WireTAP: A Dialogue About <em>The Wire</em> (Episodes 4-6)

The fifth and final season of HBO's groundbreaking drama, The Wire, is upon us. Every three episodes, we'll bring you a discussion of the series between TAP Online writers.  This week, Kriston Capps kicks off our dialogue about episodes four, five, and six. In addition to the crew from our last discussion, we're joined this time around by former TAP Online editor Sam Rosenfeld.  --The Editors

Kriston Capps: Prop Joe is dead, Omar is still alive, and McNulty is still tailing a serial killer -- all improbable outcomes in a season that, if possible, is only getting worse.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious -- David Simon betrayed Prop Joe. Joe was incomparably careful and even nervous when he gave Marlo's poker game to Omar in season four: Joe was worried, and rightly so, that it would fall back on him one day. Knowing full well that he is caught between Omar and Marlo's lines of fire, indeed, knowing full well that he placed himself there, he finds reason to suspect his own blood when Marlo touches Butchie. He knows that the Cheese stands alone. Prop Joe knows well enough to tip off Slim Charles to the fact. And then, in his overcautious wisdom, he keeps Cheese as his security. This complaint comes after the fact of his foolishness in not recognizing Marlo's plot for what it was. He claims to Marlo that he adopted him, like a son, and although there's reason enough to see Prop Joe as simply angling for his life with that line, there's no more reason to believe that it's true than there is to believe that it would work. At the same time there's no alternative explanation for why Prop Joe was so careless.

With the reemergence of Omar, we have a battle of superheroic proportions. I'm as big a fanboy as the next guy, so I'm excited to see a Wolverine-vs-Punisher type of throw-down in the works. However, even if I'm willing to suspend disbelief and accept that Omar could survive that several-story fall (and I'm not), I cannot appreciate that David Simon would be so tawdry as to use suspense as a storytelling strategy. Episode five ends with the viewer wondering whether and how Omar survived the jump. As a viewer, I'm annoyed to be left with a cliffhanger -- of all things -- in such an epic reimagining of television drama as The Wire has proved to be. The very interesting thing about the battle between Omar and Chris is the relationship between Chris and Marlo (as is developed in episode six). Chris made his move and missed, and he believes that his mistake might be fatal because Marlo won't accept it. This will prove to be one of the first exceptional internal tests of the Stanfield crew. Which is so much more interesting, and such a better question to leave a viewer with at the end of an episode, than the question of whether, say, Omar is an Olympic-level acrobat.

There was a previous sequence in The Wire that also proved to be pretty fantastical -- at least as fantastical as the absurd and patience-testing development that two serial liars might be bilaterally collaborating on a fabrications of municipal proportions: Hamsterdam. The difference between Hamsterdam and McNulty's ripper is that the former was established after several seasons developing the structural problems that make change impossible. Hamsterdam was an experiment, an exception to prove the rule. Add to that the fact that it was an outstanding allegory for (what was then the in-vogue justification for our ongoing presence in) Iraq and you have a very justifiable departure from reality.

Spencer Ackerman: Kriston, I'm really not sure I understand your point about David Simon betraying Prop Joe. There was nothing implausible about Joe's murder. Joe was not careless at all. He was boxed in. We learned in the final arc of season four that there is only so far Joe is willing to go to give up "my sister's boy." He tells Slim in episode five that he wants to diminish Cheese's role in the East Side operation while he leaves town. What else could Joe do? Pushing Cheese aside is both an admission of weakness to the co-op and a nod to Marlo that Joe recognizes Marlo's game -- right as Joe himself is trying to co-opt Marlo. From every angle, Marlo outplayed Joe, exploited Joe's desire to control him, and boxed him into the mistakes that made his death inevitable.

Thematically, Joe's murder is true to the show. With the co-op, Joe, like Stringer, attempted to reform the drug trade that Simon tells us over and over and over will not accept reform. His death has been pre-ordained at least since that dark day when Stringer fell. Now the question is whether Marlo will be the victim of his own overstretch. It seems fair to say that men who seek to dominate the entire drug trade do not live long.

They also -- in the comic books we love and treasure -- fall victim to the Dark Knight. The most tin-eared line of the show followed its best: Marlo first observing (on behalf of the audience) that Omar's survival "doesn't make sense," and then adding, "that's some Spider-Man shit." No, it's Batman shit. I am very happy the show didn't try to explain Omar's survival, beyond the wrenching scene when he splints his own shattered leg. Do you think he's crying from the pain, or from the shame of not avenging Butchie in one swift, terrible stroke?

Last thing on Omar. We can accept some magical realism here. Omar is less a character than a force of nature. His survival makes no sense if we understand the show literally: Omar goes against Barksdale's empire, then Marlo's empire, and whomever else he's put his gun on in the past -- and he's still alive? No, he's Batman, and he always has been. Simple and plain. It's hard to criticize the Batman scene without misunderstanding the whole character.

But notice what happened when Omar stumbled out of the maintenance closet. He left behind his cape -- that is, his amazing, trademark trench coat. I think that's a hint that his immortality is coming to an end.

Kay Steiger: What struck me after watching episode six was that the season seems to be getting steered a bit back on track: The hierarchy of the drug dealers is taking more of a prominent role, Bunk is digging up the evidence on 22 murders, and Omar is back. But the brief experiment into the fantastical, as Kriston calls it, reeks of series writing like you might find on a soap opera or sitcom -- or, god forbid, 24 -- rather than The Wire. It seems that the writing has gotten away from the writers. Now they have to rein in the story.

Previews suggest that McNulty wants out of the pseudo serial killer plot, and by god, I do, too. The storyline is so ridiculous that it has restrained the rest of the season. Instead, Bunk is digging up the murders again. If they'd have used the newspaper to leak a story about department incompetence on real murders instead of trying to invent a serial killer, they would have saved everyone time and frustration.

The newspaper storyline is still heavy-handed. When Templeton comes through with an actual story from a homeless vet (yes, they do exist), Gus compliments him by saying, "it's not overwritten." Awesome. Way to hit us over the head with a sledge hammer.

Kriston Capps: Spencer, Prop Joe was leaving the city when he was murdered -- it's not exactly the time for keeping up appearances, and though I agree that that's one reason why Prop Joe would keep Cheese close rather than try to discover the truth or shut him out fully, it's not good reason for taking any chances. I recognize that none of this would have happened had Prop Joe been more cautious and so complaining that Prop Joe wasn't cautious risks missing the point. But, as you say, Prop Joe was trapped -- that's when you expect him to reach out and grasp at straws. Did he or didn't he know that his fall was imminent? In season four it seemed that he knew there was little he could do to escape that trap. But by season five it seems that he forgot he was in it.

Regarding Omar as Batman, I think that you might inadvertently affirm my point here. Batman is not awesome by dint of his amazing flying powers (okay, he is an awesome gymnast, martial artist, scientist -- all around pretty great guy). He's great because he's simply better prepared than his enemies. He doesn't trust to luck that he'll jump out a window and survive; he jumps out a window because that's his contingency plan.

Sam Rosenfeld: I, too, took Omar's flying leap as the clearest tweak yet by Simon at commentators who continue at this date to blockheadedly praise the show's unvarnished documentary-like ultra-realism, despite the obviously mythic qualities of some of the show's major characters, Omar most of all. And while Kriston's right to point out that the show doesn't typically end episodes on a cliffhanger ... well, what's wrong with a cliffhanger? I'm not above a little suspense.

As for Prop Joe's demise, I again join Spencer in pushing back against the hate parade a bit -- I thought Joe's conversation with Slim Charles, in which he acknowledged both that he had suspicions of Cheese and that he could only go so far in turning against family, was all the foreshadowing that was necessary. In general, I had found episode four terrific and distinctly less uneven than others this season -- from the funny-scary pre-credits scene showing the corner boys' prank on the cops and Colicchio's explosion, through the affecting Carver-Herc dialogue over beers, all the way to Marlo's freaky stare in the final frame of the show. The next two episodes saw a return to some serious problems, alas, about which more soon.

Matt Yglesias: On Omar, I'm mostly with Sam and Spencer. He's always been a mythic element in the show, and key to Simon's use of allegory, genre play, etc. The explicit referencing of Spider-Man fits the pattern, much like his spaghetti western standoff in an earlier season. My only problem here is that "Omar hell bent on revenge it's not about the money this time" is quite literally a plot arc we've seen before. It's not a bad plot arc, but it's a bit tired, reminiscent of the way The Sopranos started to recycle themes the longer the show went on.

But beyond the obvious complaints about the newspaper storyline, I'm perturbed by Simon's deployment of what amount to cameos of characters from past seasons who seem to have no real role in season five. The Randy scene was brilliant and affecting, but the Nick Sobotka appearance was heavy-handed ("symbolically speaking, Mr. Mayor, our indifference to that man stands in for the political system's indifference to the plight of the working class") and also wrenching in terms of plot mechanics. Isn't Nick supposed to be in federal witness protection? If he left and he's back on the streets of Baltimore, shouldn't he be dead? One could imagine stories here, but as Simon doesn't want to tell them he should let the character lie. The relationship to the season two plotline was clear enough.

Similarly, Avon. The scene with him talking to Marlo was really fun to watch, but in retrospect it's left me cold. That wasn't, in retrospect, an important plot point Simon was developing. It was just a bit of candy for the audience -- look, it's Avon! Neat, but who cares? One of the signature elements of The Wire used to be an extraordinary economy of narrative force. Nothing happened *just because* it made for a neat scene of television -- everything was advancing plot arcs or thematic points. Now, given only ten episodes to wrap the show up, Simon is suddenly giving us throwaway moments. It seems unworthy of the show.

Spencer Ackerman: Last thing I'll say about Omar. Matt, don't you think Simon is bookending Omar here? You're right to say we've literally seen an Omar: Out for Vengeance plot before. But the theme was introduced in season one, when Omar's vendetta against the Barksdales began after they murdered Brandon. The fallout from Brandon's death accounts for probably 60 percent of the Omar scenes The Wire has given us. It seems appropriate to reprise the theme for the series finale.

Also, more has to be said about the Randy cameo. It was among the most haunting scenes The Wire has ever -- ever -- offered. Randy begins season four as the can-do hustler, set to get over. He slings candy, not drugs. He takes to Prez's math class when he learns how he can hustle at dice. And he promises us he's going to own his own store one day. Then all hell breaks loose: Marlo puts on the street that Randy's a snitch, simply to test whether Michael stands tall for his friend. It leads to the destruction of Randy's life.

Last night we saw the wages of what failed systems yield. Randy, back in foster care, where he was brutally beaten in the closing montage of season four, is now himself a monster. He lives by prison rules: when he storms out of his brief meeting with Bunk, he screams that he'll kill the detective if he's given the opportunity. That makes sense given his reputation as a snitch. But then, as he's marching up the stairs, he finds a little kid in his way and shoves the kid down.

If anyone whines that The Wire isn't real after watching that scene, s/he forfeits his/her membership to the critics' club. Randy is the streets. The thug you see on your evening news -- brutal, pathological, seemingly senseless -- probably started out as Randy, and then the systems failed him. I wanted, like Carver in season four, to scream for no one to hear and impotently beat my steering wheel at what's happened to Randy. Before he's 21, he'll be dead or in jail. And no one will ever care.

Kriston Capps: Randy's appearance is too little, too late, to rescue this season from some its more painful moments. The scene that comes to mind is the one in which Dukie and Cutty are talking about Michael, and Dukie says (in dialogue, out loud) that Michael grew up too fast. That's the sort of connective tissue that this show has labored to avoid -- parataxis is as critical as dialect to the success of dialogue in the show. I appreciate the scene with Randy but I have to say, I don't believe that this scene told us anything we couldn't infer from the denouement of season four. I'm affected to see him resort to monster tactics, but I'm not surprised or horrified to the same degree I was when he's beaten as soon as he enters the group home. In part, that scene was so horrifying because the viewer realizes that Randy has finally, and for good, fallen out of one system and into another one. It looks as though you'll be revoking my membership, but I'm going to call that scene just fine but a little bit redundant, and not on par with what we saw in season four.

I do think we're treated to a few moments of extraordinary dialogue in the newsroom -- the bit that Kay highlighted, when Haynes praises Templeton's authentic text, and when the editors call for a "Dickensian" series on homelessness. These mimetic tweaks by the authors at the show's audience -- not at its critics, even, but at its most enthusiastic supporters -- are brilliant. I haven't read all the interviews with David Simon, et al., so I don't know why he rejects this high praise or whether he's just having fun with it. I know I have myself used that exact term, so I feel like I've been pwned.

Sam Rosenfeld: In general I continue to endorse Spencer's valiant efforts at beating back the negative tide. But now, onto some problems: Nobody appears to dispute that the dual fabulist plotlines strain basic credulity in a way that really does distinguish them from past story arcs and past seasons. I frankly welcomed episode five's scene in the newsroom when McNulty's and Templeton's lies finally merge, both because the extended look on McNulty's face when he realizes what the reporter is up to really is laugh-out-loud priceless, and because I figured if the writers are committed to pursuing these plotlines, they might as well go all the way and make the plot turns and role inversions truly baroque, farcical, and darkly funny. (At the same time I certainly hope Kay's right that the show's attention might be shifting elsewhere.)

But the biggest flaw of this story arc, even taking it on its own implausible turns, is the blankness of Templeton's character -- and it's not blankness in the rich, haunting, what's-going-on-behind-those-cat-eyes sociopathic manner of Marlo, it's blankness as a dramatic byproduct of the writers just not being interested in this character as a person. How, for example, is Templeton interpreting and dealing with the fact that a cop is now validating and elaborating upon his own lie, for seemingly obscure reasons? The writers don't bother to show us over the course of an entire subsequent episode, simply sending him off to interview a Iraq vet instead (though the vet's "look ma, no hands," line, directed at Templeton, was admittedly clever). The question doesn't even seem to have occurred to them.

Another point of seeming consensus here is the writers' shocking use of Lester Freamon, leveraging the sense of trust and gravitas that the audience has come to attribute to the character over the years in the service of rendering McNulty's scheme more plausible or palatable. On this issue, commenter James Angove has turned out to be quite prescient in a point he made in the thread to WireTAP's first installment:

I think its interesting that so many people see Lester as the moral center of the police on the wire. I don't think there is any reason to believe that; he's less obviously self-destructive than McNulty, but not profoundly different. He's a crusader, he's deeply impressed with his own righteousness, and he's obviously and historically perfectly comfortable immolating himself to make a largely futile point.

Bunk, to my mind, is clearly the moral center of the Wire's police universe. He a good police, and a good detective, but he never makes the mistake of thinking its about him.

As we see in episode six and in the preview to the episode to come, McNulty may not actually turn out to be the one who ultimately falls fully into the vortex of personal obsession.

Matt Yglesias: Okay, but WHY the shift in Freamon's attitude? It is a shift. Recall that in season three he's telling McNulty to get a life, warning that 'the job won't save you.'

Ezra Klein: I'm with Spencer on the scene with Randy, but with Matt on the general incoherence of their presentation of past characters. You could imagine a Wire reunion in which all the characters reappear, and do so to make a point. But that's not what's going on. Randy's reemergence was chilling (and may or may not be a one-off), but Avon's was merely comical, and Nick's was beyond heavy-handed -- it was deeply implausible.

And poor Omar. His character always had a slightly opaque role in the show. Was he an avenging angel? A charismatic parasite? An anachronistic samurai battling a world that no longer honors a moral code? Or was he always that which David Simon cannot allow to exist: Hope? Hope that an individual could do extraordinary things, and though his chosen realm of achievement was perverse, remain on the side of the light even while he walked through the streets after dark? Omar, somehow, always floated above the street, like an exiled being from a better place.

But Simon, quite literally, has pulled him back down to earth, and shattered his leg in the process. Now Omar is back on the streets, without his gun, without his trenchcoat, and bereft of his protector and guide (Butchie was to Omar as Splinter was to the Ninja Turtles, as Alfred was to Batman). He's sticking dealers up with beer bottles and taunting Omar with misogyny and homophobia. I predict that Omar will, before this is over, be brought low. Very low.

As for McNulty, the writers seem to be putting him on a collision course with Bunk. Where Bunk's old-fashioned police work looks like it may bust open the case, I'm increasingly sure that something done by McNulty and Freamon will destroy Bunk's investigation. Maybe Bunk will have to cover for his boy, and that act of friendship will cause him to miss a clue, or deny the possession of evidence. Maybe evidence discovered by Bunk will, simultaneously, be illegally obtained by McNulty, and thus rendered inadmissible by the courts. Either way, I'll be surprised if their friendship survives the season.

Kay Steiger: On another note, I've been really glad to see Beadie looking as if she might finally dump McNulty's ass. I feared the writers just tired of the story which made McNulty into a model dad, but now it seems they're going back to actually show the impact on Beadie. The scene with McNulty and his ex-wife was everything I dreaded in the first three episodes. Here, we see the relationships addressed. McNulty really is a shitty dad to his kids, wandering in drunk and late, missing all their important events (something that women just aren't allowed to do); when his ex-wife talks to him about Beadie, she revels a moment where she's over the bitterness of their failed marriage and really just wants to see McNulty happy with his new family, even though it turns out he's a shitty dad to Beadie's kids as well.

Meanwhile the personal relationships of the newspaper characters are pretty much nonexistent; we only see Gus or Alma wake from their partners' beds to conduct newspaper business. This is perhaps partially what makes them so flat and uninteresting to us. As Sam said, the writers aren't interested in them as people.

Ann Friedman: Episodes four, five and six were markedly better than the first three of the season, in my opinion. I've loved the development that McNulty's shenanigans may actually have the effect of putting Marlo away -- not because his and Lester's crazy scheme works and Marlo falls because of the wiretap, but because McNulty's unconventional methods have inspired Bunk to do "real po-lice work." It's really satisfying to see Bunk make a little headway on the case. It almost makes up for the frustration of watching McNulty treating homeless men like props as he constructs his fake serial killer case. And the frustration I feel at not being able to figure out Lester's character and motivations anymore.

While I share all of the misgivings about the newspaper plot, it's also going to be highly satisfying to watch Gus catch Templeton in his fabrications. That's where things were headed at the end of episode six, when Templeton lied about following up on the seafood poisoning story. It seemed to be a little test that Gus devised, and Templeton clearly failed. I can't wait to see the fallout.

I agreed with Spencer that the scene with Randy was deeply affecting. That's the right way to bring back a character and nod to a previous season. It didn't feel cheap or gimmicky like the Nick Sobotka cameo.

But is anyone else feeling despondent about the writers' ability to wrap this up neatly with only four episodes left?

Sam Rosenfeld: One possible (albeit weak) stab at an explanation for Freamon's shift in attitude and seeming descent into McNultyesque self-righteous self-destruction: He genuinely believed, as he said in episode three, that he only needed a short amount of time to make the case against Marlo, and thus the serial killer ruse was only needed for a brief infusion of resources. Pride, combined with a lack of understanding of the extent to which Marlo had been toying with the police detail when the investigation was still going, led Freamon to underestimate his foe. Particularly now that Marlo's playing on a whole new level with the Greeks' support (and their encrypted cell phone), both McNulty and Freamon are being pulled into a commitment to their own scheme that they hadn't bargained for in the first place. That's the best I can do -- perhaps James Angove has a better explanation. Or, perhaps it's futile to try.

As for Ann's question about how the writers are possibly going to wrap everything up with the clock winding down, I'm terrible at plot predictions in any setting so won't embarrass myself trying. I'm only hoping for one more gratuitous past-character cameo: A reappearance of Brother Mouzone, this time reading The American Prospect like any self-respecting learned man would.

Kriston Capps: Had Mouzone opted for The American Prospect instead of TheAtlantic Monthly and The New Republic, perhaps his cunning would have pierced Stringer Bell's fog of war.

The scene in which Freamon endorses McNulty's absurd plan was badly written. It's hard not to write it off as mistaken. Not even a self-reflective pause in which Freamon's expression might give us some indication as to whether he was motivated by hubris or resignation or despair -- and our understanding of Freamon's character greatly depends on our ability to assess this new motivation of his.

Ezra Klein: Oddly enough, I haven't found any of this particularly inexplicable within the context of Freamon's character. Freamon and McNulty were, from the beginning, the most talented cops in the department. They weren't just "good police," they were brilliant police, the type who could crack impenetrable cases and bring down invulnerable villains. And they're being driven mad by the system's indifference. This, I think, is what we're seeing with Freamon, and what's long been telegraphed with McNulty. At first, the dysfunctional bureaucracy punished Freamon and McNulty, leaving them loathed by supervisors and derided by friends. When they refused to back down before that, it marginalized them, pushing them from beloved departments where they could make a real difference to backwater assignments that wasted their abilities. And since they both overcame that, now it will destroy them -- it will drive them mad, and let them wreck their own careers. At the end of the day, you can't reform the game. You can't civilize the streets, and you can't rebuild the agencies. Those who try, fail. Those who try harder are destroyed.

Spencer Ackerman: I go back and forth on this. As I wrote last go-round, the scene itself didn't feel like an authentic scene, it felt like a DVD extra. But on the question of Freamon's motivation, it's complicated.

Ezra's right about Freamon's frustration with the system, of course. But it's harder to understand how this latest indignity would have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Freamon, after all, was exiled from police work for 14 years. Then he was brought to Major Crimes. Then Major Crimes was disbanded and he went to the Evidence dump. Then he got brought back to Major Crimes. Then Major Crimes was disbanded again, and he got sent to Homicide. Then back to Major Crimes. And then Major Crimes was... disbanded again.

Now, of course, people have their breaking points. Being told you're the de facto leader of the unit of your dreams, licensed to do real police work, on the trail of both a corrupt official and a mass-murdering drug lord, only to have that taken away -- yeah, that can get to you. It might make you, say, yell in the face of the only good Deputy Ops you've ever known, and then fake a serial killer in order to get the resources necessary to bring down said mass-murdering drug lord. Even the legendary patience of Lester Freamon has its limits.

But as I say, I go back and forth.

Matt Yglesias: Part of what's confusing about Freamon, though, is his relative lack of interest in the Clay Davis charges. In earlier seasons, he's consistently been the one pushing for this investigation for years. Recall that it was precisely worries that pushing too hard on the Barksdales would lead to Davis and the rest of the West Baltimore machine is precisely what got the detail into trouble the first time around. Now Freamon has a political infrastructure in place that wants nothing more than high-profile busts of corrupt politicians and this is the moment he chooses to step way outside the lines in order to chase Marlo? One difference between Freamon and McNulty has always been over their attitude toward precisely this dualism -- McNulty revels in the game of cat-and-mouse with the drug dealers, whereas Freamon has tended to disrespect them and want to go deeper, broader, further.

In a loosely connected way, how is it that throughout seasons three, four, and five none of the cops seem to so much as remember the Greek's existence?

Spencer Ackerman: Is Matt's point about Freamon's disinterest in Davis really true? The frustration, I thought, stems from the fact that Davis' likely flipping (as Freamon sees it) will lead to new connections -- some implicating Marlo Stanfield. Freamon has always been holistic in his approach, concerned with the big picture, where all the threads lead. Remember his (overly expository) scene with Sydnor at the beginning of episode two, where he marvels at the bulletin-board map of the Davis case and says "All the pieces matter."

Well, Marlo's a piece. He matters. Freamon, of course, was the one who solved the mystery of Marlo's missing bodies. And he's being told he can't go after Marlo. It's a final indignity, when Freamon is this close to closing a case that he's pursued, in one way or another, across the whole season. That doesn't equate to disinterest in Clay Davis.

Ezra Klein: Right, I think the key is Freamon's feeling of being so near to Marlo. That was his original rationale for McNulty, remember -- he only needed a few days, a few weeks at the most. Back when he was shunted to the Baltimore Police Department's version of Siberia, he didn't feel so close to making a difference, and so could content himself with exile, and making artisan furniture for dollhouses. It's the nearness to success which has driven him around the bend, not because that's harder psychologically, but because it makes the calculus around certain ethical and professional compromises -- inventing a serial killer, say -- seem less clear.

Meanwhile, what's going on with the Bubbles storyline? It's perfectly pleasant, but would anyone miss it were it totally gone? Which brings me to the broader problem I've been trying to articulate with this season. Last night, I was watching Wonder Boys, a film about an aging writer trying to finish the follow-up to the book that made his career. We find, eventually, that the sequel has ballooned beyond 2,400 pages, all of them single-spaced. There are genealogies and dental records and absolutely everything else. Eventually, his student, Katie Holmes, gets her hands on it and reads it. It's beautiful, she says, but you know how you're always telling us that being a writer means making choices? Well, it feels like you didn't make any choices, like you didn't leave anything out, at all. And that's my sense of Simon this season. He's not left anything out, at all.

Kriston Capps: But instead of pursuing Clay Davis with the aggression we'd expect, he's secluded himself in his bunker, taking time from that case to pursue an illegal wiretap on the advice of wolf-faced crazy McNulty. Whether and how Clay Davis flips hinge on the case that Freamon has built against him. It might make sense for Freamon, acting on a supreme sense resignation, to endorse a suicide option like McNulty's. But the Davis case hasn't played out yet, and Freamon doesn't know that Bond doesn't intend to prosecute Davis on loan falsification.

Spencer Ackerman: What else can Freamon do on Davis? He gave the case to Pearlman and Bond. He testified at the grand jury. And when it comes to trial, in probably a year, he'll testify then. As an investigator, what else is there?

Kriston Capps: For starters I'd expect him not to do something that might jeopardize or distract from the good work he's put in. And while I wouldn't expect it of any investigator, I'd expect Freamon to want to follow this prosecution, through, to the extent that he's able.

Matt Yglesias: If he has time to kill, maybe he and Sydnor could be doing paperwork investigating into Marlo's assets, see if any of the money links up with the figures involved in the Davis investigation. Try to convince State's Attorney Bond that he ought to go bigger with the whole issue of drug dealers giving money to West Baltimore politicians.

Alternatively, if there's genuinely nothing else to be done on the Clay Davis investigation, why is BPD continuing to pay two detectives to work on the case in the midst of their ongoing fiscal crunch?

Kay Steiger: What would be sweet if there were a Stanfield/Davis connection through financial assets. That'd be some real po-lice work.

Spencer Ackerman: They're setting us up for that, don't you think, with the revelation in episode three that Joe laundered his money through the Ministers, who were Davis's base of support?

Ann Friedman: Agreed, I think the Clay Davis plotline is far from dead, even though they've been devoting relatively little time to it.

Ezra Klein: I'd add in the news story from the first episode, where we find that the city council president -- whom we now know to be mixed into Davis's dealings -- was doing real estate swaps with drug dealers. They rather let that slip for the moment, but it seemed then, and seems now, like it will be the thread that connects the various institutions -- the dealers will be protected because the politicians move to defend themselves and they call off the police department, and the weakened newspaper doesn't have the right reporters to unearth the links, etc. It's the ultimate Simon finish: Not only is it all in the game, but it's all the same game.