The Pager as Monolithic Celebrity

The foundation of your case, Detective–Pearlman

After a month of grappling with Daniels, exhausting other investigation strategies, and trudging through a swamp of paperwork, McNulty finally gets his pager. It is an exciting turning point in the investigation. The pager promises a glimpse into the secret communication techniques of the Barksdale crew, marking the first real access they will have to such privileged information.

Bodie Takes Down a Camera

D’Angelo: You’re never gonna hit it, man.
Bodie: Bomb! Housing must think we just dumb.

There is a constant use of surveillance camera shots throughout the The Wire. Taken together, they create the unsettling feeling that we are always being watched. Big Brother is alive and well in Baltimore. So one of the series’ most satisfying and enduring images is the one where Bodie uses a rock to take down a camera set up by the Housing Department to monitor the lowrise courtyard. It is an iconic shot, one that earned a spot in the opening credits for all five seasons of The Wire. We watch from the perspective of the camera, powerless to stop that rock from shattering the lens and destroying its recording capabilities.

1.4: How the Detail got its Clone

Any savvy television viewer must have known from the beginning that it would come to this. All of the talk of buy-bust coming down from Burrell and Daniels had to amount to nothing, and Jimmy McNulty, who fancies himself the smartest guy in the room, had to be vindicated. After all, the season is 13 episodes long, so the audience sees any talk of finishing the case in “a few weeks” as nothing more than wishful thinking from bureaucrats who desperately hope to return to their comfortable status quo. But the show is called The Wire. Sooner or later, there was going to be some telephonic surveillance.

1.3: Omar Storms In

You see that?–Omar

There is a long history of classic literary heroes getting introduced a good way into the work. In The Great Gatsby, for example, the hero is mentioned in the title, and constantly throughout the first few chapters, but we don’t lay eyes on him until he appears without warning in the middle of chapter three. Similarly, Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab doesn’t appear until the Pequod is on the open sea, even if his spirit haunts the book from page one.

1.2: Details Big and Small

By Peter Honig

“Yeah, I could tell”—Kima

“The Detail” follows the eponymous squad through its infancy stage, and up to its first clumsy steps (as well as its first time falling on its face). All of the foundational elements are there: they get their home, they lock down the full roster of personnel (for better or worse) and they have their first organizational meeting, complete with a division into pairs of partners and a basic investigation strategy. This is all accompanied by the perhaps-too-appropriate sounds of flushing toilets and confused maintenance men.

1.1: The Watchers’ Puzzles

By Peter Honig

After our first walk through the garden, we are dropped into a surprising first-person shot. We are a security guard in the courthouse, looking down at a partially-completed newspaper crossword puzzle (with a second crossword waiting on deck), and a small black-and-white video monitor showing the image of two men entering the courthouse. The camera shifts to the objective perspective and we see McNulty and Bunk walk by in actual size and living color. McNulty and Bunk recount the Snotboogie story with the easy familiarity of men who are partners, friends and equals. The camera shift also allows us to see that our perspective from the first shot is that of an aging white security guard.