The Wolf at the Door

Omar: “Y’all need to open this door now before I huff and puff. Come on, now, by the hairs of your chinny-chin-chin.”

At the start of “Game Day,” Stringer describes Omar as a modern Robin Hood who steals from the rich dealers and gives to the poor fiends. By the end of the episode, however, Omar proves to align with a very different character type. When he strolls into Prop Joe’s shop bearing a bag of Avon’s heroin as an offering, he tells Joe “we free.” Suddenly, this seemingly-noble folk hero is stealing from the rich and giving to the rich. Not exactly the socialist equalizer he is made out to be.

In fact, this entire episode highlights the dark side of the Omar mystique. His purpose is not equality, nor is it social justice. He is out for revenge, pure and simple. Even his supposed generosity is just a way to get the locals to protect him. It is easy to miss, because Omar is not out for power or personal wealth, but in his single-minded crusade for revenge, he proves to be every bit as cutthroat of a businessman as Stringer.

This becomes clear when Joe suggests that he could simply take the product and throw Omar out. Omar has an answer ready: “Avon goes down, the projects be open market again, right?” Prop Joe responds by calling Omar “predatory,” showing a fearful admiration for this stickup boy’s mastery of vulture capitalism and the exacting laws of supply and demand.

In fact, Omar himself adopts the image of the predator earlier in the episode when he takes the drugs that he will later use to buy Avon’s pager number. He strolls into the lowrises, knowing exactly where the stash is and knowing the hoppers by name (his negotiations with Terrell even seem cordial). When the keepers of the stash make a futile attempt to scare him off,  Omar evokes a wholly different nursery rhyme: the three little pigs. Naturally, he sees himself as the Big Bad Wolf, and even though his prey hide behind brick, they are scared enough to drop the bag.

So which one is Omar, the Wolf at the door, or the merry Robin Hood?

Maybe he is a little of both. Maybe the line between the two is so thin that it sometimes becomes hard to tell them apart. Maybe part of the fun of Omar, part of his popularity, is that his charisma enables us to root for somebody who is entirely predatory while feeling like he is doing something noble. But it is also important not to be blinded by that charisma, by his whistle, his swagger and his British phrasing. Omar is no hero, even if he is fun to root for. He would never even claim to be a hero himself (which is just one more reason to like him).

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  1. Pingback: The Wire, "Game Day," Dumpsters and Garbage Bags | The Wire Blog

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