Choking on Horseradish

He gives a fuck now!–D’Angelo

“Lessons” marks our first glimpse at D’Angelo as a member of a social group within the Barksdale organization. To this point, the focus has been to the older generation (Avon and Stringer) or the younger generation (the Pit boys). But when Stinkum, Wee-Bey, and Savino roll into the Pit and snatch D’Angelo to go an an unannounced “beef run,” we finally get a look at how the young Barksdale interacts with his peers. The episode features two social settings (the roast beef lunch and the party at Little Man’s later that night) that show how uneasy D’Angelo is in his social world. Then, the next day, there is one wrenching encounter where that discomfort transforms into a broader discomfort with his role in the drug game and the world into which he was born.

Orlando’s Indecent Proposal

D’Angelo: Let me think on it, all right?

Orlando: Finally get some ends for us, you see what I’m saying?

Orlando has always been one of my least favorite characters from The Wire. I’m not sure if it’s the hair, the way he tries to worm in on the Barksdale business, or the way he plays off of D’Angelo’s insecurities about his place in the corporate hierarchy. Or maybe it is the fact that he is responsible for one, if not both, of the season’s great tragedies. He just feels like a phony, a weak man who is trying to become a player in a game he doesn’t understand.

Wallace Collects His Reward

D’Angelo: So, what you going to do with your money? You know what you should do? You should take the whole roll and do something nice for your girl. You do have a girl, right?
Wallace: (shrugs)
D’Angelo: Well anyway, you’ve got enough money to go get yourself one now.

“The Wire” is the episode that really solidifies the bond between Wallace and D’Angelo. Up to this point, their relationship took the form of a strict boss/employee dynamic. There were moments where D’Angelo seemed to favor Wallace, the most sensitive of the pit boys (such as when Bodie threw the bottle, or when teaching Wallace how to play chess), but nothing to show that they could become closer.

Life on the Rigged Wire

 

When you picked up that phone, what did you think they was gonna do?–D’Angelo

As I mentioned earlier this week, I see “The Wire” as the essential episode of the series, and so I thought this would be a good time to discuss the shared title. “The Wire” is a literal reference to the investigation technique used by the detectives, and it draws particular focus to the superiority of complex surveillance over traditional buy/bust methods of investigation. This superiority is suggested in some of the other possible meanings of the word–a wire as a conduit for information, or a medium of connectivity.

D’Angelo Gets Dressed

Shardene: No woman takes that long
D’Angelo: Yeah, but I look good, right?

Early on in “The Wire,” we get our first look inside of D’Angelo’s apartment as he gets ready for another day of work. This is the third time in the past two episodes where we see character getting ready for the day, and D’Angelo seems to have the most traditional domestic arrangement of the three. He has a spacious living room, fully-stocked and functioning kitchen, and two closets packed full of clothes, many of them still with the tags attached.

Stranded Somewhere Between Life and Death

Soon, though, soon.–Avon

If the first four episodes of The Wire are intentionally stingy with details on Avon’s personal life, “The Pager” lets it all out. First, there is the opening scene which portrays Avon as a prisoner of his own paranoia. Then, near the end of the episode, we get a rare glimpse into the Kingpin’s psyche. What we see is a chilling portrait of the deeply-rooted existential crisis that dominates his life.

Date Night at the Harbor

Acting like we belong down here, know what I’m saying?–D’Angelo

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is one of the clearest literary influences for The Wire. I teach literature, so I will grant that I am inclined to see correspondences with the books that I teach everywhere I look, but in this case, I can defend it pretty easily. The Gatsby connection informs the character arc of Season 3’s tragic hero, and it is explicitly discussed by another character in Season 2. But you can go all the way back to Season 1, Episode 5, “The Pager,” to see the first brilliant example of the way The Wire grapples with the fundamental challenges of the American dream that were introduced so compellingly in Gatsby.

1.3: Introduction to Drug Trade Capitalism

“This shit right here, Dee, it’s forever.”  Stringer

We get our first look at the Barksdale office in Orlando’s through the eyes of D’Angelo, who comes bearing a brown paper bag filled with a day’s worth of drug sales from the Pit. He walks up a flight of neon-lit stairs (where Stinkum stands guard and calls “Dee coming up”) and passes through the strippers’ dressing room into the heart of the Barksdale crew’s operations.

1.3: Chess as a Metaphor for Everything

By Peter Honig

“Chess is a metaphor for drug deals, Avon is the king and you’re the pawns.”–Larry Gillard Jr., reprising his role as D’Angelo Barksdale in The Wire: The Musical

The chess lesson from “The Buys” has become one of The Wire’s most iconic scenes. It is a brilliantly-scripted and -acted scene, one that actually serves as a double metaphor. D’Angelo uses the familiar world of the drug hierarchy to explain an alien and complex game to Bodie and Wallace. At the same time, Simon and Burns use this scene to explain the (presumably) alien drug game to their audience using the (presumably) familiar rules of chess. Call it a meta-metaphor.