The Wire Mission Accomplished Recap Season 3 Episode 12 – The previous episode of The Wire Season Three concludes with the death of Stringer Bell. No one is taking it harder than Jimmy McNulty. He sits despondently as crime scene techs photograph the scene. He’s been cheated out of catching and arresting the man he’s chased for three seasons. Later he accompanies Bunk to Stringer’s apartment – it’s the first time any one’s seen it, including the audience. It’s straight out of a magazine – modern furniture, perfect balance, and a bookshelf that includes Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. McNulty realizes that in spite of the years he’s spent investigating Bell, he has no idea of the man was.
The Wire Mission Accomplished Recap Season 3 Episode 12
With Stringer Bell gone, Avon thinks it’s time to let the dogs out — the top target being Marlo Stansfield and his crew. Stringer had been petitioning him to go a little lighter on the violent side and pay a little more attention to the business side. This season aired in 2004 but still seems as fresh now as it was then more than fifteen years ago. The only thing changed is the technology. The homicide rate remains stuck on deadly.
The Season 3 Finale has Avon’s people up in arms literally in a scene where the Barksdale people are strapping up. The metallic click of magazines snapping into semi-automatic weapons is music to Bodie’s ears. “The **** is on,” he says, and like the rest of the crew, he’s ready for an escalation of the bloody street war. The problem is that Avon’s been brooding in his office, thinking at once of Stringer Bell’s death, and about the impending violence. What to do, what not to do. Like the rest of the Barksdale organization, Slim Charles believes that Marlo was behind the assassination of Stringer Bell. The revenge motive takes the next hit when Avon tells Slim that “Marlo ain’t got nothing to do with it.” Slim argues that it doesn’t matter – the war is on regardless of whomever killed Stringer Bell.
One of the underlying threads running through the entire Season 3 is the legalization of drugs. The series fictionalizes what many people believe, that drugs should be legalized. In his experimental “Hamsterdam,” Major Colvin has done just that, setting up safe zones for drug dealers. Anything so long as most of the other neighborhoods are crime free.
One of the takeaways from the series that most everyone can agree with is that the ‘drug war’ has been a failure whether you look at it in terms of interdiction at the borders or the business of policing on the American streets. Give creator David Simon credit for a creative approach that is far more presentational than didactic. But thinking that American streets can be walled off and contained like those in Amsterdam might only be real on TV.
Where The Wire series is most successful, imho, in depicting the institutional and systemic structures that keep the inner city neighborhoods, people, and culture walled off. Entire neighborhoods of American cities are essentially Hamsterdams that serve the political goals of all political parties – essentially a means to acquire political and economic power.
This idea is what you can take away from a scene in which Councilman Carcetti has an informal discussion with influential political advisor Theresa D’Agostino. Theresa has to lay out the hardball reasons the suddenly fuzzy Carcetti can’t be seen to support the legalization of narcotics in Baltimore or any other place. “C’mon Tommy, they dealt you a winning hand and you’re acting as if you’d forgotten how to play,” Theresa says. The point is made in a following scene where Mayor Royce and his political cronies are having a round table discussion in how to handle the moral weight and the publicity surrounding Colvin’s plan, already known to the media.
The Big Tip
Each episode of The Wire doesn’t end on a climactic high point, but rather at a point setting up the next episode. This being the finale, however, it’s only right to expect a certain tying up of loose ends. Stringer Bell’s loose end has been tied up in his death. Colvin’s career may be over but not his law enforcement objectives. He gives the information he received from Bell directly to Detective McNulty. It’s essentially the golden key to Avon Barksdale’s headquarters and armory where the folks are preparing for war. McNulty is pleased. After getting into trouble so much on the job, he gets his chance to become a real hero in the eyes of his colleagues by leading the hunt for Avon Barksdale. Colvin’s tip provides all the information he needs to set up a raid on the Barksdale safe house.
Hall of Mirrors
Some fine and entertaining cinematography characterizes a scene where the print and broadcast media arrive at one of the drug arrest free zones. Fanning out like a small army to take pictures and get interviews, the scene is intercut with camera black and white still shots of the human zoo entrapped there. A quick montage shows money changing hands, noses snorting coke, a prostitute hawking her body, a man giving the news people the finger, and other scenes of debauchery. This is definitely not Harvard Square. Media interviews with city council members Tony Gray and Thomas Carcetti occupy the moral high ground and decry the mass of suffering humanity. The heat is on for the mayor and police commissioner Burrell as news media cues up the outrage.
Hope and Change
With the media attention, the Baltimore city authorities have no choice but to bust the open air drug markets. This they do with great fanfare, to the surprise of the young kids employed as mules or ‘hoppers,’ as they’re termed here. There’s a homage to Apocalypse Now to the sound of helicopters overhead and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Orders are given to bulldoze the entire block so that the media has nothing left to photograph.
It’s not all bad news, however, as Cutty Wise has broken the mold and gotten kids off the street and into his boxing gym. There’s a touching scene where he’s showing some of his young proteges a long ago boxing match between Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) and Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson. The youngsters are shocked that the great Ali once looked so young. Cutty tells him not to disrespect Patterson because, though Ali wins, anyone who steps into the ring is to be respected.
Law and Disorder
I’m on the side of law and order, make no mistake about it. However, there were several times throughout Season 3 of The Wire when I found myself identifying myself with the criminal element. Not only did I identify with the criminal element, I actually identified with the worst of it – Avon Barksdale.
In the finale to Season 3, first of all, Wood Harris does as fine an acting job as I’ve even seen in one short take when the police assault his headquarters. I’ve enjoyed Harris’ acting all along, but this particular scene displays an extraordinary talent. His face plays out the whole map of human emotion in just a few seconds of screen time. His ‘soldiers’ are prepared to shoot it out. Alarm and anxiety break out on his face when the police charge in guns drawn. Confusion gives way to a quick decision. Then he’s almost smiling when the full recognition and import of what is transpiring hits him.
I watched the scene several times, marveling at the emotional range exhibited in such a few short seconds. Like a general, Avon has a grasp of the entire situation. Then he actually laughs, slightly embarrassed, a little boy being caught with his hands in a deadly cookie jar. He wants to save his troops from dying. To them he says: “Hey’ y’all ask me you shouldn’t be in here ****ing with guns and **it.
What he’s telling them essentially is that they’re better off getting busted for holding illegal weapons than going down for shooting police officers. They put their guns on the table and let the police officers take them into custody. You don’t like Avon the criminal, but you do like Avon the leader. And you wonder how it would be if he decided to be a ‘good guy.’ I even felt a dislike for McNulty when he taunts Avon, showing him the affidavit that proves his ‘brother’ and closest associate, Stringer Bell, betrayed him.
Alas, Poor Bubbles
Like Cutty, Bubbles is also a redemptive character, not as clean cut certainly but still choosing life on the right side of things. With his buddy Weeks dead from an overdose, Bubbles has a new protégé, teaching him how to survive in the ruins , picking through the rubble left by the bulldozers and demolition teams. Colvin is there too, chatting with Bubbles as if they are old friends. It says a lot. It’s not what’s on the outside that counts. It’s what is on the inside that must be redeemed.