Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Wire Season 5 Episode 8- "Clarifications" review

Okay, if you've seen this episode already- then you know the huge spoiler that will shock you for the entire hour.

Omar Little is dead.

Yes, Omar, arguably the series' most popular and publicized character- is deceased. Admittedly, I've known about the death for over a month because I came across a brief video on youtube of the murder (before HBO pulled it down). I was browsing other bulletin boards where fans were in denial over this clip and claim that it was intentionally filmed by David Simon to throw the scent off the real scenes. Now, that he's dead, I must say, I'm actually quite content with the fact that he's dead and how it was done.

Now, Omar is my favorite character but the story comes first- and Omar was created to only serve the story. And in hindsight, they've been foreshadowing Omar's demise since the fourth season. Omar, was actually supposed to have died in season one, but David Simon felt the need to keep him around. And since then, Omar turned into this mythic type character who was the show's outlaw. The wild card who adhered to no institution. Who lived life on his own terms. And the man who had a strict code that he followed everyday.

I don't understand the backlash of certain fans on the boards. Yes, I love Omar too- but I would almost be disappointed if he didn't die. And in his current condition, Omar was in pain from his injury every time you saw him. I felt that him dying was altruistic like killing a dying animal. And some of the fans are claiming the show has jumped the shark with him dying. Let me make this clear, "The Wire" can NEVER jump the shark. It's a flawless series. And if someone will stop watching the series because a character died- then they shouldn't watch in the first place. This show is modeled on Greek tragedy- and every character has their fate. And Omar's fate was eventually death as well. Live by the gun die by the gun.

Let's focus on Omar and his storyline before continuing with the others. This will be a partial eulogy and remembrance of a character that many will say was perhaps, the greatest character in tv history.

When we first see Omar in this episode, he hobbles up to Dozerman and Truck- who are enjoying their new cars (thanks to the money being thrown around by Carcetti in order to bring down the fake serial killer)- and tells them about some of Marlo's people who are brandishing firearms. After tipping them off, Omar slips into the shadows.

Omar limps his way through and we see Kenard and a group of kids (in what may be the most disturbing scene I've seen all year) pouring lighter fluid on a cat, in an attempt to set it on fire. The kids scatter from Omar once they see him, but Kenard remains there, looking at Omar with childlike curiosity.

Omar, waits for the cops to arrest the muscle, and then once the coast is clear- demands the package to be given to him or he'll take it by force. Once he receives the package, Omar dumps the contents down a storage drain. It's not about the money, not about the dope, it's about a case of right and wrong. And of being a man and having ethics. Omar reiterates that Marlo is not a man and that Omar is in the streets everyday by his lonesome.

There's a beautiful shot of Omar stopping and looking around for a moment. Michael K. Williams is just masterful in this scene because you can see the pain on Omar's face as he realizes that times have changed and the game has degenerated into this horrible state. And in a scene that I think reminds me of Carver's, "You don't get to win shitbirds, we do!" scene from season 3, Omar screams out, "Marlo Stanfield is not a man for this town, ya dig?!!"

There is a certain desperation and futility in that line. Omar sort of knows that his vendetta may not work. He knows he may die, but he's verbally lashing out at all the bullshit that he sees. Not just with Marlo- but with the game in general. There's no code anymore. And Omar is the last of a dying breed.

Now, we come to the tragic scene. Omar walks into a convenience store to buy some Newports (as we know Omar loves smoking them) and a door opens (however, no one can see who walked in). Omar observes the person and doesn't give them a second thought. The next moment, his brains are blown out. And the killer? Little Kenard from earlier who apparently staked Omar out the whole time. How ironic that he did what Omar usually did to people? And it ties in to Omar's belief that kids aren't threats.

I remember in season 4 when he saw Michael he said, "He just a kid." I figured Michael would off him, not Kenard. But, Omar was a little slow on the gun and his death reminded me of Wild Bill and Jesse James. You have these mythic characters who die unglorious deaths at the hands of less deserving individuals. Very well constructed in my opinion.

Look at Kenard's reaction. He seems shocked at what he did, and runs away after committing the crime.

Later on, Bunk gets the call and travels to the crime scene. I love how the crowd herded up outside, further Omar's legacy:

"Omar dead."

"I heard that before."

It's like he's this invincible Goliath that no one would think could ever die. And lo and behold, he was slain.

Once inside, Bunk is a bit shocked to see the man he had a weird bond with- dead. Remember, Omar and Bunk went to the same school- and both went different paths, but had an odd respect for one another.

Norris and Crutchfield are amused at how Omar died. He was killed by a little boy with a big gun. Bunk is able to pull away the list Omar had on Marlo's crew- every single one of the Stanfield organization written down.

This list will come into play later as Bunk hands it to McNulty (who later forwards it to Freamon). The name on the list that makes Freamon blink is Cheese. So, if Cheese is connected to Marlo- has the West and East side both locked down. "The little king of everything" if you will.

What I thought was beautiful too is that the hoppers robbed Omar after he died. If that's not beautiful writing, I don't know what is. They robbed him of his personal possessions (his shotgun, etc.) to have as souvenirs. Which only furthers Omar's legacy in the hood. He was the boogeyman and a guy no one fucked with.

Omar's death gets bumped from the paper and at the end, the ME almost switches Omar's information with a wrong corpse. This shows many things. First it shows how bad the department currently is. Mainly, it shows that Omar was this beloved character. A figure of fear and legend in the hood, but to the rest of white America, he was just another black man who died. Nothing more, nothing less. Not worth getting the ink spilled for his obituary and for a story. He becomes another statistic. And that is all he ever was going to amount to be.

I also noticed the ME got Omar's D.O.B. wrong as well. Omar was about 34 when he died, so they had his birth year as 1960 and that is WAY off. This perfectly illustrates what fucked up information these departments receive.

More with the episode now that I have Omar's death out of the way (at least as far as I know right now).

Following theme of the episode's title- Gus Haynes wants clarification on a story that Templeton fabricated about vet, Terry Hanning. Hanning comes to the Sun offices, livid at what he read and how Templeton concocted a phony story out of the interview they had. By this point, this is all the ammunition that Gus needs. He knows that Scott is a liar. After the chat with Mello in the previous episode, he knows that Scott is trying to pull shit on him. And later when Templeton gives a story with a great quote and an unnamed source (at a candlelight vigil for the homeless)- Gus decides the story needs to be deep-sixed. There has to be a name- and all this make-believe bullshit is not real journalism. I applaud Gus for standing his ground and calling the Sun's new "golden boy" (since he's wrapped up in the fake serial killer storyline) on his code of ethics (or lack thereof).

Fortunately with bad journalism, there is a silver lining. Fletcher talks about the story he is doing and how he really feels he should be doing a story on Bubs. And how the more Bubs talks- he feels that he should be writing about him, and his life. His struggles, his perseverance to walk on the straight and narrow again. I knew last year that Bubs was going to somehow thrive this year and Omar was going to die- given how the season ended differently for the two men.

I hope that in the wake of this fake serial killer story, we do get to hear an aspiring tale like Bubs- who was able to keep his humanity in the completely inhuman world of addiction and poverty.

We see the beginning of the end of Marlo's empire in this episode. There is already dissension in the ranks when Michael reports to Chris and Snoop his encounter with Omar in the previous episode. He is grateful Omar didn't recognize him from the condo shootout- however, he questions why Marlo doesn't step to Omar. Especially if they killed Junebug and his family for calling Marlo a "dicksucker". Omar is talking shit about Marlo everyday and the Stanfield crew is in hiding and letting it slide.

In other words, Michael in a not blatant way, is questioning the point of this war with Omar. If it's worth having muscle (like Savino) dropped just to satisfy Marlo's ego. Snoop (already frustrated with Omar being on the loose) grows irate at Michael for seemingly disrespecting Marlo- while, Chris says nothing. However, the look in his eyes suggest that he knows that Michael may be telling the truth.

Snoop yells at Michael, telling him that they will find and kill Omar- meanwhile, she tells him that he is stepping out of line with his criticism of Marlo. While Chris and Snoop search the streets all night for Omar- they don't realize, that he's already been killed by Kenard. Marlo wants to meet with them and is celebrating Omar's death. He just heard the news from Monk- and is shocked that Chris and Snoop didn't know about it first. And he tells Chris he wants him to travel with him to Atlantic City still.

Chris, on the other hand, doesn't seem to thrilled. He's endangered his family because of Marlo's impatient vendetta. He seems to be gaining insight into the bullshit that he's fighting for.

Dukie still seems to be trying a place in this world he can fit. Not hard enough for the streets at all, he tries to get a job at a shoestore. And who works at the shoestore? Poot.

We haven't seen Poot since Bodie's death last season, and apparently, he has simply gotten sick of the game. Knowing Marlo's penchant for murder, I'm shocked that he just allowed Poot to walk away. But, I guess Poot is so low-level that he flew underneath the radar. I'm glad that Poot survived. I never would have guessed during the whole chess scene in season 1 with D'Angelo/Bodie/Wallace- that Poot would be the sole survivor from the Pit.

He tells Dukie that the manager isn't hiring anyone under 17 but tells him to come back. I love how the show ties in everything and we have some closure to Poot's storyline.

Dukie then after unsuccessfully trying to find another job, gets some money doing a rabbin'. Maybe, Dukie is going to be the new Bubbles?

Sydnor, after staring at a map, begins to realize what the time on the clocks stand for. It refers to geographic locales (complete with latitude and longitude spots)- and now that they know that Cheese is a part of Marlo's organization, it all makes perfect sense to Freamon. Also, Freamon realizes someone else besides Marlo and his crew are on this network. Little do they know it's their target from season 2- The Greeks.

Freamon, now has his case against Marlo and the walls are about to come tumbling down for the Stanfield crew. And now, with detectives being pulled to work on Freamon's case, (and they're getting paid handsomely and have good vehicles to drive) along with the fake serial killer story- Freamon has all the manpower he needs. This is going to be everything Freamon wanted it to be.

Carcetti, is using this serial killer story to his full advantage and is furthering his push for governor. The candlelight vigil was a means to make him look good. Do I think Carcetti wants to catch the guy who is killing the homeless? Yes. I think his intentions are genuine but like a good politician, he cannot help but play the game. And if he can look good in the process, while snaring the criminal, he will definitely take it.

McNulty, on the other hand, seems close to falling over the edge. He can no longer keep on furthering this lie. When he bullshits his way through the Comstat meet with the police brass and Carcetti- he seems shell-shocked that he's able to keep this up.

Which is why Jimmy tells Kima- and her reaction, is pure disgust. She cannot go along with McNulty and Freamon's plan. It offends her in every way- and she states that she cannot be good with this. And so she declines having a part in any of this.

Then later, Jimmy tells Beadie when she leaves with her kids for a bit. He tells her that the serial killer doesn't exist and that he created it solely to bring down Marlo. But now, it's just too much for him. While, Jimmy seems sincere and remorseful, it's a case of too little, too late. Beadie, who is already angry with him, hears this revelation and it seems she's done with him. It was the final nail in the coffin of their relationship.

Freamon seems to continue his pursuit of Clay Davis with trying to make the case federal. He has the evidence to bring Clay down but it appears the Feds are not intested in taking the case, since Bond and the city bungled everything.

The more I think about, every one of the characters in THE WIRE prequels that was filmed this season (Omar, Prop Joe, McNulty) is a doomed character. Two have died and if all goes according to pattern, McNulty will be the next one to fall.

To conclude with Omar, it's a testament to Michael K. Williams' acting and the writing- that this character was so revolutionary. He broke barriers and no matter your homophobia or your particular walk of life- everyone respected and liked Omar. He was never a stereotype. He was a character that you had to respect and pay attention for. We may never see a character this groundbreaking in a long time.

After reading some articles about Omar's death, I didn't realize how far back the foreshadowing went. In season 3, Omar's crew had a shootout at a Barksdale stash house (in the episode, "Dead Soldiers"). One of Omar's people, Tosha, got hit by friendly fire during the shootout. When Bunk arrives at the crime scene, he sees kids pretending to be Omar's crew. And one of the boys says, "Yo! My turn to be Omar!"

That kid just so happened to be Kenard. The irony is downright poetic.

It's fascinating. Omar breaks his word to Bunk and puts his name on the street as the one murdering Stanfield muscle. This in turn, causes Kenard to pop the guy he has spent his childhood mimicking in the head. I think Omar was just an infamous name to Kenard until he saw him in the last episode. And when he saw him, he was not too impressed by the hobbling gunslinger.

What I love, is that this series does not glamorize Omar even though some of THE WIRE fans have. Omar is ultimately not a hero- the audience (including myself) root for him and want him to succeed. But at the heart of the matter, he is just another symptom of the drug trade. He does have his code but like Bunk explained in season 3, that code cannot make up for Omar's violence.

The way that Omar was disposed of was the only ending you could possibly do for a character like that. Having a over-hyped battle in the streets with Marlo at high noon is not THE WIRE.

The game is the game. Omar is dead but the game goes on. Nothing changes. And that's the sad fact here. No one is bigger than the institution.

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