Problems With Word Problems

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.

Wallace Falls into Darkness

Poot: Wallace been fucked up. Since they got that stickup boy, you know? Put him on the car like that. Wallace all quiet and shit. Don’t even come out his room some days.

Wallace is arguably the central figure in Episode 6, “The Wire, but he is virtually absent from Episode 7. Before we even see him, we hear about him in a short conversation between Bodie and Poot. From Poot’s description, Wallace’s inability to leave his room sounds like a symptom of depression or PTSD, but the more direct term “fucked up” seems to work well too. His friends are concerned about his absence, although each one is concerned for a different reason. Poot is worried about the well-being of his friend and roommate while Bodie seems to be more suspicious of a perceived weakness.

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.

The Man of the Vacant House

That’s him. You see?–Poot

“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.

Wallace and Brandon go Half-Blind

I’m the king of this shit!–Brandon

“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.