would be back to scheming in no time. There is no way Joe could just disappear.

Again, RIP Prop Joe.

What else to talk about? Well, let's start with the return of Omar. The visual of Omar walking down that alley was in itself, iconic and represented what a mythic figure Omar is.

Omar learns from Big Guy and Donnie (the two soldiers who Butchie sent to protect Omar in lock-up last season) that Marlo's dogs (Chris and Snoop) didn't let Butchie die peacefully. With a sense of real determination, Omar is ready to go to work on the Stanfield crew. Donnie (played by the real life Donnie Andrews- a guy who was one of the inspirations of the Omar character) wants in, and Omar obliges. Omar, immediately tracks down Slim Charles and demands to know Joe's location (since Joe was the only one who knew Butchie's location and about him):

Slim stands tall and says that Joe had nothing to do with what happened to Butchie. And he tells him, if Joe ever did anything like that, Slim would tell Omar and even help him. But that is not the case in this matter. Omar relents and realizes Slim is telling the truth. Slim, knows that he just dodged death with his encounter.

That scene reminds me when Omar confronted Mouzone about Brandon's death and realized that he was being played (which later led to Omar and Mouzone teaming up to kill Stringer). Omar listened to reason and knew that Slim Charles was telling the truth. There is an old school code that Slim adheres to. And it would be interesting to see where Slim goes now following his boss' death.

Cheese, on the other hand, is all about selfish interests. Following the Co-Op meeting where he had an argument with Hungry Man regarding territory that Cheese swiped up that was supposed to go to Hungry Man and his people- we see Marlo's gift. The gift is an abducted Hungry Man ready to be tortured. I notice how dramatically different his death was compared to Joe's. Hungry Man already shit himself (according to Snoop) and they didn't even cause any bodily harm to him yet.

"Give a gift, get a gift"- Chris Partlow to Cheese. At that moment, I knew Prop Joe was as good as dead. His nephew already had him gift-wrapped for Marlo.

The Carver storyline was good too with him writing up Colicchio- who really deserved it. That character was so set in his ways, he would never change. That's why he was able to get tricked by a little hopper like Kenard (who put shit in the brown bag that Colicchio considered the ground stash), and got into a physical altercation with an innocent teacher who just wanted to go home.

Carver learned a lot from mentors like Daniels and Colvin. And he was going to make the story to protect all sides and particularly the department and his own man. But, when Colicchio didn't want to follow suit and just didn't care- I'm glad Carver wrote him up at the expense of being deemed a rat. When Herc realized that Carver made the only decision he could, it was a nice moment. Maybe, Herc actually has learned something.

Why protect someone like Colicchio who isn't worth protecting? I'm glad Carver saw the light regarding that knucklehead.

I will admit, I was nervous when I saw Burrell stand behind Daniels with that golf club.

Burrell was ready to do Daniels over the dirt he had on him (that we knew about since year one), but Nerese Campbell (Madam Council President who is "hot as balls") was able to convince Burrell where to fall if he wants a future and to get all the benefits she has managed to get for him. What happened to Daniels had to be real bad, because it even shocked Nerese. It has to be worse than scimming drug money. I notice Nerese has that file now. I wonder if she's going to use it against Daniels at a time that she deems fit.

It was nice to see Burrell have a moment of dignity when he lamented to Rawls at how the mayors he have served under never did what they were supposed to do. And how the job of the commissioner is to constantly eat shit all day. And there was a nice dig at how Rawls is just keeping the seat warm for Daniels when he inherits the throne in six months. The look of defeat on Rawls face was well-done.

Marlo's encounter with the Greeks yielded positive results finally. Although, Vondas still prefers Joe and hesitates to trade horses, The Greek is intrigued in working with Marlo. I forgot how the Greek speaks in these open, elliptical terms. He basically said:

"These are volatile times. It's not unreasonable to carry insurance. Who can say what tomorrow will show us."

In other words, stating that if something happened to Joe- then, the Greeks will do business with Marlo. The Greeks are the epitome of capitalism and greed (confirmed by David Simon), so they could care less about the smaller drug tribes killing- as long as they are getting paid handsomely. Vondas, however, has doubts about Marlo- "He's not Joe." To which, the Greek agrees but seems to smile at Marlo.

Bond is going to wish that he had taken the Clay Davis case federal. He may have blown the chance and tipped off the press about the grand jury questioning. Thus, he is trying to make his claim for an eventual mayoral run look great. But, what I find great about Clay is that he is able to play up the charm and bullshit when he sees a camera. The man is a performer and the best hustler on the series. I feel that Bond is going to really regret not taking the case federal and not thinking about his ego.

I think the case into Clay Davis is ultimately going to hurt Freamon, and not the whole serial killer fabrication. One of the best things about the show is that they show no good deed goes unpunished and if the case against Clay Davis folds, he will make sure that Freamon's career is over. Freamon has been building this case since season one, however, if it falls apart due to Bond's incompetence, then Freamon is fucked.

Loved how Gus Haynes was able to rip into the bullshit of the press conference for Burrell's resignation and cut to the heart of what the participants were actually saying.

Scott Templeton reminds me of Herc kind of. He is a guy with no real talent who wants to advance but does not have a clear sense of direction or initiative whatsoever. Scott didn't get his job at the Washington Post, and had to accept the job he has at the Sun.

McNulty is continuing his downward spiral and had a confrontation with Beadie, who is sick and tired of Jimmy's bullshit. She knows he's back to the boozing and whoring. And she gives him the option of leaving if he's not happy. Jimmy just leaves and pursues his whole fabricated serial killer story.

I noticed that Freamon's old partner, Oscar was played by Gordon from Sesame Street. Interesting bit of casting there.

Freamon is introducing the biting (witness the fake teeth) into the serial killer storyline since these killings display patterns. Now, that Freamon has someone that will give him the luxury of finding homeless deaths- this will allow Freamon and McNulty to really go to town with this fake story. I also noticed that stevedore, Johnny Fifty was one of the homeless people McNulty was talking to. It's sad to see how far the people from that disbanded union fell.

With Joe dead, that means Marlo is now wearing the crown and at the top of the Co-Op. Now, with his ascension complete, the last half of this season has to show his fall. Screwing with Omar was a bad idea, now that he is determined to drop all of Marlo's muscle until "that snake sticks his head out that hole". Omar and Donnie plan to drop Monk Metcalf first.

Outstanding fourth episode and in honor of the fallen Prop Joe, here is a WIRE prequel detailing his childhood.

Also, I wonder if Joe's death will expose the information leak within the courthouse who was giving him information.

Damn. I love this show.

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