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Gbenga Akinnagbe (#110 of 7)

The Deuce Recap Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

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The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

Paul Schiraldi

The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

Fans of David Simon’s The Wire won’t be surprised that the pilot episode of The Deuce lacks a singular inciting event designed to ensure audience retention. In the place of narrative hooks, the episode thoroughly maps the ecosystem of vice that was 1970s New York City, and beckons us to explore a ruinous Times Square alongside a sprawling cast of vibrant characters.

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, "Final Grades"

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<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Final Grades”
<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Final Grades”

“I feel old. I been out there since I was 13. I ain’t never fucked up a count, never stole off a package, never did some shit that I wasn’t told to do. I been straight up. But what come back?”—Bodie Broadus

Bodie (JD Williams) fills the silence as he sits with Officer Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) in a plant sanctuary so peaceful he wonders if they’re still in Baltimore. His lament sounds like that of a third-generation factory worker abandoned by the town’s only industry, or any other middle class foot soldier forced to confront the American Dream. Bodie agrees to flip on his boss, drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector), to protest the business policy that it’s better to kill a corner grunt than chance a disruption in the trade. When Marlo’s minions surround Bodie’s post that night, he grabs a gun and starts blasting, shouting, “I’m right here!” as his crew scatters. Bodie knows it’s the end, but he’s going to meet it standing on the corner he built.

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, "Misgivings"

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<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “Misgivings”
<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “Misgivings”

“What he gonna do, fire you?” State Senator Clay Davis (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) laughs when police commissioner Ervin Burrell (Frankie R. Faison) hesitates to reassert control over the department after his refusal to resign leads Mayor-elect Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) to strip Burrell’s de facto authority. “He just showed you he don’t have balls enough.” Carcetti fashions himself a reformer, but his weak play to get Burrell to leave on his own admits that his debt to Burrell’s backers—the city councilors who control the purse strings and the black ministers who control the vote—trumps his power to change the course. Davis ends the meeting by advising Burrell to burnish his credentials with a new initiative (“some kind of police shit”), assuring, “Just take care of your end and let your friends handle theirs.”

“Change the course” often means more of the same, only more of it, as when Burrell sends down word to double arrests with a crackdown on “quality of life” violations. “Open container used to be sacrosanct in this town,” Officer Santangelo (Michael Salconi) grouses over the injustice. “Man’s beverage was his business.” Lt. Mello (Jay Landsman) gamely tries to respect both the chain of command and the hit to morale among the rank-and-file. “I mean, the election is fucking over, right?” he ponders to his boss. “Who are we doing this for?” Officer Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) reconciles his well-worn agony over his helpless role in the political gamesmanship in a speech to a young cop writing a ticket to please the bosses: “Let me tell you a little secret. A patrolling officer on his beat is the one true dictatorship in America. We can lock a guy up on a humble, we can lock him up for real, or we can say, ’Fuck it,’ pull under the expressway and drink ourselves to death, and our side partners will cover it. So no one—and I mean no one—tells us how to waste our shift.”

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 8, "Corner Boys"

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<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 8, “Corner Boys”
<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 8, “Corner Boys”

Eighth-grader Michael (Tristan Wilds) slams the cupboard and moves to where everybody in the house can hear him. “Where’s the Rice-a-Roni?” he demands. His mom (Shamika Cotton) ignores the question in the front room, so he asks again, louder, and squares for the coming nonsense. You fed it to a hungry looking boy? You cooked it for him? Oh, you just gave him a raw box of Rica-a-Roni. She drops the play and says she has to go out. She pulls her coat tight and waits. Michael sighs and turns his body to hide what’s left of the welfare money he pulls from his pocket. He hands over her drug allowance, minus what he estimates she sold the groceries for. She whines and strikes a toothless defiance (“You a hard child”) but relents.

Michael has become the dramatic center of The Wire, the common thread in a tangle of storylines on a show that balances dozens of them without favor. He’s the object of a triangular tug-of-war among men looking to mold a successor; the best friend of each of his friends; and—because he has to be for his little brother—the best father in a neighborhood largely without them. Michael is the purest embodiment of one of this season’s central themes—the need for somebody to step forward and lead.

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 4, "Refugees"

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<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 4, “Refugees”
<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 4, “Refugees”

The Wire’s Chris Partlow looks around him and sees an organization getting used to things being a certain way, and with that the first creep of indiscipline and hubris. Chris (Gbenga Akinnagbe) runs the muscle for Marlo Stanfield’s West Baltimore drug trade, but, like Slim Charles did for fallen kingpin Avon Barksdale, he adds the value of a sense of proportion and history. Marlo (Jamie Hector), otherwise sober and circumspect, is feeding a gambling habit, which Chris reminds him is getting expensive. When Marlo ends a business meeting at the rim shop by suggesting that Chris might need to kill his poker nemesis if Marlo keeps losing, the distaste in Chris’s eyes recalls Slim Charles’ response late in Season Three when Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) arrogantly ordered him to kill a state senator who’d picked his pocket. Slim Charles (Anwan Glover) bucked at the sloppy logic. “Shit, String, murder ain’t no thing,” he clarified, “but this here is some assassination shit.”

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, "Home Rooms"

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The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Home Rooms”
The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Home Rooms”

“What happens when you ain’t around to translate?” Bunny Colvin (Robert Wisdom) asks Deacon during this week’s episode of The Wire after they meet with a pompous university professor who is considering Bunny as a research partner for a clinical study of repeat violent offenders. Bunny’s claim not to speak the language of the social scientist belies his 30 years as a Baltimore policeman, during which he negotiated with groups of drug dealers and manned the podium at COMSTAT meetings while the upper brass hounded him over crime figures. Deacon (Melvin Williams, the real-life Avon Barksdale of the eighties) shrugs off the call for an interpreter. “Don’t play ignorant on me, Bunny. You can back and forth with any of these guys.”

Bunny needs the work, having lost, in succession, the full pension due a retired police major, his golden parachute running security for Johns Hopkins (both casualties of his experiment, “Hamsterdam,” to legalize drugs in his district, which yielded both a 14% drop in violent crime and a massive political shitstorm), and his security job at a downtown hotel (the result of his failing to give special treatment to a “friend of the hotel” who beats up a hooker). The academic is Dr. David Parenti (Dan DeLuca), who seeks a liaison to the corner, his own training being insufficient for navigating, as he calls it, ” the urban environment.” Go alone, Bunny agrees, “and they sell your tenured ass for parts.” Parenti’s project aims to study rehabilitation options for criminals ages 18 to 21, that is until Parenti interviews an actual 18-year old in custody and encounters a level of menace that sends him scurrying from the room. “Look,” he bargains, “I’m ready to acknowledge that, um, 18 to 21 might be too seasoned.” Hoping to sidestep the cycle where the subjects only spark the outside world’s attention after they enter the justice system, Bunny steers Parenti’s project to Edward J. Tilghman Middle School, where they might find subjects more receptive to a little social engineering.

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, "Boys of Summer"

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The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Boys of Summer”
The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Boys of Summer”

On The Wire, everyone’s in school. But when it comes to learning, Baltimore’s cops, teachers, street hustlers, politicians, and students all have at least one thing in common: they reject instruction they deem irrelevant to the job at hand. A sequence early in Season Four’s premiere, “Boy of Summer,” bounces between training seminars for public school teachers and police officers, who listen impatiently as droning bureaucrats with slick slide show graphics offer news they can’t use. The teachers and cops, fed up with the charade, pelt the speakers with real-world problems and derisive wisecracks about the value of the lessons. At the precinct house, when the government envoy prattles about emergency procedures in the event of biochemical agents, Sgt. Carver (Seth Gilliam) interjects a dose of perspective. “Them al-Qaedas were up on Baltimore Street planning on blowing up the chicken joint,” he volleys to guffaws from his fellow officers, “but Apex’s crew jacked ’em up, took the camels and robes, buried their ass in Leakin Park. Least that’s what I heard.”

Those who bring the specialized knowledge to deal with a complex environment, on the other hand, engender quick respect where it might not otherwise be forthcoming. Early in the episode, a group of 13- or 14-year old boys gather in a vacant lot to try to capture what they think is a white homing pigeon, which they hear might fetch several hundred dollars from Marlo Stanfield, an emerging drug kingpin with a bird habit. They’ve tied a string to a stick that props up a box over some food, and the bird they desire comes near the bait but flies away when a bottle breaks nearby. The boys accost Dookie, the runt of the group who threw the bottle to squash a bug, and batter him with insults. When they walk away, Randy (Maestro Harrell) stays back to give Dukie a chance to explain himself. Dukie (Jermaine Crawford) tells him that their prey wasn’t a homing pigeon, and when he elaborates by describing the metal band around the leg of actual homing pigeons, Randy’s posture shifts from one of disdain to pride that his friend possesses such valuable information. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Snoop (Felicia Pearson), one of Marlo’s assassins, shops a hardware store for a more reliable nail gun, which she uses to board up her victims in vacant houses. She describes the drawbacks of her current tool to the salesman, who patiently details the merits of various nail guns until Snoop knows which one best suits her purpose. Hearing that the price is $669 plus tax, she peels off eight hundred-dollar bills from a roll and tells him to take care of the sale and keep the change. When the salesman, flummoxed by her generosity, hesitates, she declares, “You earned that bump like a motherfucker.”