Everything's looking up this week. Carcetti's getting the city government working, Daniels has reconstituted Major Crimes, Freamon has finally learned where Marlo's dumping his bodies, and Omar knows damn near everything. Sounds like a new day.
Clearly this can't last. Obviously the plans for turning the police around from stats-juking to investigation won't go as well as Carcetti and Daniels promise, but there are plenty of clouds on the horizon: the Herc mess, the power plays for commissioner, the possibility that Daniels' past corruption or his relationship with Ronnie will come back to haunt him. The most immediate question is whether Lester can get some movement on the Barksdale subpoenas before Carcetti gets hooked on that developer money. The crosscutting between Lester dusting off the Major Crimes office and Carcetti making the rounds at the charity ball is more blatant than a lot of Wire comparisons, but it works as a basic suspense-film race against time. The race is to keep Carcetti from becoming Clarence Royce.
Everything else will rise or fall on that--on the citywide level. On the individual level, over at Tilghman Middle or Bubbles' Depot, people continue to fall like there's no new day at all.
Sweepstakes: Looking for the biggest asshole can get tiresome week after week, so I thought I'd change the game. (With some caution--look how that turned out for Stringer Bell.) I contemplated looking for the nicest guy, the person who treats people with the most decency and who's working the hardest to make the city a better place, but that's too easy: Bunny Colvin, two years running. That affectionate horseplay in the hall with Namond kills me, because I know it can't last either.
Let's look instead for something The Wire does even better than the biggest asshole: the craftiest bastard.
- Tommy Carcetti? I loved his rampage through the city's public works departments (pure O'Malley), but he's still on the learning curve. Burrell's played him on this Herc thing, when Herc might have given him an opportunity to start turning the ministers against Burrell. (Who ordered the double in street busts, after all?)
- Ervin Burrell? He finally shows us how he got his job--nothing to do with police work, everything to do with politics--but if he were that crafty he wouldn't be in hot water in the first place.
- Herc? Hahahahahahahahaha! I kid.
- Jay Landsman? He sees right through the sky-high promises (McNulty plays the same role in the Western) and his quip about the "cute couple" may foreshadow how Daniels will be cut down. He is a master at protecting his own position in a division where the bosses know his name, but ultimately he's just treading water. He is but an apprentice next to the real winner.
- Lester Freamon? Not really in the running, though I did love watching him unravel the mystery of the vacants. Time's up, Marlo.
- Omar? He knows more about Marlo and the co-op after a couple weeks of tailing cars than Freamon did after a year of investigation. That bothers me to the extent that it furthers the show's uncharacteristic romanticization of Omar, but presumably his competence is the result of a brutal Darwinian selection: this is what he does, and he wouldn't still be around if he couldn't do it.
- Bill Rawls? For once he's caught off guard. The look on his face when he realizes he won't be the next commissioner is almost, almost justice for four years of assholery.
- And that leaves the man who broke the bad news... nobody, and I mean nobody, plays the game like Stan Valchek. Rawls questioned his competence when Carcetti proposed him for Deputy Commissioner for Administration, but the guy's incompetent like a fox. Valchek might have thrown the election to Carcetti with his tip-off about the "witness homicide," and now he's a Deputy Commissioner because of it. He read the weather for Herc earlier in the season and now he's reading it for Rawls. In so doing he angles Rawls against Daniels, who went out on a limb for his fuck-up son-in-law three times, so no points for loyalty--but when has anybody ever been rewarded for loyalty in The Wire? Just ask Clarence Royce.
Valchek may be treacherous, he may be spiteful, he may even be incompetent, but the crafty old bastard does get what he wants. He's like the old, white, Polish police version of Delonda Brice. Hats off to you, Stan.