Monday, January 14, 2008

Slippery slope

Since the fifth and final season of The Wire is only ten episodes -- down from the usual 12 or 13 -- David Simon and company have to move quicker to the meat of the season. Thus, all the major story arcs are now taking shape much sooner than in the past four seasons.

The opening scene at the NA meeting did a great job of metaphorically tying all three arcs together, as an NA member* explains how in the pursuit of drugs, you find yourself doing things you promised yourself you would never do, like turning tricks. It's a slippery slope you find yourself sliding down when you ignore standards, rules, ethics... etc. Scott, the desperate reporter who quickly recognizes his executive publisher's weakness for impact stories, appears to 'make up' the Baltimore Orioles opening day story, when no one seems to care about baseball at Camden Yards -- not surprising given the Orioles overwhelming involvement in last month's Mitchell Report. This story line appears mirror Simon (and others') accusations of former Sun reporter Jim Haner, who during his stint there had three stories retracted, yet was protected by his editors.

Meanwhile, McNutty has reached his own point of desperation, sliding back into his drinking and womanizing ways in the wake of city cutbacks. Having to ride the bus to a crime scene might be the straw that broke the camel's back. "Now I've seen everything," sighs the similarly frustrated Officer Brown, witnessing his arrival. It's easy to sense a kindred soul in Brown, which I'm guessing comes into play at a later date. McNutty's 'big lie' -- as Bunk metaphorically alludes to in the first episode -- is hard to stomach at first. We've seen him take liberties with rules and red tape before, in the name of a bigger case, but this is a turn he can't come back from. Creating a serial killer from otherwise benign crime scenes is his Hamsterdam, only McNulty's not six months from retirement like Bunny, so his slippery slope has a much steeper decline.

Finally, while Marlo's reaching around Prop Joe to angle in on The Greek's product via Vondas breaks the rules of the co-op, it's still a bit of a stretch in the slippery slope angle. Instead, it's his first act he takes after realizing he and Chris are no longer under 24-hour surveillance. Junebug called Marlo a bad name, so 'he's a dead man, he's just walking around not knowing it.' To kill for such a trifle thing is Marlo's slippery slope... but why do I get the feeling that he, like the reporter Scott, will walk away untouched in the end?

Musically, Lester was listening to some great female-voiced blues, jazz and soul music while staking out Marlo on his own time. To that end, Sarah Vaughn's "Black Coffee" song about waiting for her lover was a perfect choice: "I'm hangin' out on Monday my Sunday dreams to dry." And having a mother abandon her child behind a screen door in the background while Lester listens to Erma Franklin's "Another Piece of My Heart," took a piece of my own heart.

Playlist: The Wire - Ep502
1. "More Than a Feeling" - Boston - McNulty's car has a flat
2. "Black Coffee" - Sarah Vaughan - Freaman staking out Marlo
3. "Piece Of My Heart" - Erma Franklin - Freamon sings to car radio
4. "Don't Cry Baby" - Etta James - Freamon sees meet up
5. "All My Love" - Donald Harrison - Freamon and McNulty drink in bar
6. "Cry To Me" - Solomon Burke - Bubbles And Walon talk
HBO's scene and track info

*In an amazing act of subtle continuity, the NA member is played by the daughter of writer Richard Price (Clockers, The Wire,) having appeared in season three looking affluent buying drugs in Hamsterdam, and then again in season four as a prostitute in Old Face Andre's corner store.

Previously: Puts the "B" in Subtle (episode 5.01)

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