Burning Trace Evidence

McNulty: Hey Bunk, I’ll give you that burning trace evidence makes sense, but what the fuck did you plan to wear home?
Bunk: Huh? Aw, shit….Hey Jimmy, you know something? You’re no good for people, man. I mean, damn. Everybody around you…Christ.

One of The Wire’s most reliable sources of comedy is drunkenness, especially the champion barstool tag-team of McNulty and Bunk. They have many odd and hilarious drunken moments, but it is hard to get funnier than Bunk in a pink bathrobe (his second time wearing pink this episode), mumbling about “trace evidence” as McNulty tucks his barely-coherent partner into the same bunk bed he originally (and futilely) built for his sons.

The Theory of Code Relativity

You gonna at least give me a fair chance, right?–Bird

“One Arrest” begins with an illustration of literal codes and ends with a meditation of metaphorical codes. In the opening scene, Prez and Freamon walk us through the power of language to serve as a unifying force, both on a macro and micro level. Codes enable two or more people to communicate through the medium of (openly or tacitly) agreed upon meanings for certain words. So, when one person says the word “turtle,” it is generally accepted that any hearer will understand those letters or sounds to mean “a slow-moving reptile protected by a large shell on its back” (assuming the hearer speaks the same macro-language as the speaker).

1.4: Zen Murder Investigation

“Fuck”–McNulty, Bunk

Season One’s fourth episode is titled “Old Cases,” but I have never been sure why that is plural. There is one clear “old case” that runs through the episode–the six-month-old Dierdre Kresson murder. There are a few other cases that get mentioned, like the one that gets Freamon kicked out of Homicide or the stack of cases that seem to be linked to the Barksdale organization. But none of them loom as large as the Kresson case does through the entire episode.

1.2: The Three Versions of William Gant

By Peter Honig

A version of this piece was originally published on Wirefans.com

The opening scene of The Wire‘s second episode, “The Detail,” marks the transition point between two aspects of William Gant’s murder. We have gone from the scene of the murder, where D’Angelo has his guilty epiphany, to the morgue, where McNulty and Bunk discuss the possible causes for and ramifications of the killing. This transition illustrates the two worlds that come together around any murder. They are like the two hemispheres of the brain, each one controlling its own half of the body and its own unique set of cognitive functions—the emotional, intuitive right brain and the rational, logical left.

1.1: Pests in the Crosshairs

“I lit his ass up.” —Bunk

In the rapidly-shifting contexts of The Wire, it is sometimes hard to tell whether a character is the king or a scurrying rodent. The title of the first episode, “The Target,” suggests a similar level of complexity. There is a clear literal meaning to the title (Avon, who becomes the target of the new, reluctantly-formed detail), but a close examination of all the episode’s targets shows that there is more to it than just taking aim.

1.1: Playing Out Of Turn

By Peter Honig

“…two noble, selfless public servants.” Landsman

One of The Wire’s most distinctive structural features is its use of epigraphs to open each episode. At the end of the opening credits, a short quote from the episode appears on the screen. This sets up a simple game along the lines of Alfred Hitchcock’s cameos: find the epigraph in the episode. But the epigraph also enables The Wire to convey several things with the same line. This is because the line’s first appearance, set against a black screen, is completely decontextualized, and therefore invites a more abstract, conceptual interpretation (some more clear than others). It is only when the line comes up in the episode that it becomes a concrete piece of the plot.