There are times when Bubbles seems like the show’s best detective. This is especially the case when Kima tracks Omar’s van to the most remote corners of Baltimore based on Bubbles’ eagle-eyed scope. A little later on, McNulty describes a similar power in the hands and eyes of a good CI when he reminisces about a former snitch of his named Reuben Terry. “Saw the street like we wish we could.” These fiends live on the street, and that unique perspective gives them an observational superiority over even the best detectives.
But there is one thing that Bubbles and Terry will always lack: patience. This scene shows that with an Arrested Development-style reveal. After a short conversation between McNulty and Kima (cars facing opposite directions like any patrol officer knows), the camera pulls back to show Bubbles. He was been there the whole time, sleeping away and unaware of McNulty’s presence. Spotting the van is one thing, but the real police work demands waiting around for hours on end on the mere hope of getting some fragment of information. In fact, in the quote above, Bubbles himself links his inability to endure boredom with his need to get high.
Maybe this is why a detective is only as good as his or her CI. Detectives are unwanted aliens in the world they investigate, and this makes them blind to many of the crucial geography and culture of that world. Bubbles and Reuben Terry, on the other hand, know everything about the street because their insatiable need for a high demands that level of knowledge. Unfortunately, that same need makes them ill-equipped to handle the boredom and monotony of the real police work, the dull waiting needed to convert that knowledge into action. But a good detective together with a good CI can be a powerful combination, one capable of both seeing and waiting and ultimately (hopefully) taking quality action.
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