Monday, February 25, 2008

A man got to have a code – Omar

One of the things that THE WIRE has chronicled that is not commented on as often as other aspects – the characterization, the politics, the intricacies of the storylines - is the shift in the street philosophy. In season 1 we begin with the Barksdales, and they are a family unit. There’s a sense of belonging, of taking care of their own. Many of the deaths are felt by the crew. Little is casually dismissed when it comes to their numbers.

If things had been done in reverse, we wouldn’t have been all that happy to see the Barksdales go. If Marlo had predated Avon, we would have been happy to see the Barksdales working the streets.

Instead, one of the more subtle but genius things THE WIRE has chronicled has been the shift on the street. Those with some sense of family and loyalty, those who would step up to protect a relative (even when they screwed up), such as Avon and Prop Joe, are gone.

And in their stead a crew that’s essentially heartless. One that kills without reason or remorse. One that pulls out a gun first and doesn’t even bother with the questions later.

This season, we’ve seen the markers. The death of Butchie is one that Prop Joe honoured, ordering flowers, attending to those details and paying respects. But by the time Prop Joe has caught his own bullet there’s nobody left to show their respects to him.

And so it is that with episode 8, we’ve come to the ultimate disgrace. Before they’re even cold they’re forgotten, and so it is with Omar. Looking at his face in those final seconds, I was thinking about the depth of feeling in that character. Others, such as Cheese, would sell out their own blood to make a move up and not bat an eye. Blow Prop Joe off as being sentimental for still owning a house that was owned by one of their relatives – the first black man to own property in the neighbourhood. Cheese has no appreciation for how far they’ve come.

He has a sense of entitlement. It’s all really a game to him.

But the loyalties of a character like Omar ran deep. When Butchie died it lit a fire in him and he was not going to stop until he’d avenged him.

A man got to have a code. Omar had a code. He lived by it. He raised his gun to no citizen, and even in the end his ultimate downfall came because he perceived no threat from a child.

With others, we’ve been prepared. We’ve been allowed to mentally adjust before the mourning began. Wallace. D’Angelo. Stringer. Bodie. Even Prop Joe we saw coming episodes off.

This was not afforded to us in Omar’s final moments. He is snatched from us abruptly, and in a random fashion.

I am still disappointed by a season that I feel has meandered instead of resolving so many loose ends. It seems the resolution is being made that much more final by eliminating all the characters we’ve come to know and respect over the past four seasons, leaving us with nowhere to go.

And yet there were things within the characters we already knew that were worthy of exploration. I do believe Brian will delve into that at some point – as a Baltimore native he’s got his own opinions and makes a compelling case for an entirely different direction this season could have gone in, but I won’t steal his thunder. I'll just say that if David Simon isn't going to write it, maybe I will.

I will also say this. The thought of two more episodes – the last one being 90 minutes long – seems like a lot without Omar to look forward to.

I expect more in-depth conversation here, once I get my thoughts together.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Omar was the series' greatest creation and he took on mythical proportions in these last episodes, tattered and hell-bent on making things right. He will be missed beyond the end of the series.

Anonymous said...

I suspect a number of the series' best loved characters are doomed: McNulty, Lester... We've already lost Joe and Omar this season. I can see Marlo going down hard (and possibly being humiliated beyond redemption), but a heavy price is going to be paid.

The character whose fate intrigues me is Bubbles. Bubs has come a long, long way since last season, and he's crossing a tightrope to make it to the other side. Bubs is either going to crash spectacularly or be one of the show's final triumphs.

And I hope Templeton gets his ass kicked before all this is over. All the other characters, even Clay Davis, have motivations you can at least empathize with (though Clay's a bit of a stretch for most people). But Templeton?

He's a self-centered, self-absorbed little scumbag who deserves the Jayson Blair-type fate coming to him. And no Hayden Christenson movie after the fact to at least humanize him. Of all the characters from all five seasons of THE WIRE, Templeton is the one I actually would like to see killed. Marlo's a close second, but only because he's dangerous.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I agree Patti.

Mr. Evil, I agree about Bubbles and one of my annoyances has been how choppy his storyline has been this season. Season 5, cameo central. As cool as it is to see Munch, it pissed me off to no end that there was a minute to waste on something that added nothing to the story while things with some other characters feel rushed.

I'd love to see Scott get it, but part of the reality is, the guys like that don't.

McNulty and Freamon will be out of jobs. Not a problem for Lester. It would be too merciful for McNulty to be dead - a greater hell is him having to live with himself.

The one I think might die? Bunk. But this series has a bit of a 'kill 'em all off so there's no question of going back' feel to it. Meanwhile, we're still waiting for answers about Rawls and Bubbles, and with Rawls I doubt they'll be forthcoming.

I know Brian had a stellar observation about Kenard, but I'm not sure if he's posted his thoughts over on the forum yet.

John McFetridge said...

"I'll just say that if David Simon isn't going to write it, maybe I will."

Looking forward to it, Sandra.

And isn't that what great writing does, it inspires actions of ll kinds.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well, the problem is, who really wants to touch Baltimore? The opportunity is there for me to research and get first-hand accounts of the system in question, but between David Simon and Laura Lippman B-more is pretty sewn up as a setting. You'd go into something like that with the greatest challenge on you, to get it right because of inevitable comparisons.

But what Brian brought up has been something that's lingered on the brain.

John McFetridge said...

Well, I don't know what Brian brought up, but the things you mention about The Wire are not specific to Baltimore at all (even if The Wire is so good at grounding itself in the environment).

Most US cities 'of a certain age' are going through what Baltimore's going through (and there are some amazing similarities even in Toronto). Remember, the setting doesn't matter, just what you do with it ;)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well... One thing I've learned to this point is that there are a lot of risks involved in dealing with a setting you don't know well yourself.

Brian will either post his thoughts over on the FBS forum, or not. I'm leaving it to him, for now, but certainly the context I'd have access to researching would be B-more and area. I don't want to do any US city without the ability to go there and research, and face it, the money isn't there for that writing fiction. It's possible in some books to gloss over the setting and be generic - ooooh it's NYC with skyscrapers and lots of traffic and rude people, setting nailed - but this would likely be something that would need more than that. My initial impression is a sense of place would be important.

Anonymous said...

"I'd love to see Scott get it, but part of the reality is, the guys like that don't."

I'm pretty certain Templeton will get it. He's David Simon's diatribe against the Jayson Blairs and Stephen Glasses of the world and the system that creates them. He's on his way down already, but I have a feeling, this being The Wire, that he's going to leave a lot of collateral damage.

Sandra Ruttan said...

"this being The Wire, that he's going to leave a lot of collateral damage."

Yeah. Gus, at least.

I really just meant he won't die. Hell, I'd love to see someone put a bullet in Clay Davis's head. Can't stand that guy. Hell of a character, though.