An Early Rift in the Barksdale Empire

Avon: So what you think, homes?
Stringer: I’m thinking this is the worst part of the game here, man. Best we do is break out even, right?
Avon: What?
Stringer: I’m saying, this shit got personal. Ain’t nothing else to it.
Avon: So you talking about letting it slide.
Stringer: For a time, maybe.

If the scene where Avon and Barksdale promote Stinkum illustrates how seamlessly the partners work together, the shocking murder of that same newly-minted executive provides the first hint of the possibility of a rift between the two. Avon’s response to the news is instantaneous and fierce. He gathers all of his muscle into the office at Orlando’s (interestingly, D’Angelo is not at this meeting, and he doesn’t learn of Stinkum’s death until the next day) and diverts all of his into the hunt for Omar.

After everybody leaves to begin the search for Baltimore’s shotgun-toting phantom, Avon turns to Stringer for his thoughts. In a way, this is a purely symbolic, since Avon has already decided on his course of action and executed it with the dispatch of his entire army for a direct attack on Omar. But Stringer still speaks his mind, and as fits his more businesslike approach to the game, he sees it in terms that are more economic than military. “Best we do is break even,” he says, suggesting that this battle is no longer profitable for them. It has already cost them one of their top prospects, and it is a virtual certainty that Omar will go after other members of the crew.

Avon looks shocked to hear that Stringer is not on board with the hunt. “What?” he says, as if he doesn’t believe his ears. It is as if Avon never even considered that there was another way to handle the war with Omar. Avon’s violent response to Omar is purely emotional, a knee-jerk call for revenge that is born into the true gangster. Stringer obviously recognizes this, and tries to bring Avon back to a more balanced place. “Shit got personal,” he says, reminding Avon that they are here to run a business. Avon’s disgusted look makes it clear: in his world, the personal is business.

If this conflict hints at a rift between the partners, Stringer is too savvy to let it grow into anything perceptible. He backs down off of his suggestion that they ease up on the hunt, adding “maybe” as a rhetorical hedge. He then comes up with a strategy that can satisfy both partners. Act like they are backing off in the hopes of luring Omar out of hiding. Then they kill him. It is a mix of patience and violence, a nice middle ground for two men who work well together precisely because of their ability to find that ground. The problem is, both men need to be willing to take that step towards the other, and right now, Avon sees any compromise, even a compromise with his trusted partner, as an act of capitulation.

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