D’Angelo: We doing good. We doing good, you know, if you say we doing good.
One of the most maddeningly-frustrating moments of Season 1 is when Avon makes a surprise visit to the pit with Stringer and Stinkum in tow, and I’m not just talking about the odd slow-mo entrance and seventies-style synthesizer music. It is a rare moment of a king coming down from his castle to walk amongst the people. He looks around as low-level hoppers serve their hungry clientele, and it seems to be a world away from the office in Orlando’s, with its giant safe and security monitors.
In part, he is here to watch the way D’Angelo set up his shop. Perhaps he wants to get a look at the place that has been causing him such trouble and see how it runs for himself. Avon asks how things are running, and D’Angelo gives the perfectly non-committal response of an underling who knows his place: “We doing good, you know, if you say we doing good.” Business aside, the official purpose of the visit is to give the bounty money to D’Angelo and Wallace, $500 each for the scope and the relay on Brandon. Avon is taking a risk coming into the pit. It is the closest we ever see him to an actual, functioning drug operation, especially since he is here to give payouts for a murder committed at his command.
That is why the end of the scene is so frustrating. We cut to see Santangelo on the roof that overlooks the pit, taking a piss. With an unlit cigarette between his lips, he strolls lazily back to his post just as Avon, Stringer and Stinkum get in their car and drive off. The camera hangs impotent in Santangelo’s hand. He is probably not even aware that he missed anything. It is one of those “what if” moments, where we imagine how damning the pictures he could have taken could have been. Here is Avon, walking into a known drug market, conferring with the man the police know is running it. Worse, they hand money to two of the people. With all of the slow, painstaking progress the detail has been making, here is a missed opportunity to make some big gains.
It is easy to blame Santangelo for this, especially since he has proven to be a lazy cop, a man whose heart isn’t in the case. But in fairness, he was just tending to a necessary bodily function. This scene seems like another example of what happens when you are “a little slow,” but what it really shows is how much an investigation like this comes down to pure luck. Just as with Brandon’s murder itself, where they were up on the wire a day too late to get the whole thing on tape, it shows that along with the grueling work and heavy political negotiations, a major case sometimes just comes down to a lucky break or an unlucky pissbreak.