'The Wire': Not with a bang ...

Michaelkwilliams_thewire_240 If you're a Wire fan without access to HBO On Demand (like me), it was awfully tough not to be spoiled as to one of the big events in this week's episode. It's a testament to how good the show is that even when it happened, I still jumped in my chair a little.

(Said spoiler, and others, coming right after I close the parentheses.)

As much discussed (and feared), Omar Little dies not in a blaze of glory, but ignominiously in a corner store at the hands of a little kid -- Kenard, the corner boy who was talking trash about him last week. This, in a lot of ways, is emblematic of the depressing reality at the heart of The Wire: The house, whether it's bureaucracy, petty politics or the culture of the corners, always wins. A free man will only be free for so long before he gets ground down.

So R.I.P., Omar. Michael Kenneth Williams brought to life one of the singular characters in television in the past decade or so, and if there's any kind of justice out here in the real world, he and the rest of the people who work on this show might get some Emmy love next fall (just don't hold your breath).

Even if you managed to avoid spoilers all week, you could feel the dread building as Omar cleaned out another of Marlo's corners. He actually looked more pathetic than menacing in his final act of street justice, shouting out his challenges to an empty street corner. And, as the show has done more than once, it seemed to linger on Omar just a little too long. Even so, his death by an (at first) unseen hand still packed a punch.

In death, though, Omar may still help take Marlo and his crew down. Bunk picks up his hit list and turns it over to Lester, cluing him into the fact that Marlo is now supplying the whole city, with Cheese as his man on the Eastside. Now the primary question is whether McNulty can squeeze his fake investigation long enough for Lester to make the case. And that, of course, is one big freakin' if, especially now that detectives are trying to milk the cash cow for things not strictly related to police work and Kima, after finding out about the investigation, looks like she's ready to blow the case up.

But for that giant ax swinging over their heads, McNulty and Lester actually seem on the verge of a breakthrough. Sydnor breaks the clock code by discovering, as a result of being in an unfamiliar part of the city, that the clocks correspond to a map book: The second hand is a page in the map book, and the hour and minute hands signify a square in the map grid. And now that McNulty has juked the brass into giving him a surveillance detail (bringing Carver back into the fold), Sydnor actually has cops to track Marlo, Chris, Monk and the other players in Marlo's crew.

Bunk, meanwhile, finally and begrudgingly asks McNulty for a piece of the action ("Just sign the motherf**ker and shut the f**k up") to hurry up the lab work on Michael's stepdad, which turns up a positive match for Chris. He also agrees to hold off on getting the warrant for Chris so Lester can try to make the case on Marlo.

This being The Wire, of course, the good guys (who aren't always that good) usually find a way to let the bad guys (who really are bad, but good at what they do) slip through their fingers. We'll find out in the next two weeks how it shakes out.

Other developments this week:

The Hall: Carcetti is playing a budget shell game to get the police up to full funding and speechifying on the need to provide for all of B-more's citizens, even the homeless ones. He's also groveling for support from Nerese, who's been absent for the past couple of weeks, and the newly revivified Clay Davis (his cackle at getting two seats on the liquor board was brilliant), who promise to help him fend off a potential primary challenge from Prince George's County in the D.C. suburbs, where he failed to kiss the proper rings on his last swing through the state. If only he knew that his homeless push was resting on a house of cards, a case that by design is going to crap out without an arrest.

Tommccarthy_thewire The Sun: The homeless veteran, Terry Hanning, that Templeton interviewed a few episodes back comes to the paper to complain -- pointedly -- about the way his story was told. Ouch -- as far as we can tell, this is about the only honestly reported story Templeton has done since we've met him. And in any other case, you could probably chalk up the difference between what Hanning said and what Templeton wrote -- IED attack vs. firefight -- as an honest mistake by a reporter who's never been in a war zone, or a (relatively) harmless embellishment.

But since Gus already has his radar up for Templeton, he's pushing hard to get the story straight (and dumping a similar piece of purple prose Scott turned in after Carcetti's candlelight vigil). Loved that last little detail from Hanning too: "We weren't drinking coffee. We were drinking chocolate milk."

Lester: Having watched Bond fail to use the "head shot" on Clay Davis in the state trial, Lester takes his case to the U.S. Attorney. He gets shot down cold, partly because the U.S. Attorney doesn't want a piece of Davis now that he's riding high and partly, it seems, out of his continuing contempt for Bond and Co. Undeterred, though, Lester takes things straight to the senator himself, offering to keep quiet in exchange for some answers to yet-unasked questions.

I don't know exactly what angle Lester is playing with Clay -- presumably it's to get higher up the ladder, as he discussed with Sydnor early in the season -- but I can't wait to see how it shakes out. These are two of the cagiest characters on The Wire, and I really want to watch them go head-to-head.

Notes and observations:

  • Two final pieces of injustice for Omar: The Sun doesn't have room for even a couple of paragraphs about his murder (I wonder if the old cops reporter would have recognized Omar's name and pressed for bigger play), and his body is mislabeled at the coroner's office.
  • Some of the night's funniest moments came with Jimmy and Kima at the FBI Academy in Quantico. They're completely unimpressed by the pompous assistant director's TV appearances, books and CSI consulation, and by his work on the Unabomber case ("That was 16 years, right?" ... "And then his brother ratted him out?"). Then, the look that passes over McNulty's face as they spell out the fake killer's profile, which is basically his own. Kima later asks what he thinks, and he replies, "They're in the ballpark."
  • Dukie hooking up with the junk man to make a few extra bucks is both kind of sweet -- he's finding some honest work away from the corners -- and incredibly sad, given how smart we know he is.
  • Amy Ryan didn't win an Oscar tonight, but as a consolation prize she got her best scenes on the show this season, giving McNulty what-for as he tries to explain the fake serial case.
  • That was former Barksdale crew member Poot telling Dukie to go bang for a little while longer, then come back and apply for a job at the shoe store.

Discuss this week's jam-packed Wire below: What did you think of Omar's exit, and is there any way that McNulty and Co. come out on the right side of things?