D’Angelo: Let me think on it, all right?
Orlando has always been one of my least favorite characters from The Wire. I’m not sure if it’s the hair, the way he tries to worm in on the Barksdale business, or the way he plays off of D’Angelo’s insecurities about his place in the corporate hierarchy. Or maybe it is the fact that he is responsible for one, if not both, of the season’s great tragedies. He just feels like a phony, a weak man who is trying to become a player in a game he doesn’t understand.
In “One Arrest,” he marches into the Pit to bring a business proposal to D’Angelo. The groundwork for this scene was laid a few episodes earlier, when the pair discussed Stinkum’s promotion with the envy of two underlings who feel snubbed when a more-talented peer moves up the ladder. They see it as an injustice, and never bother to consider that Stinkum earned his points on the package with initiative and the ability to scout new opportunities.
In that earlier scene, Orlando seems to deliberately stoke D’Angelo’s envy, and in this scene we learn why. Orlando presents D’Angelo with an opportunity that has disaster written all over it. He has a “connect” from New Orleans, and he wants to buy weight that D’Angelo can then sell out of the Pit. It is a sign of D’Angelo’s naivete that he is even willing to “think on it.” The plan is such an obvious risk in the way it crosses Avon. In the world of the crew, selling product on the side is downright treasonous.
But there is something even worse about the plan, and it has to do with Orlando’s motivation. He describes this deal as a way to “finally get some ends for us.” As he sees it, both he and D’Angelo are being exploited by Avon, working hard for not enough pay while others move past them. He wants independence, the ability to work for himself (which, interestingly, is the same phrase Avon uses when he promotes Stinkum).
The problem is, the plan only has the illusion of independence. They still need Avon to financially back Orlando’s club, and they still need Avon’s territory and hoppers to move the product. Orlando is like the teenager who thinks that his new driver’s licence gives him freedom. He willfully ignores the fact that he still has to live off of the generosity of their parents. He doesn’t realize, to paraphrase a hated childhood cliche, slinging is a privilege, not a right.