D’Angelo: I’m saying, this nigger was coming at me like, like he was trying to end me.
Avon: This ain’t about him. It’s about you. You can’t play him out of that lobby. You can’t take a beating neither. So the first thing you do, you get all emotional. You pull your gun out. You do some dumb shit that now we gotta work around.
In some ways, The Wire’s real instigator is Pooh Blanchard, a man who, like Snot, we never actually see alive. We never learn what affront, real or perceived, caused him to go after an armed and terrified D’Angelo. Either way, the murder triggers the trial which triggers the conversation between McNulty and Phelan which then triggers the investigation and all that comes with it.
But Pooh’s murder also serves another purpose: during D’Angelo’s welcome home party, Avon scolds his recently-acquitted nephew, a conversation that lays out some important aspects of The Game, most notably D’Angelo’s inability to play it. This scolding (more paternal than avuncular) is clearly a regular occurrence. “I gotta start thinking more,” D’Angelo says “you be saying that all the time and you right.” This is not the first time Avon has had to keep his nephew in line, and D’Angelo’s weak admission suggests that it won’t be the last.
The problem is that thought and emotion are not always compatible, especially in a moment of panic like the one D’Angelo experienced in the lobby of the 221 building in front of all of those witnesses. Sitting in the comfort of the VIP section at Orlando’s, it is easy for D’Angelo to see what he should have done (and even easier for Avon). But reality doesn’t always provide time to consider. The players who survive The Game are the ones who can make the right moves even when they don’t have the luxury of time, and in spite of D’Angelo’s assurances and promises, Avon seems to have little confidence in his nephew’s judgment.
D’Angelo tells the story as if killing Pooh was a necessary and justified act of self defense (“he was gonna end me”). Avon, however, lays out the two other possible moves, moves which D’Angelo, in his “emotional” state never considered: take the beating or “play” Pooh into the lobby, where he had people who could help him out. Avon is like a football coach going over game tape and chiding his rookie quarterback for throwing an ill-advised interception, but the problem goes deeper than a single play. It’s not that D’Angelo made the wrong choice; it’s that he didn’t even see that there was a choice to begin with.
Now let me hear your interpretations, questions and comments…
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