First day of school coming up, right? So you all need like school clothes and shit?–Monk
From my first viewing of The Wire Season 4, I have always been struck by just how quickly Simon and Co. make us care about the four boys. It is no easy task to drop four completely unknown characters into an already densely-populated world and expect the audience to connect to them.
And yet, by the time the boys step into Edward Tilghman Middle School to begin their Eighth Grade year, I already feel I know these boys, and I already feel invested in the paths that they will take over the next two seasons.
Wallace: I just don’t wanna play. I don’t wanna play no more, alright? I was thinking about going to school, over at Edmonson, ask if they’ll let me back in at the end of the semester.
D’Angelo: What grade?
D’Angelo: Ninth? Shit, you how old?
D’Angelo: 16, damn man, you supposed to be a junior by now.
More art than science–Freamon
I have already discussed several ways that “Lessons” explores the notion of how we learn and what we do with that knowledge, but the episode also addresses the issue of education from another perspective: the nature of intelligence. It is an old debate, one that echoes through the chambers of psychology departments and standardized testing companies. How do you measure a person’s intelligence? What skills or traits should we include in our definition of intelligence?
Teacher: Some key factors that affect the elasticity of demand are what? Mr. Bell.
Stringer: Desire, consumer need.
Teacher: Right, specifically the ability of a consumer to delay acquisition. What else?
First, McNulty almost loses his sons in his reckless pursuit of Stringer Bell. Then he tracks down the owner linked to the licence plate information they retrieved. Then he spends several days on a freelance stakeout. After all of this, McNulty ends up outside of a Macroeconomics class at Baltimore City Community College.
What’s this about, here?–Sarah
Episod 8, “Lessons,” is one of The Wire’s most conceptually-focused episodes. As its title suggests, it’s all about learning. This makes it a sort of early blueprint for the school-centered Season Four. And while this episode does a lot to advance the plot as Season 1 builds to the dramatic, catastrophic events of its final few episodes, there is always half an eye on the title of the episode. It is the concept album of The Wire, where nearly every scene features people learning or refusing to learn some lesson or another.
Herc: How are you home?
Bodie: Juvenile Judge, man, he saw my potential. He expects big things from me.
Herc: Yeah, like what?
Bodie: I don’t know, college, law school, medical school, all that good shit.
There is a lot of talk about promise and potential as Bodie clears up his legal troubles and finally comes home under a laughably-permissive home monitoring system. In the very first phone call that the detail officially monitors, Stringer asks D’Angelo if Bodie has enough “promise” to bring home. The real question is whether this hopper is talented enough to justify the expense and effort of having Levy get him out of jail.