Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Wire, Season 1, Episode 8: "Lessons" (Veterans edition)

Okay, in an attempt to get these season one review of "The Wire" back on schedule and hopefully finished before Labor Day, I'm going to try to double up here and there. So we'll get one review today, and another one in the regularly-scheduled Friday morning timeslot. Not sure yet if I'll double up again next week or a little down the road, as I also intend to take a vacation at some point in August, but we'll get this done close to on time or your money back.

As usual, we're going to do this in two versions: one for people who are new to the series, one for folks who have seen every episode from first to last. This is the latter; scroll down for a version where you can safely read about and discuss only these early episodes.

Spoilers for episode eight, "Lessons," coming up just as soon as I teach my daughter how to front-and-follow...

One of the dominant themes of "The Wire" is the tremendous waste that the drug culture has created in inner-city America. Men and women who might have otherwise gone on to great things -- or, at least, to something resembling the middle-class lifestyle familiar to the majority of the show's audience -- are either deprived of opportunity, or else seduced away from those opportunities, by life on the corner.

Look at the moment where one of the abandoned kids in Wallace and Poot's care asks Wallace for help with his math homework. It's a fairly simple, culturally-relevant word problem about the number of passengers on a city bus, and yet the kid has no idea in how to solve it, or much interest in trying. Yet when Wallace translates the problem in terms of keeping the count on the stash, the kid gets it quickly. Math as a concept is an abstraction that has no real place in his world, but getting the count right? Do it or risk a beating.

And in this episode, Simon and Burns establish Stringer Bell as either the greatest example of this wasted potential, or perhaps the greatest counter-example. Maybe both.

Where Wallace's young charge can only relate to the world at large when it's placed in a drug context, we discover in "Lessons" that Stringer is trying to master the drug world by using knowledge gleaned from the real world. We already had a sense from earlier chapters (notably when Stringer and Avon discussed their plans to take over the Edmonson corner, where Omar kills Stinkum near the end of this episode) that Stringer had more business savvy than your average TV druglord. But the idea that he takes macroeconomics courses at the local community college, or that he insists on running his copy business as a real business and not simply as a front? That's the genius of Stringer Bell, and of the show. In another life, Stringer could have gotten a job on Wall Street, but in this one, he applies principles like elastic vs. inelastic products to catering to West Baltimore's dope fiend population.

There's a very interesting moment late in the episode, after Stinkum's death, where Stringer tries to caution Avon about seeking immediate retribution on Omar. Avon's head is in The Game, where you don't let something like this slide, or even appear to slide, or risk losing face. Stringer's approaching the problem from a more calculated point of view -- his plan still ends with Omar being killed -- but you can also see on his face that he's done a mental cost-benefit analysis of the entire Omar affair and is starting to wonder whether the stick-up man is worth all the trouble.

"Lessons" also establishes that there's more of a connection between the real world and the drug world than Stringer's college classes, as the detail picks up Day-Day Price -- driver for state senator Clay Davis -- with a trash bag full of cash handed to him by one of Avon's soldiers. We don't know yet why a state senator is accepting cash from a local drug lord, and thanks to Deputy Ops Burrell, we may never know. It's worth noting that Burrell's reaction to this development in the case doesn't automatically suggest that Burrell himself is corrupt, just that he's politically astute enough to know that no good can likely come to the department from messing with the business of an influential politician. Regardless of his motivation, Daniels appears to be just as screwed with Burrell as McNulty is with Rawls; if the two of them could stand each other's company, maybe they could hoist a beer over the irony of that.

Of course, Jimmy gets plenty of drinking in with The Bunk in this episode, and Bunk sums up his partner and friend in one devastating sentence: "You're no good for people, man." McNulty has been set up as our protagonist, and is played by the exceedingly likable Dominic West, but by the end of this episode -- by the end of this run of episodes -- it's obvious that The Bunk ain't wrong. Jimmy asking his sons to tail Stringer is the sort of thing that seems practical and amusing to him but is an even bigger parental breach than bringing the boys with Omar to the morgue a few episodes back. And he screws over Ray Cole in order to protect both the wire and Bunk's own murder case, big picture decisions that might be more palatable if he had the guts to be honest with Cole about it. I know Jimmy's afraid of the wrath of Rawls, but own your actions, man. Please.

I'll give Jimmy credit for this, at least: when Omar leaves the detail office free and clear, having made it quite obvious (without ever coming out and saying it) that he killed Stinkum and intends to keep hunting Barksdale people, Jimmy at least has the awareness to ask Lester if they're still cops at this point. It's a mark of the series' measured pace that we're eight episodes in, and the detail only has significant charges against two mid-level Barksdale people -- one of which gets taken away when Omar kills Stinkum. Omar is, like McNulty, a tremendously colorful and charming figure -- and a hell of an investigator, to boot -- but an episode like this, with the murder of Stinkum and Kima's realization that Omar probably didn't directly witness the Gant killing, is a reminder of the shady moral territory the cops enter when they deal with someone like him. Omar puts his life in simple terms for the cops -- "The Game is out there, and it's either play or get played." -- and how are upholders of a strict legal code supposed to operate around that?

Some other thoughts on "Lessons"

-Again illustrating the depth that the show tries to give all its characters, this episode shows two very different sides to Wee-Bey. Early on, we get him out with D'Angelo and the guys at the crab shack, having a good time, cracking jokes and getting made fun of for his affection for the too-hot hot sauce. It's a very humanizing scene -- and then we see him drunk (or high, or both) at Stinkum's party, dragging the barely-conscious Keisha into a bedroom and not even noticing that she died later in the evening.

-Earlier in this season, while discussing the opening titles, I pointed you towards Andrew Dignan's essay at The House Next Door about the series' various credit sequences. Andrew, Matt Seitz and Kevin B. Lee have now turned the idea into a five-part (one for each season) video essay for the Museum of the Moving Image, and you can see it at the Museum's website. As I write this, entries for season one and two are up. The season one entry is fairly newbie-safe, but I would avoid anything after that; the season two entry gives away major developments for both that season and season three.

-At one point in the episode, you can see Bunk reading a mystery novel by Laura Lippman, a Baltimore fixture who also happens to be Mrs. David Simon. This will become a running inside joke on the series, as later seasons will show characters perusing books by members of the extended "Wire" family, whether it's a George Pelecanos thriller or a first edition of "Generation Kill."

-If you haven't made the name connection by now, Det. Ray Cole is played by the late Bob Colesberry, executive producer of the show and the man responsible for much of the series' visual style. Though Jimmy notes hear that Ray's clearance rate this year is good enough that he can absorb the Stinkum whodunnit, for much of the series he's treated like just as much of a clown as Santangelo. In one of the prequel short films that were produced to tease the final season, we see McNulty, new to Homicide, explaining to Bunk that he got assigned to this elite unit, despite minimal training and service time, because he solved a case that a Homicide veteran was screwing up. That Homicide detective? Ray Cole.

-By this point, I probably should be keeping my copy of "Homicide" the book handy for reference. I can't swear that a drunken, guilt-ridden Bunk burning his clothes to get rid of the trace evidence is an incident from the book, but I feel reasonably confident that the book is the first place I encountered the idea.

And now let's talk about how some developments in this episode that will play out over the run of the series:

-Stringer and Avon's debate about Omar is far from the last time we'll see these two friends get into it over watching the bottom line vs. maintaining your rep. Stringer is a criminal who wants to be a businessman, while Avon is a good businessman who knows he's just a criminal, and it's that fundamental divide that will destroy them both by the end of season three.

-I love comparing McNulty's relationship with his sons here versus the last time we see them in season five. Here, pre-adolescence, they revere their old man, even though he's rarely around, and think doing surveillance on some scary criminal type is an exciting adventure. By season five, they're old enough to recognize that all the cool things he does are far, far outweighed by all the ordinary things he fails to do.

-Oddly, I remembered this episode's epigraph -- Omar saying, "Come at the king, best not miss" -- as being not from this episode, but the next one, and Omar recognizing that he screwed up his best chance at killing Avon. I guess over the years, the image of two different sequences with Omar shooting while Barksdale people crouched behind the safety of nearby cars blended together.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Wire, Season 1, Episode 7: "One Arrest"

Friday, July 18, 2008
The Wire, Season 1, Episode 7: "One Arrest" (Newbies edition)
Okay, it's a Friday morning and I actually have a review of "The Wire" for you. Can't promise the same for next week (I usually take a few days off at the end of press tour), but right now we're back to business as usual, in which we talk about season one of "The Wire" in two different versions: one safe for people who are brand-new to the show (or who haven't watched all the way through to the end), one where we can talk about anything from first episode of the series to last. This is the former; scroll up for the veterans edition if you want to talk about things that are still to come, both this season and in later seasons.

Spoilers for episode seven, "One Arrest," coming up just as soon as I explain to Fienberg that I'm Batman and he's Robin...

"A man must have a code." -Bunk

There are several types of codes at work in "One Arrest." One is Omar's code, spelled out more explicitly in his conversation with Bunk than it was in previous episodes, in which he declares that he would never put his gun on an ordinary citizen who wasn't a player in The Game. There's the code that the Barksdale crew uses to communicate, and which Lester and Prez are proving so adept at cracking. And then there's the unwritten code of conduct that players on both sides of the drug war are expected to follow -- and the consequences that befall those who don't.

Rawls is out to get Jimmy for starting the Barksdale ball rolling in the first place (thereby depriving Homicide of a detective for the rotation system) and for giving Daniels ammunition to defeat Rawls in an argument before Burrell (thereby violating chain of command and the notion that Rawls can strike fear into the hearts of all his subordinates).

The detail tries to go around the usual code of conduct by not arresting Stinkum with the package; it's such a stark departure from how things are usually done that Lester has to repeatedly explain it to Herc. But Lester proves too clever for his own good, because Avon and Stringer are smart enough to know there has to be a reason why the cops didn't track Stinkum down later to arrest him. And that in turn starts revolving the wheels in Stringer's head, which leads to him ordering the destruction of the courtyard payphones at the low-rises. As things are going, it's probably the lesser of two evils -- giving Avon's lawyer a look at the charging document would have blown the entire case -- but in retrospect, there was probably a better way to handle their tracking of the re-up.

Again and again and again, "The Wire" shows us people in long-standing institutions who try to think outside the box, and who get mocked or outright attacked for doing so. The Game is The Game, and you're only supposed to play it one way, right?

Look at what happens when Lt. Daniels tries to reach out to Kevin Johnson, the kid Prez half-blinded back in episode two. Kevin listens to Daniels' pitch for a minute, but the pressure to behave in a culturally-correct way is too much for him, and so he turns to Carver and mocks Daniels' entire offer and belief that there's another way out for a kid like him. Maybe if Prez isn't hiding in an adjacent windowed office at the moment, he considers it a little more, but I doubt it.

(While Kevin just happening to be the runner in Stinkum's car could have seemed contrived, it fit into the show's philosophy that everything is connected, and it also served as a reminder that past actions will not be forgotten. Other shows would happily stick with the more likable, puzzle-solving geek that Prez has been the last few episodes and try to forget his original sin. Not "The Wire.")

On the other hand, when you expect everyone to play The Game by your rules, you occasionally become vulnerable. Just look at how dangerous Omar has become to the Barksdale crew. They get over by instilling fear into the citizenry and punishing anyone who might speak out against them, but they would never count on someone like Omar -- someone brave and tough enough not to fear them, and well-connected enough to have intel to offer up when someone like Bunk asks -- cooperating with the cops. Omar's beef with Bird isn't specifically about Bird killing a citizen -- it's about Bird as representative of the crew who tortured and killed Brandon -- but you can tell that sort of standard 'yo behavior disgusts him just the same.

With Polk now drying out or on vacation or whatever, our focus shifts to the lowest man on the detail totem pole: Michael "Santy" Santangelo, who fits the classic hump mold of many of the original detail members. In Baltimore Homicide parlance, a "dunker" is a case that any idiot should be able to close with minimal effort, and yet Rawls notes that Santy, at best, nails 6 to 7 out of every 10 dunkers, and is all but useless on the more difficult cases.

But if Santy isn't that bright (see also him missing a chance to photograph Avon in the previous episode), he's not that bad a guy. (It's interesting to see the bit where Jimmy calls him an a-hole when he has to cover for Santy, when we know that Santy is specifically ducking out to try to save Jimmy. It's a small moment, but one of those vintage "Wire" bits where our knowledge of everyone's perspective deepens our understanding of what's really going on.) He busts his hump, by Santangelo standards, to close one of his open whodunnits, and when luck -- and Bunk and Omar -- bail him out, he recognizes that the time has come to warn Jimmy, no matter the blowback from Rawls.

Getting back to the notion of how The Game is expected to be played, behold what happens when Bubbs accompanies Johnny to his court-mandated 12-step meeting. While Johnny thinks the whole thing is a joke, something to be endured until the judge forgets about him, Bubbs' eyes are open by the sight of all the ex-junkies he hasn't seen in so long, he assumed they were dead. Even though he gets high later that night, you can see that the group speaker Walon (Steve Earle, who will sing the theme song in season five) makes a connection with Bubbs. Johnny cares about nothing but getting high, but Bubbs sees, even for a moment, a possible way out.

But whatever progress Bubbs may briefly make is canceled out by the incredibly sad sight of Wallace getting high, doing anything he can to block out his memory of Brandon's corpse and the role he played in his death. As I've said many times over the course of these reviews, Wallace is just a boy. He shouldn't have to carry this kind of emotional weight (even though he made a conscious choice to place that call), shouldn't be in an environment where the only comfort he can find is in a bag of dope. God, that kid breaks my heart.

Some other thoughts on "One Arrest":

* I like how the beating of the unrepentant, loathsome Bird is led by supervisors Daniels and Landsman, where you'd usually expect to see the rank and file doing it and the boss coming in to break things up.
* Daniels' trip to the expensive fundraiser shows that, while he's a good enough politician to be tight with Burrell -- so tight that Burrell thinks nothing of uttering a line like "In this state, there's a thin line between campaign photos and photo arrays" in front of him -- he's not really of this world, and is much more comfortable watching a ballgame with the blue-collar limo drivers.
* Speaking of which, note that thieving limo driver Day-Day Price is played by Donnell Rawlings, who would go on to greater comic fame a few years later as one of the supporting players (he was Ashy Larry, among other characters) on "Chappelle's Show."
* Jimmy and Bunk's scene at the bar reminds me of how much I love how the show depicts drunkenness, as the two of them always reach a level of sloshed that you almost never see in movies and on television. Also, Jimmy's line about how Bunk, um, made love to him gently is a verbatim quote from "Homicide" the book, with Jimmy saying Terry McLarney's lines and Bunk saying Bob McAllister's.
* Man, Omar gets all the best lines. Love the bit where he's telling them where Bird might be scoring dope: "That's if I happen to be constabulating like y'all."

Up next: "Lessons," in which Jimmy takes advantage of his kids, D'Angelo considers Orlando's offer, and Day-Day takes a drive. My guess is that one will be two weeks away, as I'll be wrapping up press tour, then flying home, then taking some time off to reconnect with my family.

The Wire, Season 1, Episode 6, "The Wire"

As I mentioned on Friday, I had to postpone the latest review of "The Wire" due to some personal stuff. While that's still ongoing, I had some time over the weekend and needed the distraction, so I finished my write-up of episode six, also titled "The Wire." It's a little shorter than the others have been, but it should be enough to get the conversation going. Due to uncertainty about my situation, and whether I'll still be going to press tour (which in turn might make it tough to do these reviews for a bit), I don't know exactly when I'll be doing episode seven and on, but I promise to keep you posted.

Same rules as always. We're going to talk about season one of "The Wire" in two different versions: one safe for people who are brand-new to the show (or who haven't watched all the way through to the end), one where we can talk about anything from first episode to last. This is the latter; scroll down for the newbies edition if you want to be protected from discussion of things that are still to come, both this season and in later seasons.

Spoilers for episode six coming up just as soon as I clean some eggs off the sidewalk...

"It cost you?"

There's an episode coming up called "The Cost," but in some ways, that title applies better to this one, as the murder of Brandon illustrates the emotional cost of living in this police/drug world. The episode opens and closes with the image of Brandon, no longer beautiful after being tortured to death by Wee-Bey, and through the course of the episode, we see how much seeing that image -- and being aware of the role they played in creating it -- costs Wallace, Omar and Daniels.

We'd had hints before now that Wallace was just a kid playing at a deadly, grown-up game, but the episode's opening sequence simultaneously shows off his childlike and adult sides. He and Poot live together in an abandoned, boarded-up rowhouse, siphoning off electricity from a nearby house through an extension cord (as much a titular wire as the tap on the courtyard pay phone), as they take care of a group of younger, similarly parentless neighborhood children. Wallace makes sure they get up on time, get their snacks, and get to school every day so the social workers don't get suspicious. (In "The Wire" world, the west side kids have good reason to fear social services.) Wallace is too young to be playing this role -- he still plays with toys, and unlike the sexually-obsessed Poot, hasn't moved onto girls yet -- but he's all these kids have. And just as we've seen him successfully get them off to school, he walks past the public tableau of Brandon's corpse, and his childhood innocence overwhelms the jaded would-be adult, and wrecks him. Yes, as D'Angelo points out, Wallace works in The Game and knows how violent it can get, but he's still just enough of a kid that he never imagined someone might die because he made a phone call, let alone that that death would be so brutal, or that the evidence of his sin would be deposited so close to his own doorstep. Wallace should be in a real home with real parents who send him to school, instead of playing parent to other abandoned corner kids and slinging dope in the Pit, but this is him, right here, and he can't handle it.

(Interestingly, while Poot was the one who was afraid to make the call about Brandon's whereabouts, he has no problem dealing with the body outside the window, and can be seen laughing at McNulty after Jimmy spills his coffee approaching the crime scene.)

If Wallace is the one who called in Brandon's executioners, Omar is the one who put him in a position where someone might want to kill him. The cast of "The Wire" is so uniformly wonderful that I could fill up each and every one of these reviews with nothing but praise for the various actors, and so instead I've mostly taken their greatness as a given, but hot damn is Michael K. Williams brilliant. There's no truth to the rumor that Omar originally had a small role that expanded once David Simon saw how great Williams was -- the series in general, and each season in particular, is too meticulously planned out for that -- but when you watch a scene like Omar howling in the morgue, and then follow it with Omar being slightly more relaxed, even a little funny ("Bad time for y'all?") but still incredibly dangerous in his visit to the detail office, you can understand why people might have wanted to believe that. As the man outside the system, and the show's lone character drawn slightly larger than life, Omar would stand out with almost any competent actor playing him, but Williams is, indeed, superb.

As for Daniels, he didn't cause Brandon's death, and even his inaction on pushing Burrell for a wiretap sooner likely wouldn't have saved him. But there's no way to know that for sure, and so when McNulty shoves those pictures in Cedric's face, the lieutenant finally recognizes that he can't half-ass the case anymore. Either he needs to go all the way, or not at all. When Lester asks Daniels if going up against Rawls cost him, he's talking about the political ramifications, but one look at Daniels' face as he studies those photos makes it clear that any potential cost to his career doesn't remotely approach the cost his soul has suffered in realizing what he may have failed to do.

And for now, it seems as if Daniels' passionate argument against Rawls will hurt McNulty more than himself. Not that Jimmy -- who finally got past his own arrogant prejudices to realize his new boss is good police -- would have wanted Daniels to go in firing anything less than both barrels, but by naming McNulty as the one who pointed out the truth behind Rawls' quest for paper clearances, he put Jimmy squarely back into Rawls' crosshairs.

The detail as whole, on the other hand, is trying to take at least one step forward for every step it takes back. Rawls tries to screw them by wanting a paper charge on D'Angelo, but Daniels manages to fight him off for now. They miss all the calls related to Brandon's murder, but at least they have a wire up now and are gathering good intel for a conspiracy charge. Polk bails rather than doing actual police work, but he wasn't contributing anything, anyway. But there's nothing in the episode to compensate for Santangelo taking an extremely long piss at the exact moment when Avon, Stringer and Stinkum march through the Pit and have a chat with D'Angelo. Would be nice to have a more current photo of the target, and to have one of him and his chief underlings appearing to talk business with another chief suspect, no?

Still, Lester gets to utter another of the series' mission statements with his speech to Prez about building something from scratch, and how "all the pieces matter." Much like the chess game in episode three, the detail itself functions as something of a metaphor for the series. Both are half-forgotten, half-unwanted members of a larger institution (the Baltimore PD, the television business), ridiculed or flat-out ignored for choosing to approach the old profession in a more thoughtful and thorough way (one where, indeed, all the pieces matter), and yet, when it's least expected of them, both are capable of performing absolute miracles in their field. Many of the detail's miracles are yet to come, but evidence of the series' miraculous powers have already been apparent in just six episodes.

Some other thoughts on "The Wire":

* I understand Rawls' argument about Jimmy being out of the rotation system and therefore overworking the other Homicide detectives. It's the same one that was made against Ed Burns, and Harry Edgerton, in "Homicide" the book, and I can see being frustrated if I'm the commander of a unit -- or member of a unit -- charged with bringing down the clearance rate if one guy goes off on a mission that seemingly has nothing to do with that and leaves everybody else picking up his slack. But I'd have a lot more sympathy for his argument if he didn't make it in the same episode where he proves how ephemeral the idea of clearances can be. Charging D'Angelo with those murders might have turned three names on the board from red (unsolved) to black (solved), but those charges would almost certainly not lead to convictions.
* So after we see Jimmy try to do the right thing for his kids in the previous episode and get screwed over by an mistrustful ex-wife, here we see exactly why Elena's wary of him, as he takes the boys to the morgue on a school night to listen to a grieving stick-up boy howl at the top of his lungs. I can see Jimmy's dilemma -- he's trying to turn Omar into an informant, and maybe Kima couldn't be reached just then -- but there had to be some way to put the guy off until morning without losing him, right?
* Note the black and white gangster movie playing in the background of the sequence where D'Angelo takes forever and a day to get himself decked out in a style of which Jimmy Cagney likely wouldn't approve, but which typifies many modern-day gangsters. On the other hand, his confrontation of Cass the thief, where he threw her eggs one by one onto the sidewalk until she confessed, was very old-school, as was D'Angelo's refusal to sell out Cass and Sterling for committing a crime that was only caused by Stringer's plan to smoke out a non-existent mole. A modern gangster like Stringer or Avon would have had those two beaten or killed for daring to skim off the stash, but vintage '30s gangsters (in the movies, anyway) still had some kind of standards about whom to hurt and why.
* So when I talked about the show's music rules -- outside of the season-ending montages, there's supposed to be no background music that doesn't have some kind of practical source, like the portable stereo in Daniels' office or the radio in Herc's car -- several people reminded me of the one time in the series' history where Simon and company violated that rule, with Avon's jazzy, slo-mo walk through the Pit. It seemed less out of place at the time -- six episodes in, it wasn't so obvious to me that the show was doing without a traditional score -- but now it's really jarring.
* The two Homicide detectives working Brandon's murder will become very familiar faces throughout the run of the series. In particular, keep an eye on the white guy, Ed Norris, played by... Ed Norris, who at the time this episode was filmed was still working as the commissioner of the real Baltimore PD. As he does here, Simon and Burns will often use Norris as their mouthpiece to complain about the state of the department in the bluntest terms possible.
* Bubbs and Johnny's scam with the copper pipes will be familiar to anyone who read/watched "The Corner" and remembers all of Gary McCullough's escapades involving the scrounging or outright theft of copper pipes and fixtures to pay for his habit. True story: when I was in Montreal last weekend for a family wedding, a cousin who lives in Baltimore, who's a fan of "The Wire," told me that she recently discovered that the copper pipes in her apartment had been stripped. While she was upset at the inconvenience and the expense, she was glad that "The Wire" at least made her understand why it had happened, and she tried to make herself feel better by imagining that it was Bubbles himself who robbed her.

And now let's talk about how the episode relates to events down the road in the season and the series:

* Norris' joke about being willing to give up half his overtime if it would fix the department seems especially funny in light of season five's story about the department gutting overtime pay in the budget crisis.
* Getting back to our discussion from episode 4 about whether we should have known that D was lying about killing Kresson, his reaction -- or lack thereof -- when Wallace first brings up "that girl" is, in retrospect, a blinking neon sign that D didn't do it. Knowing the man that D is, and the guilt that he carries, if he had actually committed that murder, he would have immediately gotten the reference when Wallace made it. But because Wee-Bey killed her, D'Angelo needs Wallace to elaborate.
* What's that saying about tragedy plus time equaling comedy? It's amusing to see how Carver gets so torqued about Bodie's constant escapes (both legal and illegal) from the law, yet by season four it's something he'll be able to crack jokes about.
* Question for the legal scholars: in light of how the rest of the season goes down, would the missed Santangelo photo have really made a difference? They get Avon on drug conspiracy anyway, but would the picture have somehow netted them Stringer?
* So what exactly does Polk choose to do? Obviously, he's out of the detail, and we know he's still on the force four seasons later -- he's the property room clerk Cedric and Ronnie go to see in the penultimate episode to check out Marlo's cell phone -- but he just doesn't strike me as the type who would have been willing to report to Medical and sober up on the spot like that. Daniels didn't seem to leave him a third option, though, and he seemed tired but not necessarily drunk when he showed up for his final season encore, so maybe he did take the Medical option.

Coming up next:"One Arrest," in which Bubbs and Johnny explore the world of 12-step programs, Omar meets Bunk, and Rawls keeps pressing Santangelo to get dirt on McNulty. Again, I don't know exactly when that review will appear, but it'll come at some point, and hopefully soon.