McNulty Makes his Bed

McNulty: (on phone) Yeah, I got that…I did…I know…you don’t know, what do you mean you don’t know?…For chrissakes, Elena, I’m their father. You think I’d let them sleep on the floor?…Yes, I got them…Sheets, pillows, comforters, pillowcases, I fuckin got them…Color? What the fuck do you care what color they are? Hello?…(hangs up)…lost her.
Kima: I bet.

While on the seemingly-endless stakeout of Omar’s van, Kima squirms with discomfort as she listens to McNulty angrily bicker with his ex-wife Elena over an upcoming visit from his children. Any such divorce negotiation must be uncomfortable for all involved, especially when they are a captive audience like Kima or, for that matter, the show’s viewers.

This conversation seems particularly frustrating, with Elena doubting McNulty’s ability to provide one of the most basic and essential needs: sleeping arrangements. Elena’s demand to know the color of the sheets seems obsessively-nitpicky, possibly even justification for calling her the word that McNulty never, technically, calls her. But when we next see McNulty, we see why she asked: she didn’t believe that he even has beds, not to mention “sheets, pillows, comforters, pillowcases.” She is right.

In a series of short segments, we watch McNulty haul in some prefabricated furniture bought from Ikea (along with the obligatory bottle of Jameson), and cheerily begin the task of building a room for his sons as he belts out some Irish drinking songs. But McNulty can barely set up his own sleeping arrangements. His bedroom contains nothing but a boxspring on the floor, a plastic chair and one dresser, with nothing on the walls. So as the scene progresses, and his ability to build beds for his sons decreases in reverse proportion to his drunkenness and frustration, it seems like yet another example of McNulty’s failure at fatherhood.

But he does get the room built in the end. Sadly, we only see this when it is too late. Elena takes the kids away so he can’t have them visit, and he ends up spending a quiet night alone in the room that he finally managed to successfully build. There is nothing sadder than the sight of a lonely man, crawling into the lower bunk of a boys’ bedroom, looking up at posters of planets and dinosaurs as he tries to fall asleep. By the time he got it right, it was too late to matter.

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