McNulty: I know. We will.
The scene in the morgue, where Omar says his final farewell to Brandon, is one of the most emotionally excruciating of the season. The scene parallels the earlier morgue scene from “The Detail”, especially as they both begin with a shot of the corpse appearing upside down. But this version is much more emotional and far more personal.
We see Brandon in black and white as Doc Frasier’s hands slowly remove the sheet to reveal the tortured corpse. It is a rare that The Wire gives us such a blatantly subjective shot, one that distorts the reality of time and color. It puts us into Omar’s mind, as the unreal sight of his lover’s mutilated body presents itself as an actuality. The silence of the moment gives a sense of disbelief (one that vaguely suggests the grieving Vito Corleone’s visit to the morgue, and his despairing “look how they massacred my boy.”), as if the extremity of the torture is too much to comprehend right away.
This makes what happens next even more jarring. Omar’s reaction is an incredible combination of grief and rage piled on top of sheer disgust at the horrible excess of the murder. We see this in the way Omar kisses Brandon, in McNulty’s obvious discomfort with bearing witness to such a personal moment, in the long shot of the otherwise-empty morgue that emphasizes the helplessness and loss, in the way Omar thumps his head with his fists as if to fight back the volcano of emotion that threatens to erupt, and finally, in the savage roar that echoes out through the chambers of the building.
What makes the scene so devastating is the sudden cut back to the McNulty boys, sitting sleepily outside with their video game and soccer ball. It is a school night for them, as Michael reminded his father, but they wait patiently. It is hard to say if they realize where their father has taken them or why. The entire scene plays out over the faint sounds of an Orioles game and the electronic sound effects of Michael’s video game. The horror of the world within the morgue and the boredom of the mundanity of the world without come together at the moment of Omar’s yell and the simultaneous cut to a surveillance-camera perspective shot of the stray soccer ball rolling into view.
The rest of the world goes on with its games, but there are always terrors waiting to drown out these childish diversions, mercilessly forcing their way into even the most innocent consciousness.