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March 05, 2008


Jones, one of the Jones boys

Well, you asked for disputation, and since I can't talk about the current season, here are some friendly suggestions about previous years. This is a long comment, but that's what you get when you ask for retrospective judgements of five years of the best damned etc.

1) Dumbest "asshole" strikes me as a bit of a misnomer, insofar as it suggests the character is unsympathetic or callous. That's true for Ziggy in S2 or Herc in S4 (the way he leaves Bubs out to dry, not once but twice--man, that's an arsehole!) but Wallace is pretty damn sympathetic. I would never, ever have called Wallace an arsehole, although I'd agree he makes the dumbest decision in season 1.

2) But he also gets some stiff competition from the Two Stooges, Herc and Carv. Those guys are just total fuck-ups the whole season--from their introduction (when they miss the concealed weapon on their COPS-style bust) to the time Daniels thinks they've stolen dope money even when they haven't, to Carv's decision to rat on Daniels to Burrell. Sadly, Fuzzy Dunlop only appears in season 2, but even so, Herc and Carv act pretty damn stupid throughout S1. Wallace is a naive kid, but Herc and Carv are a pair of goddamn knuckleheads. And, importantly, they stand for a certain style of policing--the Western District way--which the show doesn't think too much of.

3. I'd also go for Dee as Heart of Gold. He tries to get Wallace out of the game, feels remorse over the way they torture Omar's boyfriend, and almost rolls when Wallace gets got. Then there's that bit at the end of the season where we learn that his big man "tap tap tap" routine was just an act and he didn't actually kill the woman himself. Even more than the outlaw Omar (who, apart from his quest for vengeance, is motivated in S1 mostly for personal gain), Dee is the crim with the heart of gold.

4. And, hell, while I'm on S1, I'd nominate Freamon for most improved, but it's a tight race between him, Daniels, and Prez, I'll agree. Remember that, at the start of the season, Lester doesn't look like shit. He's some schlub they lumped Daniels with, who sits around all day making miniature furniture. And then he turns out to be the best police in the whole unit. But it is, in his case, more a matter of bringing out what's already there than any real growth. So maybe not.

5. Yeah, I'd go with Bunny as Dumbest "Asshole" for S3. He doesn't even think about the public health angle of Hamsterdam until the Deacon prompts him. Dumber still, he completely fails to foresee how the the bosses will ultimately fuck him over. The dumbest thing you can do in The Wire is underestimate how many ways you can get fucked up the arse. And he doesn't even get the Johns Hopkins gig.

6. I'd nominate Cutty for Most Improved in S3. Back on the streets, and back in the game for a few weeks, but somehow, against all the recidivist odds, he gets it together and even starts putting something back into the community. That's a pretty strong improvement there. Carver's definitely on his way to being real police in S3, but he doesn't really get there until the start of S4. His biggest improvements happen offscreen, between 3 & 4. AND Carv has a good role model in Bunny, which Cutty lacks (his relationship to the Deacon isn't nearly as strong). Come on, Cutty deserves some love!

7. Yeah, definitely Namond for Most Improved in S4. But I'd give at least props to Mr Prezbo. You teach, right? Then you'd know what a massive leap he makes between the start and end of the season...or, for that matter, that he has them paying attention at all, by the end.

8. Finally--finally!--not to multiply categories beyond necessity, but I'd suggest another category that's important every season--the Tragic Figure. Simon's always talking about the show as a tragedy with the institutions in the place of the fates or the gods. But even without that authorial insight, you can still see that every season has one or two heartbreaking or classically tragic moments/character arcs. Think Bubs or Wallace in S1, Frank Sobotka in S2, Stringer Bell in S3 and either Bubs again or Snitchin' Randy in S4.

Whew...that's my 11 cents, anyway.


I did ask.

2. Herc (and, until the end of season 3, Carver) are such easy calls that I was looking for other characters to keep the category from getting monotonous. Ziggy Sobotka may be the only thing keeping Herc from a three-peat.

3. A definite possibility. On the other hand, he starts the season skating on a homicide and the two witnesses are both killed. And if feeling remorse over torture qualifies you as a moral center... One of the greatest character arcs, but he starts in a pretty awful place and most of the show's conscience/mentor types start out fully formed. D'Angelo wouldn't be a bad choice for Most Improved or your new category, though...

4. Yeah, Lester doesn't look like much at first but it's pretty clear that he always was a real police. Any "improvement" is over the second he shows up with that boxing poster.

6. Completely forgot about Cutty! Again, thinking too much about the police as the protagonists.

7. Prez is the Peter O'Toole of the Most Improved; denied the award every year, he'll get the lifetime achievement consolation prize. He's the character I most associate with this category (hence the picture) since he's always making great strides, but there's always someone else who starts out in a worse situation and comes farther. Maybe he is Most Improved in season one, evolving from a racist, trigger-happy legacy police to a patient investigator (largely thanks to Freamon). Daniels' growth from Burrell's street-ripping stooge to a principled leader is a bigger deal for the unit and the show, but Prez probably makes the bigger change.

Prez was one of my favorite characters even before the teaching gig, and season four sealed the deal. I've missed his presence this year.

8. Maybe... but the tragic figure would have to be the character who challenges the gods, the institutions, and is punished for it, and I'm not sure Bubbles or Wallace do. Maybe Bubbles acts out a black-comedy counterplot when he tries to kill his mugger, a hero's struggle played out for and among the groundlings. This category would seem to be made for the protagonists--Jimmy and Stringer turf.



Great time for a retrospective! I'll just throw in where I see some possible room for improvement.

Season 1: I think Omar is clearly the craftiest bastard. His versatility is amazing as he takes out Stinkum through gunplay and Bird through testifying (did we ever find out if Omar was telling the truth?). And I'll always love the way he silently sees the picture of Orlando's in Major Crimes and immediately uses the info for a stakeout. Who does that leave for heart of gold? Jesus, who knows? Bubbles maybe, who risks a lot to feed info to Kima for pretty altruistic reasons.

Season 2: Beadie seems like a better fit for most improved. She becomes a pretty good investigator by the end of the season. Heart of gold? Could this be Prez's slot? He keeps major crimes alive and socks Valchek in the face.

Season 3: Kima makes a good run at biggest asshole here, but she comes up a little short I guess. And Rawls is so great at those Comstat meetings, so I'll stick with your call. Dumbest asshole? I like your Royce pick since he pretty much blows his reelection campaign right here. Or maybe that kid whose job it was to buy burners up and down I-95.

Season 4: These are the easiest picks of the lot with only craftiest bastard up for debate. Prop Joe maybe? He dominates the co-op, tricks Marlo into the group, and makes some good money when he buys back that dope from Omar.

Tito Landrum

Such great, great stuff here. I'm loving it.

Not too much more to add, other then I think that Carver needs an award somewhere. Maybe most improved of S3? or S4? I love the way that he outgrew Herc, a little toward the end of S3 and then by leaps and bounds in S4. Now? Carver is simply the man!


Thanks for all the great comments, guys.

Season one: yeah, I love that scene with the picture of Orlando's--slipped right by me the first time. Burrell plays politics better than anybody in this season, the traditional province of the Crafty Bastard, and Levy pulls off that amazing baking soda stunt, but Omar is definitely in the mix.

Season two: Beadie becomes a great investigator, but then she goes back to her patrol job. I picked her for Heart of Gold (in a season that was surprisingly short on them) because she seemed to be the only character who really cared about the port way of life and the fourteen dead women, and she wasn't morally compromised like Frank Sobotka. Not a perfect choice, though.

Season three: Yeah, Kima is a complete asshole to Cheryl and an ingrate to Daniels, but even if Rawls weren't so masterful at the Comstat meetings I couldn't give her the title. Kima's only an apprentice McNulty that season. Plus, the scene with McNulty pretending to be racist to ingratiate himself with the Virginia cop--! Without Rawls, McNulty would have this sewn up.

Bernard--hah, yeah, and I love that scene where he's happy to be taken to jail because it gets him away from Squeak.

Season four: Craftiest Bastard was pretty much created for Valchek in season four, so I can't see handing it to anybody else. Joe actually sets up his demise in season four when he sets Omar and Marlo against each other--what does he say, he just about propositioned himself into his own grave? Valchek throws the election to Carcetti when he leaks the supposed witness homicide, makes himself Deputy Commissioner for Administration, and actually reads the political winds better than Bill Rawls.

As for Carver--yeah, I really love his growth in seasons three and four, but it seems like somebody else always starts out worse and learns more. (I have to agree with Jones about Cutty.) If Prez is the most improved of season one, then Carver is the new Peter O'Toole.

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