“The Wire” begins with one of the season’s more disturbing images: stickup boy Brandon’s dead body, horrifically mutilated and left on the hood of a car like a trophy buck for all of the residents of the low rises to see. It is a tough image to look at for even the most hardened of viewers, and the sadistic brutality of the murder will haunt many characters (most significantly Wallace, D’Angelo, Omar, and Daniels), motivating their actions for the rest of the season.
“The Pager” ends with the abduction of Omar’s boy Brandon. We never actually see the abduction itself, but it is suggested in Wee-Bey’s ominously-slow click of the handcuffs and the smirk of predatory anticipation on Bird’s face. It is confirmed in Stringer’s final phone call to D’Angelo, where he says “it’s done.” And while we never actually see the abduction or the murder, the chain of events that lead up to it and the results of those events will be impossible to ignore.
For his second heist, Omar and his crew take their act to the Eastside, partly because they want to lay low after Brandon called Omar out in the Lowrise rip, and partly for some easy pickings. This stickup is the opposite of the first one in every way. This one is in broad daylight, with not a shot fired, nobody hurt, and there is very little in terms of pre-rip reconnaissance. What both raids do have in common (other than the fact that Omar walks away with the stash) is the way Omar exploits a common trait among corner boys: a sort of warped childishness.
Judge Phelan: When you start coming with the customers it’s time to get out of the business.
McNulty: You shouldn’t talk dirty now that you’re a judge.
Judge Phelan: Now that I’m a judge I can say anything I damn please.
When the newly-minted Judge Phelan summons McNulty to his chambers in Episode 1.1, “The Target,” it initiates The Wire’s big bang. This scene is the single point that explodes into the Barksdale investigation, rippling out into life-altering consequences for dozens of people on both sides of the law. So it is a fitting time for Judge Phelan to give his self-destructive friend an important lesson, both directly and indirectly, on the nature of power.