S1E12, Part Two.
“This is me, yo, right here.”
*D’Angelo won’t give up Wallace to Stringer and Avon because he thinks he’s not a threat, and here, verbatim, is the note I write: “Man, D is wrong about EVERYTHING. He’s so out of his league.” We’ll come back to this later in this episode, but the more time I spend watching D’Angelo, the more I see him as one of the hugest tragedies of the series: he’s born into a situation that could not be more wrong for his talents and personality, but he’s almost slavishly devoted to trying to succeed within that situation.
*And then…Wallace is back. The first of many “oh fuck” moments in this episode. It’s hard to watch. He couldn’t stay in the countryside, and he wants to get back in the game. And it hurts, and it breaks your heart, (a) because you know that he’s screwed, but also (b) because he, like D’Angelo, is in no way cut out for this life. But he’s not cut out for the country either, and now we’re into the tragedy of the Baltimore situation – if there as some other plan for Wallace, some other option that fit him, he’d take it, and he’d get to live out his childhood like a middle-class kid would – but this is his option. This is all that’s really even appealing to him – he’s got to get back in the game. And you know what? If Wee-Bey was his mentor, he wouldn’t even get a shot. If Avon or Stringer had the decision to make, this kid wouldn’t even be part of the Barksdale operation. But D sees something in him, and normally it would be great to have someone who sees something in you, but D’s a disaster himself who can’t even tell that he should be in another business – so he thinks he’s helping Wallace by putting him back on the money. And in the ongoing tragedy that is D’s life, this moment rings out with irony and pain and misgivings: D wants Wallace to walk away from it all, and in his attempt to talk Wallace out of it, takes him under his metaphorical arm and says “let’s walk,” trying desperately to be what he sees himself as, which is the heir to Avon or String – but he’s not. He’s just not. Nothing that the big boys (and let’s agree that the big boys, so far, are Avon, String, and Bey) can get away with saying or doing works for D, but man, he’s going to try his best to make those clothes fit.
*And oh fuck number two: the cops are all standing around the table, talking about how the female security guard from way back in episode one has been shot, and realizing that it’s the Barksdales coming back on everyone who could possibly have something on them with the police, and it’s Bunk who says what they’re all instantly thinking: “what about the boy?” Now, let’s put aside for a second the symmetry of that statement and the spectacular scene we’re going to see later (“where’s the boy, String?”), and instead focus on looking forward to what we don’t know is going to happen at this point (and yeah, one spoiler here for this season and one hint beyond): Bunk is going to be the one to find Wallace, for one. But that’s a small thing. What’s larger is that the reason they forgot about Wallace was that Kima’s shooting pushed him out of everyone’s mind, meaning that he, much like Bubs (who was left alone when Kima couldn’t meet him with the cash), Wallace is an indirect massive casualty of the poorly-planned Kima debacle. Even with the best laid plans, even when you’ve got the witness who can put Stringer Bell away and cripple the Barksdale Clan, you’ve got to be able to cover all your details at all times. If you can’t someone, someone falls through the cracks. Just like we’ll see with Randy in season four (another complete heartbreaker scene), the construction of the system and the overwhelming demands of the real world almost ensure that some important detail (usually someone’s life) will be left to slide into the abyss.
*We’re back to D and Wallace “walking,” and D’Angelo lets Wallace know that when you’re in the game, you’ve got to stay in the game for life. And the irony of it all (minor spoiler for the end of this season into the next) is that D ultimately can’t take his own advice – he’ll end up trying to get out and then jumping back in too. For Wallace, the appeal of the game isn’t the game – it’s the community: “I guess this is home.” And the heartbreaker, for me, is the line from this episode’s title card: “This shit? This is me, yo, right here.“ It’s impossible to deny. The pit, and Baltimore, and the world of the Barksdales – it’s all Wallace, and it’s all terrible for Wallace, and he’s just not cut out for the only world in which he has the realistic opportunity to live.
*We get our first real good glimpse of Clay Davis in action, as he lays out the political chain of command for Daniels and Burrell, trying to kill the paper trail investigation before it digs into the sources of his campaign contributions. It’s a tiny scene that wouldn’t be worth mentioning if it didn’t illustrate the weight that can be laid on the police force from above, really setting up seasons three and four (and introducing the fundraising concept, which is important to Carcetti’s entire rise to power).
*”Wallace is out of pocket. Two days.” Oh fuck.
*The first time you watch the series, there’s no way to know what Bodie will become (and I’m fighting the urge to say a lot more about that right now, but we’ve got time with him – minor spoiler there, I guess), but you can pinpoint the moment when he becomes it: when Stringer pulls him into his car and asks if Bodie is “built for this.” And it’s clear that Bodie will do absolutely anything for Stringer and Avon, because that’s his family – and nah, not family. Stringer doesn’t call Bodie “son.” He calls him “soldier.” And you can see Bodie melt. It’s clear what he’s being asked to do. Poot and Wallace are like his family, but this is larger. This is the army coming to call. And all Bodie has ever really wanted is to be part of that army.
*Wallace feeds the kids Chinese food. Poot looks on with legitimate love. He knows what’s coming. And even then, Wallace is taking new kids into the fold. In this fucked up community, Wallace is a caregiver, which means that not only is his impending doom a personal tragedy, but it’s the further disintegration of one of the few functioning family units that we see.
*Santangelo on Rawls: “I gave him his clearance. What’s he gonna do?” Just keep that in mind when you watch the season closing montage next episode.
*Wallace to Bodie and Poot: “Yo’ ass don’t need to be hard all the time.” Of course they do. Wallace is the prime example of what happens when you go soft for even a brief moment. Bodie’s well aware: “Soft link break the chain.” The boys are eating chili dogs. Earlier this episode, the cops were eating chili dogs as they staked out Orlando’s. Symmetry. More importantly, you get the sense that Bodie and Poot are looking out for their boy, taking him out for a last meal they know he’ll enjoy. Bodie asks Wallace if he’s a boy or a man. Wallace’s response: “I’m a man.” There’s a beat. Wallace continues: “So what are we gonna do, have some fun?” He couldn’t hide the kid inside if he tried.
*Another verbatim note, this one coming when Shardeen counts off the paces to measure Orlando’s. Herc tries to calculate the total in feet, but gets beaten to the punch, and I joyfully scribble: “Pres STAY doin’ math!” And it’s a cute character gag and all, but it’s also laying the entire groundwork for season four.
And we’re well over thirteen hundred words right now. A page and a half of notes left. And we still haven’t gotten to the Wallace scene.
We’ll start there Wednesday.