Here it is, your inside line on the Andre Awards...
Biggest Asshole: The Sun plot has furnished us with no shortage of possibilities. Whiting, Klebanow, and Templeton are all symptomatic of what's killing newspaper journalism, and their air of entitlement (patrician in Whiting, childlike in Templeton) gives them an added edge in this category. But while the problems they symptomize have dire consequences nationally and globally, these characters just aren't as destructive on the human, interpersonal level of the show's dramatic action. The show rightly castigates the media for promoting the fabricated cause for war in Iraq, but it does so mostly through analogy and metaphor; Whiting, Klebanow, and Templeton don't have anything to do with that on-screen. Their chances also suffer from a weakness that, as you'll see, plagues all the Sun nominees: their plot is too isolated from the main action of the series.
Marlo has shown himself to be a sociopath with absolutely no honor or loyalty, but we knew that already. Still, even by the standards of the drug trade, he's poisonous. Even if you chalk up the attempted hit on Michael as part of his survival strategy, killing Butchie, Joe, Junebug, and Junebug's family places him high in the running. The fact that he never dirties his own hands makes him all the more contemptible, for some reason.
Reader Daniel made a pretty good case in the early comment threads for Michael Steintorf, the Chief of Staff who pushes Carcetti to gut the police department and turn down federal help for political advantage. The "Be creative" line certainly helps his chances. Carcetti's been no prize this season either, but Steintorf's whispering in his ear has pushed him the wrong way every time. (As an aside, I wish we'd seen more of Norman whispering in the other ear. How does he feel about Carcetti's decisions?)
Is that everybody? I could have sworn there was somebody else...
Oh, yes. A former police popping up in a couple of episodes working for a criminal lawyer may seem like a little enough transgression. But if the lawyer works for the same drug organizations you spent four seasons trying to bust--and he defended the soldiers who shot your mentor, getting one of them off with baking soda--and you are now spying on your best friend, funneling information from him right back to the lawyer so he can defend the sociopath who cost you your last job--then you, my friend, have just negotiated the leap from Dumbest to Biggest Asshole.
Unless the final episode has Marlo ordering Kenard to strangle Kima's kid, this one's a lock.
Dumbest Asshole: This is all but guaranteed to be one of our serial killer fabulists. McNulty starts the ball rolling and Freamon escalates it when he really should have known better. (That said, I find their decisions, appalling and unrealistic as they are, to be perfectly in character for both of them--the writers have done a great job resting this absurd storyline on well-established traits like McNulty's self-destructiveness and their shared intellectual vanity.) They could easily destroy the MCU over this, maybe even the careers of Sydnor, Carver, Carver's people, Landsman, and Daniels.
Other nominees would have to include Joe Stewart for getting caught in a trap he really should have seen coming, considering he helped set it, and Rupert Bond for letting Clay Davis control his trial (with a little help from the writers). But neither of them have jeopardized as much hard work or derailed the city as much as Freamon and McNulty.
Craftiest Bastard: Stan Valchek commits a beautiful and masterfully-executed act of bastardy when he sinks Burrell (still, to this point, my favorite scene of the season) and true to form, the consequences are good for the city even if his goals are thoroughly venal. But it's hard to see him taking the prize on a single appearance. Will somebody else beat the master at his game?
Marlo's been pretty slick in setting himself up as the kingpin of the city. On the other hand, his takeover was built largely on writer fiat (Joe's idiocy), his authority was seriously destabilized by a one-legged stick-up artist (who he himself brought back into the game), and you can't say that Lester Freamon didn't outwit him. Lester's been pretty damned crafty this season but, like Joe Stewart, he might have dug his own grave with the fake serial killer. Many of the show's craftiest bastards have been too crafty for their own good this season, taking themselves out of contention.
Right now, I have to like Nerese Campbell for this one. She convinced Burrell and Davis to go quietly, she got Carcetti to give away the farm in exchange for the firing, she's dealt herself into a prime position to become the next mayor, and she still has that file on Daniels. For a woman who was dealt a huge blow in the first episode, she's come out looking pretty good.
Heart of Gold: This one seems like it should be a Daniel Day-Lewis/Javier Bardem-style lock--Gus Haynes is all too clearly cut from the Bunny Colvin cloth. But while he's the moral and professional center of the newspaper, he's stayed too isolated there. Can he be the conscience of the season when he almost never leaves the newsroom and has no idea what's really happening in the main storylines?
With Omar breaking his code and Colvin relegated to a cameo, this category could be wide open for the first time in three seasons. Bunk Moreland and Kima Greggs have both acted on conscience when it's been hard to act on conscience; they don't just throw a fit, storm away, and let Klebanow overrule them. I have to like one of these two as the inside favorite, depending on what happens in the final episode. Assuming nothing else changes, give the edge to Kima for doing the truly hard thing and doing it the right way.
Most Improved: A hard category to handicap without knowing where everybody ends up. Michael Lee shows he hasn't completely lost his conscience, and his tactical savvy grows by leaps and bounds in the penultimate episode--but whether he ends up as the new Marlo or, I grudgingly concede, the new Omar, it's hard to call that an improvement either way. If through some miracle he finds a way off the corners he might be in the mix.
Mike Fletcher is developing into a good reporter, but the change is too minor and the consequences are too small. There's also something off-putting about a David Simon-written character earning David Simon's praise for developing into a reporter who works like David Simon--not that I don't expect Simon to promote his view of journalism, but this award shouldn't go to the teacher's pet.
Leander Sydnor has become that most exalted of figures on this show--the effective middle manager. (Compare to Bodie, Colvin, Haynes, or Daniels.) He can break codes like Prez, work a paper trail like Freamon, even coordinate a large team of officers like Daniels. If the MCU survives at all, he will be the only guy who can rebuild it. But he may be fatally compromised by his own complicity in the scam.
Bubbles has come far, hasn't he? The hardest work was done between seasons, but he's still come a long way this year--getting tested for HIV, volunteering in the soup kitchen, becoming Fletcher's guide, making his anniversary, and almost, almost unburdening himself about Sherrod. (Also, it would be nice if Andre Royo won an Andre.) If he can take this all the way I think he becomes Most Improved for the entire series, no question.
But this show feeds on false hope.
So what do you think? Did the academy overlook anybody? Who should win the first and final Andre Awards?