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May 07, 2008

Comments

JJMcC

Yikes, if I'da known you'd front-page me I'da put more thought to it! :] Would like to add to the record the Bodie's death affected me MUCH more than Bell's. If I step back it seems narratively tacked on with so much else going on in S4. But the actor just completely sells it, and it is a pretty effective way to underline the Barksdale/old school door Marlo is slamming shut.

Marc

I thought Bodie's growing alienation and sudden murder was one of the most moving storylines in the show, all five seasons--pretty impressive considering how odious he appears after shooting Wallace back in season one. (Although, on revisiting that scene, Bodie's the hesitant one--it's Poot, the survivor, who urges him to pull the trigger.) And it sells the show's case about postmodern capitalism with perfect clarity and force, but without ever descending into lectures. (Allowing a little poetic license for the pawns speech to McNulty. At least Bodie got to write his own epitaph.)

Bell's death never affected me in any emotional way. When I say he's the tragic hero of season three I mean that in a generic, structural sense, not any cathartic connection. Frankly, I was glad to see Omar get his revenge (and D'Angelo, indirectly). But Bell's death fits the show's pattern, especially prominent in season two and three, of individuals who challenge their institutions' insane practices and fall hard because of it.

Interesting how many different throughlines you can draw in this series... Bell's rise and fall in S2 and S3, the political race in S3 and S4, the various rises and falls of Omar and all the kids in S4 and S5. There's always something to carry over into the next season.

But still, season two above season three? Wow.

Stephen Frug

I don't agree, but I don't find any of the reasoning to be wildly wrong, except this:

Prez gets some nice moments but by and large mouths stock-if-accurate 'why can't we just teach' speeches, and it's still the best use of the character yet

I think Prez's character arc in season one is radically underrated. His incredibly convincing and fascinating rehabilitation -- done well enough that the first time through you don't even realize it's happening until partway through -- was terrific. (And made the ending to his career in S3 all the more painful -- that scene where Jay Landsman talks about what a fuck-up Prez is, and everything he says is true, and we still know how wrong he is? Damn.)

Oh, and as for S5 spoilers: forget the strangling of Kima's kid, the part you really don' want to let slip is how Spiderman swings in to save the day halfway through. No one saw that coming...

Marc

The sad part is, only one of us is kidding.

Yeah, I agree about the brilliant growth of Prez in S1 (so understated I actually missed him on my first go-round of "Most Improved" Andres), but I also think his arc in season four is a lot more than stock speeches. Maybe it's just because I'm a teacher--you too, right, Stephen?--but all that stuff is so damn true. The worthless orientations, the deer-in-the-headlights first day, the joke that falls flat, and then his slow acquisition of competence and control and respect, pretty much on his own. I have never taught at a place anywhere close to Tilghman Middle (though some too close for my comfort) and I probably saw something familiar in every episode.

And I loved Prez's cameo in S5, which seemed to show that he'd mastered his game--until he lets Dukie play him. Surely Prez, of all the teachers at Tilghman, should have known exactly what he was letting Dukie get into--and funding.

Jones, one of the Jones boys

Maybe it's because I liked the actor in Oz, but I always liked Bodie, even in S1. He had some good comedy relief stuff with Herc & Carv.

I thought the pawns speech was a clever call-back to this scene in S1:

http://tinyurl.com/ytgex6

Bodie always saw himself as a pawn, even when he didn't know what chess was.

Re: Prez' school days, was anyone else surprised by the roads they *didn't* take in that thread? Specifically:

(1) Remember when Prez finds the new computers and new textbooks in storage and unilaterally decides to introduce them to his classroom? I was sure he was going to be smacked down for that. I mean, come on--lone wolf bucks the system, does the right thing, and he *doesn't* get punished? WTF? Is this the same moral universe as the rest of the show?

(2) They also seemed to be steering towards some kind of sexual molestation thing with him and Dukie. Like, not that Prez would do anything, but that it would be misinterpreted by an onlooker. And such a development would have totally fit with Prez' character, naive, well-intentioned fuck-up that he is (god bless him). I'm glad they didn't go there, but a couple of their scenes verged on inappropriate teacher behaviour. Or, at least, showed that Prez didn't yet have his "I'm not a pedo" radar up and running.

JJMcC

Bodie - I certainly agree that between acting and writing there were few if any wasted scenes with him. When he and Poot met Herc and Carver at the movies, it was insanely, hysterically awkward. He may have been a pawn, but even with Wallace, Bodie had strong sense of a Pawn's Code (every bit as vital as Omar's), and it was Marlo's tampering with it that doomed him.

Prez - ok I might have been needlessly glib, figuring I was buried deep in an old thread ;] It is true I had forgotten Prez' S1 turnaround, how contemptible he started out and how subtle and satisfying it developed. His S3 disaster was heartbreaking - how far he had come, but then again hadn't. I did wonder about the weird vibe of some of the Dukie scenes (and the disaster it represented for Prez). On the one hand, it seemed tailor-made to an S5 media arc (feeding an overblown national fascination/horror with pedophilia), but on the the other I figured if anything like that had developed, you guys would have hinted at it through the S5 postings. So I took solace in that.

So yeah, S2 above S3 -- I just choose not to too-deeply analyze that against this

Marc

I wouldn't worry about it too much, Jeff. There are plenty of reasons to like S2, though they only become apparent on repeat/condensed viewing. Now, if you were to favor Ziggy above Bodie, we'd need to schedule an intervention.

Jones, I thought the computers showed just how dysfunctional the school system was--if they didn't know the computers were there, they weren't likely to know Prez was bucking them. (Come to think of it, didn't the MCU do something similar with some piece of equipment forgotten in police storage? No consequences there either.) I doubt anybody above Marcia Donnelly would ever find out, and she was one of the series' competent middle managers who protects her subordinates.

As to point 2, I'm glad they didn't head in that direction; they covered the same ground much more effectively with Michael and Cutty. There was even a hint of pedophile panic in DeLonda's reaction when she sees Bunny with Namond (probably the moment that cemented her as S4's biggest asshole). No need to go there a third time. The point was made that any adult male interest in children, especially boys, is regarded as suspicious--one of the problems stacking the deck against those kids, as it discourages male influence for these already fatherless boys.

As for inappropriate teacher behavior, are you thinking of the scene where Prez plants a hand on Dukie's shoulder? That was in an episode where all four of the kids were offered physical contact by some mentoring adult, and they either accept or rebuff it. I thought it was heavy-handed parallelism (damn you, Pelecanos!), not pedo scare foreshadowing.

Jones, one of the Jones boys

I wasn't thinking about the Cutty/Michael or Delonda/Bunny scenes when I wrote that. I completely agree, they handled the topic better in those plots. I'm glad they didn't go there with Prez, and that he got to stay (more or less) redeemed.

Yeah, that physical contact scene was probably the one I had in mind. But Prez was also letting him into school early to shower. Plus there's the fact that Prez was such a screw-up on the force. So I was probably on the look out for ways they would screw him up that season.

Stephen Frug

Marc,

Haven't been here for a while, so the time may have passed, but I'll respond to your comments anyway:

* Yeah, I teach; and to some degree Prez's experience echoed mine, but I think I've been farther from that sort of classroom than you have been. (Both high school & college, but mostly ones catering to a fairly elite clientele.)

* As for Prez getting played in S5... I dunno: I don't think he did. I think he knew *precisely* what was going to happen, and did it anyway. Why? Probably out of a million-to-one hope that he might just possibly be wrong (although he knew he wasn't); possibly out of the hope that even showing that much trust in Dukie might itself remind him of old possibilities, and change him. And frankly I don't think Prez was wrong: Dukie was going to get that money from somewhere; if there was a chance, however remote, that Prez could help, it was probably noble to try.

* And of course the joke was that I didn't have to be kidding... but you knew that. I saw an interview w David Simon, incidentally, and he said that one of the characters that Omar was modeled on actually did that in real life -- from a window 2 stories higher than they showed on the show. He claimed, basically, that he or you or I would be a grease spot, but that someone in that sort of shape, on that sort of adrenaline, can do it. The fact that it was based on something real did make me like the scene a bit better, actually.

Marc

Yeah, of course Prez knew Dukie was lying to him, but he still goes along with the lie. Knowing precisely what's going to happen only makes it worse, especially since Prez probably understands the world he's sending Dukie into better than any other teacher at Tilghman.

And no, it wasn't noble to try: he funds Dukie's burgeoning addiction on one of the last days when it might be easy to get him some help. If Prez really wanted to help his student he could have pushed him into social services. As bad as that group home was for Randy, it's a hell of a lot better than where Dukie ends up (and Dukie wouldn't be coming in with a reputation as a snitch). But moving the levers in a way that actually helps one of these kids is hard, as Colvin and Carver learned, and taking money out of an ATM is easy.

Poor Dukie. Every possible adult mentor or benefactor he encounters gives up on him, even Michael. I hope he meets his own Walon somewhere down the road, but I'm not holding my breath.

Stephen Frug

If Prez really wanted to help his student he could have pushed him into social services

Could he? I don't think so: if he'd tried, Dukie would simply have bailed. I think that Prez's gesture -- particularly with the words he gave along with it -- was the best chance he had: a really lousy one, but the only one. Basically, at that point Prez had little he could do.

Yeah, poor Dukie. Odds for him ain't good anywhere.

Marc

He could have not funded Dukie's addiction.

I agree that there was little Prez could have done for Dukie at that point, but he could have at least followed the teacher's version of the Hippocratic oath: first, do no harm. I'm fine with him playing out the lie on the chance that Dukie will break down and confess his real situation, but when he lets Dukie get out of the car at that location with his money, he's enabling Dukie's slide into Bubbledom. Terrible mistake.

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