Wallace Collects His Reward

D’Angelo: So, what you going to do with your money? You know what you should do? You should take the whole roll and do something nice for your girl. You do have a girl, right?
Wallace: (shrugs)
D’Angelo: Well anyway, you’ve got enough money to go get yourself one now.

“The Wire” is the episode that really solidifies the bond between Wallace and D’Angelo. Up to this point, their relationship took the form of a strict boss/employee dynamic. There were moments where D’Angelo seemed to favor Wallace, the most sensitive of the pit boys (such as when Bodie threw the bottle, or when teaching Wallace how to play chess), but nothing to show that they could become closer.

Now, though, with their shared complicity in Brandon’s murder, the relationship evolves into more of a mentor/protege dynamic. It starts when D’Angelo tries to help Wallace let go of the guilt in the immediate aftermath of the murder. D’Angelo’s concern for Wallace’s mental state becomes even more evident later on, when they receive their piece of the bounty.

We have been hearing about this bounty since “Old Cases,” and now we see Avon divvy up the promised $2,000 evenly. Wallace and D’Angelo get $500 apiece for the “scope” and the “relay,” respectively. Bird and Wee-Bey split the last $1,000 for “muscling up.” From Avon’s perspective, this is a fair distribution for what turned out to be a team effort. Everybody is equally responsible, he seems to say. The problems is, there are a couple of ways to define the word “responsible.”

Wallace clearly defines the word from an ethical perspective. The reward is a concrete representation that puts a dollar value on his guilt. The fact that he receives the same amount as the men who actually did the murder shows that he bears an equal level of culpability (at least in the eyes of Avon).  As Avon and Stringer walk off, D’Angelo looks at Wallace and sees an expression that says that this reward is anything but. It merely piles a new layer of guilt on a burden that already threatens to crush his young soul.

So at the end of the episode, D’Angelo once again tries to play the mentor, and he does so with some familiar advice. In “The Buys,” when Stringer gives D’Angelo his bonus, he advises him to get something nice for himself, and D’Angelo promptly uses the money to woo Shardene. D’Angelo reveals a lot about the mentor/protege relationship when he passes on the same advice to Wallace.

First, he shows compassion as he attempts to take Wallace’s mind off of the guilt. He encourages Wallace to transfer both his energy and wealth to a more pleasing outlet–women. Unfortunately, Wallace ends up spending it on a much more harmful vice. But the other thing it shows is that D’Angelo considers Stringer to be a sort of mentor. He values the advice Stringer gave him enough to pass it on to his own underling. This elevates D’Angelo to the position of the mentor, which means that he is on Stringer’s level (at least in this limited context). Unfortunately, the business-minded Stringer has shown little capacity for the ability to mentor on an ethical or personal level. Wallace needs an ethical mentor, but D’Angelo is only capable of financial advice, because that is all his mentor Stringer is capable of. Which pretty much means that, when it comes to his guilt, Wallace is all on his own.

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