1.4: McNulty’s One True Addiction


Landsman: At this point, I got nothing to do but think about the problems of Jimmy McNulty. Because clearly, this guy and his fuckin’ problems are standing between me and all worldly pleasure.
Rawls: Clearly.
Landsman: First of all, it’s not Jimmy’s fault… Jimmy is an addict, sir.
Rawls: What’s he addicted to?
Landsman: Himself

The Wire spends a lot of time focusing on McNulty’s status within the police department, and specifically his status in the Homicide Division. That is why Rawls so often appears to be his nemesis. From our introduction to Rawls, he plays the role of the classic superior officer who is constantly exasperated by a headstrong subordinate. In this conversation, McNulty’s sergeant, Landsman, intervenes on his behalf. It is likely that this intervention comes on the heels of McNulty’s willingness to work back on the Kresson case, but it takes on a life of its own with the help of Landsman’s unique brand of poetry.

The big man enters Rawls’ office, sits down and, as he plays with some paperclips, he unfolds a graphic tale of a failed attempt at masturbation. In the heat of his passion, he describes becoming suddenly overcome with his concerns over the future of Jimmy McNulty. While the story is humorous, it also shows how omnipresent this job is in the consciousness of all of the detectives. For Landsman, the reality of the job prevents him from indulging in his fantasy. Or, to put it another way, the intensity with which McNulty loves himself interferes with Landsman’s ability to, so to speak, love himself.

Maybe this is the real reason why he speaks up for McNulty, who is similarly obsessed with the job. Landsman describes this in terms of an addiction, and that makes sense. If McNulty is so good at the job (and he is, as Landsman proves when he describes McNulty’s excellent record in Homicide), then his obsession with the job is really an obsession with himself when he is at his best. “He can’t help it. It makes him an asshole, I know, but it also makes him good police.” It is the great paradox for a commander like Rawls, whose best men in terms of talent are the worst in terms of personality. The question is, how much McNulty can Rawls take before he ODs.

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  1. Pingback: The Wire, "One Arrest," McNulty Sobers Up | The Wire Blog

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