The Wire almost always restricts itself to a straightforward form of storytelling that gives it a sense of journalistic realism. As a result, the few scenes that do stray off the linear narrative trail stand out so much. There are the notable examples like the five montages that serve as season-ending epilogues. There are some other early anomalies, like D’Angelo’s brief flashback at the end of “The Target” or Avon’s slow-mo, soundtracked trip to the Pit in “The Wire.”
This past Spring, David Simon sat down for a long, fascinating interview with Alan Sepinwall on how The Wire has been received in the four years since its finale. At the end of the interview, Sepinwall asked if there were any parts of the show that the audience did not properly understand, and Simon went right to the idea of corruption. He specifically mentioned Rawls and Burrell. These two bureaucratic titans consistently served as antagonists to the more independent-minded detectives like McNulty and Freamon. But that doesn’t make them corrupt.
Bill Rawls is a fierce major, one who strikes fear in the hearts of both his underlings and his equals. Major Forrester says he is “as ruthless a fuck as we have in this department” and refuses to challenge him. Rawls is vengeful and aggressive, and he knows how to play the game, which is probably how he became a major in the first place.