How Landsman Earned His Stripes

Landsman: Hey, McNulty, there’s something here that needs kissing!
McNulty: Yeah, speak again, oh toothless one.
Landsman: I guess you know now why I wear the stripes in the family.
McNulty: Good call Jay.

Landsman has a lot to gloat about in “The Pager.” The lab results come back from the shell casing that McNulty and Bunk pulled from the scene of Diedre Kresson’s murder, and as it turns out, it  matches the gun used in two other drug murders that link to the Barksdales. Landsman is the one who saw the connection in the first place. McNulty fought him, claiming that the link to the name “Dee” was weak, so now he has to kiss some ass. The Bawdy Landsman is thrilled to cash in this, literally. He drops his pants and mocks McNulty, asserting that it is this ability to connect cases that justifies his venerable position as Sergeant.

McNulty concedes the point. He has no choice, especially since Landsman also offers him a ticket out of Rawls’ doghouse. But apparently, Landsman’s power is limited, because in the next scene, McNulty reads the information about the three-man assassination of Omar’s accomplice John Bailey. He confronts Landsman who missed this link. “You made the connection with Kresson, you didn’t think Bailey might tie in with Barksdale’s crew?” Landsman’s reply is logical. “Worden’s on the other shift. I’m trying to work my murders.”

If Landsman is the “toothless one” of the homicide department, it seems that ancient wisdom is limited to cases that fall to the men in his squad. The problem is that this creates a clear division between “my murders” and “their murders.” In this light, his ability to make the first connection is not so much a sign of his skill as a detective as it is a sign of his skill as a self-protective bureaucrat, which is the real reason why he wears the stripes.

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