Maureen Tells Liz What Happened In “The Wire” Season 1

Dear Frank,

Hey, people like to tell me stuff! Really! It’s very nice of them. Today, that person is the vunderbar Maureen McEly, whose blog is really, really fucking funny. Here, she is informing me — and by extension the world — about one of television’s greatest achievements. She uses less profanity than I do, but we’ll forgiver her for it.

Love,
Liz

Hey Liz,

The_Wire_-_Season_1I know we mostly love to talk about cryptozoological erotica (you were part of that FB conversation right? Otherwise this just got super weird, right off the bat) and David Duchovny/Gillian Anderson flirtation. But for a change of pace, I thought we’d delve into the Baltimore’s violent and depressing drug trade, as depicted in The Wire! Don’t worry, even though it’s a bleak and complicated universe, it’s actually very (wait for it) addictive. (Get it, Liz? Because of drugs?)

Horrible puns aside, let me get this out of the way: everyone who told you to watch The Wire was right. You should. Ugh, I know. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told to watch The Wire. It got to a point, at the peak of Wire popularity, where I felt like literally everyone I met was recommending, no, insisting that I watch it. It was pretty annoying. I think I’ve had this exact conversation 200,000 times in my life:

Smug Dude: “What, you haven’t seen The Wire?? Wow.” *Looks at me in a sympathetic yet condescending way* “You really should. It’s so realistic.

Me: “Yeah, it looks like you probably know a lot about life on the streets of Baltimore.”

Smug, Now Slightly Offended Dude: “Well, what I DO know is that it’s the best television show ever created.”

Bored Me: “Really? I have never heard that before in my life. The Wire you said it’s called? Let me write that down!”

Then, in my head, I’d fervently declare I’d NEVER watch The Wire< because it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype, and also because I don’t like being told what to do. But then I finally watched it this year and… yeah. They were all right. God damn it. Sorry, everyone I met between 2002 – 2010.

Anyway, The Wire is brilliant. However, if you’ve never seen The Wire, it’s extremely helpful to have an overview of the show and the main characters, as well as some vocab from this world. Or it least it would have been for me when I first saw it. Believe it or not, Liz, I’m not that well versed in the drug trade or police lingo, and there are approximately one million characters to weed through. (Haha, weed get it? Drug puns. I’ll stop now.) Anyhoo, before we go further, here are some important things of note:

Words of caution before embarking on The Wire:

1. Don’t look for any perfect characters you’re going to like in every scene, every season because that’s not going to work out for you.

2. A lot of people are going to die.

3. The Wire started airing waaaaay back in 2002. Does that seem super long ago to you? It will once everyone on the show starts discovering cutting-edge technology like texting! It’s actually kind of fun, like a mini time traveling trip where you know so much more about technology than the people who live in that universe. (That’s the draw of time travel, right? To feel superior to people about technology?)

4. Finally, The Wire can be a lot to take in at first. There are a ton of characters, almost everyone goes by nicknames, it’s a complex world and it can be hard to keep track of who’s who and what’s really going on. Stick with it. Once you get a few episodes in, it’s all worth it… until season 2 and you have to start over with a bunch of new people. But I’ll be there with my handy guide to Season 2 of The Wire, so don’t fret!

The Wire Universe – Season 1 – Overview

The Wire Group Photo

To describe it in the most simplistic terms, Season 1 of The Wire is about cops and robbers in Baltimore, except the robbers aren’t robbers, they’re drug dealers. Hmm, I guess I shouldn’t have said robbers in the first place. Anyway, starting over, more correctly – it’s about a division of Baltimore police officers who are trying to take down the Avon Barksdale drug dealing crew, and the Avon Barksdale crew trying, well, to not get taken down. The cool thing about the show is that we get to know people on both sides of the law, equally. (And, fun fact, the police often break the law themselves! I’m sure everyone in the world is shocked about that, so I’ll give you a moment to compose yourselves.)

Anyway, the season starts with a trial – D’Angelo Barksdale, the nephew of drug kingpin Avon Barksdale, is facing murder charges. When he gets off under shady circumstances, Detective McNulty complains to a judge friend of his that the trial was influenced by intimidation by the Barksdale crew, and further makes it clear that no one in the police department is seriously investigating the Barksdale organization, despite the fact they’re selling drugs and murdering people all willy nilly. So, the judge confronts the higher ups at the Baltimore PD, who are NOT happy about that, so they set up an investigation to shut the judge up, but one that they absolutely, 100% want to fail.

So, poor Cedric Daniels is given the unenviable task of leading an investigative unit that his bosses didn’t even want to exist in the first place. To help him fail, they give him a rag tag group of misfit cops. I mean, as far as rag tag groups go, these cops are the rag taggiest. Most everyone on the team is a mess or impossible to work with, for one reason or another, and their office space is so bad a homeless person might stumble into it while looking for a place to sleep for the night and be like, “Uh… you know, I think I’m gonna keep looking!”

Yet, somehow, believe it or not, under the leadership of Daniels, this unlikely team bands together becomes pretty awesome at police work.

Oh, and, if you’re curious, the reason it’s called The Wire is because, at a certain point, the cops get permission to wire tap phones to listen in on the various members of the Barksdale crew and, as the seasons progress, wire tapping is a major source of information for all of the cases they pursue. Also, because the original title, Misfit Cops vs. Drug Guys, did not test well with focus groups.

Anyway, enough overview, let’s get to the characters!

SEASON ONE MAIN PLAYERS:

The Barksdale Crew

Avon Barksdale

Avon Barksdale: Despite having an indisputably awesome dog name, Avon Barksdale rose through the ranks in the human world to become a drug kingpin in Baltimore. He is (based on my movie/TV gang education) the most old school and traditional gang leader we’ll see over the course of the show. He’s a masculine, kind of hot headed guy with a temper, but he plays everything pretty much by the rules of the street. There aren’t a lot of surprises in the way he runs things, except how crazily cautious he and his whole organization are. Barksdale himself doesn’t have any kind of criminal record and his juvenile record has been expunged. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license and has taken great pains to avoid having anything tangible to connect him to drugs or drug related criminal activity at all. When the cops first start looking into him, no one can even find a photo of his face. In fact, the whole Barksdale crew is set up with extreme caution and intelligence, including a code used to communicate via pay phones (“What are those?” – everyone under 25) and pagers (“Again, what? – everyone under 25). They even have a lawyer on retainer, who responds whenever anyone in the crew gets arrested, and who also guides the Barksdale crew in terms of operating in a way to safely avoid the police. Also, Avon Barksdale kind of looks like a lion when he squints and really likes to wear bandanas around his head. That’s all I got for Avon, season one.

Stringer Bell

Stringer Bell: Stringer, despite having a pretty solid cat’s name (sorry, I will stop talking about which characters have awesome pet names) managed to climb pretty high in the drug scene as well. He’s Avon Barksdale’s right hand man and his childhood friend. Due to his strict dedication to an overabundance of caution in his own dealings, you get the sense that he’s behind many of the ways the Barksdale crew is set up. He’s intelligent and attracted to the business side of the drug trade, to the point that he begins taking night school classes in economics. He’s also played by noted attractive man, Idris Elba, which is confusing to my woman feelings, because he is a pretty brutal guy. (I mean his attractiveness is to the degree that you half expect a serious conversation about drug profits will be interrupted by a modeling scout at some point, but that doesn’t happen for some reason.) Also, Stringer also wears these half moon type glasses that make me think of Homer Simpson’s glasses and once I saw it, I can’t unsee it. (But I still, somehow, find him hot. Stringer Bell = Confused Maureen Feelings.)

D'Angelo

D’Angelo Barksdale: When the series starts, D’Angelo is on trial for murdering someone named Pooh in front of a bunch of civilians. (Pointless side note – that’s a pretty brutal end for a guy named after a cartoon bear.) Anyway, D’Angelo had been a high ranking member of the Barksdale crew, but after the sloppy murder and subsequently expensive and hazardous-for-the-Barksdale-crew trial, he is demoted and has to work his way up again. His mother is Brianna Barksdale, Avon Barksdale’s sister. Because of nepotism (hey, it’s not just for fancy kids to get into Ivy League schools!) he enjoys some leniency that you get the feeling Avon would definitely not give to people who weren’t his family. Also, despite being literally raised in a drug selling family, and also the fact he murdered that Pooh guy, D’Angelo seems softer and more kind than many of his compatriots. This becomes more evident as the season progresses and he becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the violence that comes with the life in the Baltimore drug trade. He tries to get the guys in Barksdale’s crew to be more humane with their treatment of customers and he takes a kid named Wallace under his wing a bit, trying to encourage him to go back to school and get out of the drug trade.

Wee-Bey

Wee-Bey: Wee-Bey is the definition of a soldier. He seems to have no problem whatsoever doing whatever is asked of him, from murder to jail time, to, I’m assuming, anything else that comes up. Torture? Relocating to Buffalo? Renting a bouncy castle and performing as a clown at a child’s birthday party? I feel like Wee-Bey would be all over any of that shit if he were told to because he gets shit done. It doesn’t seem to wear on him very much, mentally, either. Sort of the antithesis of D’Angelo, the violence that comes with his lifestyle never seems to faze Wee-Bey. The only thing he seems to be sensitive about in season one is his extensive collection of tropical fish. (Not a code for drugs or a joke or anything, he seriously has a large collection of tropical fish.)

Bodie

Bodie: The thing that threw me off about Bodie the most in the first season is that he’s supposed to be 16. The actor playing him (who is great, by the way) was obviously in his early or mid 20’s, so it gets confusing when he’s sent to a juvenile detention center at some point. So anyway, just remember he’s a youngin. Other than that, Bodie works alongside fellow teens Wallace and Poot in low rise housing projects. When you first get to know Bodie, he seems to be the tougher of the kids around his age and does not appreciate D’Angelo’s softer and gentler ideas for leadership and treatment of the addicts who buy from them.

Wallace

Wallace: Oh, baby faced Wallace, you’re just the most adorable thing in the universe. The entire time I’m watching him interact with all of the gang members I have to quiet the voice in my head saying GET OUT OF THERE, WALLACE, YOU’RE JUST A BABY! PLAY VIDEO GAMES! LET ME MAKE YOU CUPCAKES! But, baby face aside, Wallace is indeed a young member of the Barksdale crew. He works in the low rises along with Bodie and Poot, under the supervision of the newly demoted D’Angelo. In his personal life, he has charge of a whole ton of little kids. Not entirely sure if they’re his siblings or just kids in the projects who don’t have anyone, but he takes care of them as best as he can. He rises in the morning, gets their lunches together and makes sure they get to school on time. No parents anywhere to be seen. It’s clear that Wallace has a soft heart and lacks the stomach for the violence that becomes necessary as you rise higher in the drug world, but yet he wants to stay involved and hang out with his friends (and, I’m sure, make the money he needs to provide for himself and the kids he cares for.)

Poot

Poot: I’m guessing this kid didn’t get to pick his gangster nickname, because Poot sounds like the word for a fart where you accidentally poop a little. He also has a ginormous forehead, if you’re ever losing track of more minor characters and confused on names. Just remember the word Poot looks kind of like foot, and foot starts with an F, just like forehead and- oh god this is terrible, just remember Poot has a giant forehead. Anyway, Poot works with Bodie and Wallace, and is the closest to Wallace. When Wallace starts to go through some issues mid season, it’s Poot to tries to cover for him and get him on his feet again.

Other important Barksdale people:

Brianna

Brianna Barksdale: Sister to Avon Barksdale and mother to D’Angelo. She was raised in the drug trade industry just as much as Avon was and, though she isn’t seen participating in money counts or anything, she is an important member of the family. She’s a strong advocate for D’Angelo and his success within the Barksdale organization, as well as a firm voice in D’Angelo’s ear, always reminding him to stay loyal to family. She brings D’Angelo lunch once while he’s at work (selling drugs) and it’s kind of weirdly adorable.

Donette

Donette: D’Angelo’s girlfriend and mother of his son, Donette is a pretty girl who is focused on the finer things in life, namely money. D’Angelo never really seems to be that into her. Not too terribly much more to say about Donette in terms of Season 1.

Maurice Levy

Maurice Levy: The Barksdale Crew’s Lawyer – Other than reminding me so much of Jon Lovitz I seriously had to google whether or not they were related (they are not), Maurice Levy is a slimy, kind of racist lawyer who has absolutely no problem keeping drug dealers/murderers out of jail for money. I’m assuming massive amounts of money. He’s also pretty dang good at his job. Not a nice man. If you were opposing counsel in a court of law, I bet you’d have to fight the urge to punch him at least 17 times a day. Very punchable face.

Other names you’ll hear, but I can’t include photos or this will take 10 million years:

Bird, Little Man, Perry, Stinkum (guessing he didn’t get to choose his nickname either.) These guys are all soldiers in the Barksdale crew. But for season 1, I think the highlighted people are all you need to keep in your head.

PLAYERS OUTSIDE THE BARKSDALE CREW:

Omar

Omar Little: I freaking LOVE Omar. I want Omar to be the star of everything. If they made a spin off show of The Wire, starring Omar called Oh, Indeed, I would be its number one fan. Sorry, Liz, I’ll stop gushing and be informative – Omar is the head of his own crew, but instead of dealing drugs, he’s mostly a stick up guy who robs the guys who are selling drugs. You would have to be pretty brave and/or crazy to dedicate yourself to robbing drug dealers, but Omar seems to take it in stride. Also, the giant shotgun he carries everywhere probably helps.

Whenever Omar goes walking around, shotgun drawn, everyone in the neighborhood (wisely) runs, often yelling out in warning, “Omar’s coming!” Omar also whistles as he approaches with his shotgun, which is pretty bad ass if you’re sitting in the safety of your home, knowing you’re watching a TV show, but probably pants crappingly terrifying if it happened in real life. Omar is also gay and in a relationship with a member of his crew named Brandon. (This will be important.)

Omar and Boyfriend

Omar is also, the most quotable character on The Wire and is my favorite. (If you couldn’t tell.) I have no idea how you root for a guy who carries a shotgun and sells drugs, but that is just how charming of an actor Michael K. Williams is. (PS – Casting directors, please make Michael K. Williams the star of everything. Thank you.)

Bubbles

Bubbles: Drug addict and star police informant, Bubbles is happy to do whatever needs to be done in order to get himself drugs or the money to buy drugs. Generally he gets this money by selling various scraps metal he finds or informing to the cops. Bubbles is a smart and charismatic guy. You get the sense that, if he could just kick, you know, heroin, the world would be his oyster. I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s super easy to kick heroin, so I would probably not get your hopes up way high. In season one he takes another drug addict, a white guy, under his wing and teaches him the rules of survival for a junkie on the streets. He just seems like a really sweet guy with a horrible problem and I try not to think about his character too much or else I’ll get a serious case of the sads.

White Guy Who Hangs w Bubbles

That White Guy that Bubbles Hangs Out With – Okay, yes, I could look up his name, but I can guarantee you that, even though he lasts a LOT longer than I thought someone with that bad of a drug problem could last, you honestly don’t need to know his name. Okay, now I actually felt bad about that, as if this guy was a real person, so I looked up his character’s name. It’s Johnny Weeks. Now I feel slightly less terrible.

THE PO-LICE

Liz, the first thing you should know about the police is that they don’t refer to themselves as cops or police officers, it’s police. For example, someone would say, “You know, Bunk is good police.” They also call homicide cops Murder Police, which would be both a great death metal band name and an absolutely terrible screenplay title. Anyway, the most important part of how they refer to themselves is that they put the emphasis on the PO part. Like, PO-lice. I have no idea why but that is what they do! The other thing you should know about the PO-lice is, you know, their names and who they are as people, so here:

The Main Team:

Cedric

Cedric Daniels (AKA Secret Zombie): Daniels is the best. Despite being a relatively young guy, he has all the annoyed, exhausted “I’m over this bullshit” of a cop two decades older, which I love and found pretty understandable once I learned that the Baltimore Police Department is an awful place to work. The BPD is intensely political, corrupt, under funded and everyone in charge is just the literal worst. Yet, despite having seen enough bullshit in his time to build some sort of bullshit palace, Daniels just can’t help being good po-lice. He’s the kind of police you would want in charge, but never the kind of police who is in charge.

I also can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure he’s a zombie. He seems pretty normal most of the time, but sometimes he’ll just stare, this crazy intense stare, his laser focused eyes boring into your very flesh, and I have a theory that it’s when the brain hunger strikes and he’s scanning your body for brain matter and assessing your defenses. Further evidence of this is that, in future seasons, it’s revealed that he’s totally ripped and everyone knows a diet of brains would be super low carb. If you’re crazy/dumb enough to follow my Daniels is a Secret Zombie theory, it gets pretty rewarding when, in season two, he reveals that he fell in love with his wife for her brains. I BET YOU DID, ZOMBIE DANIELS. I BET YOU DID. Anyway, in reality, Daniels is the best and actually not a zombie. Probably.

McNulty Main Photo

Jimmy McNulty: McNulty is a… singular character. He’s kind of the worst but he’s also kind of the best? Does that make any kind of sense? Well, it will, once you watch! One of my favorite things about McNulty’s character is that it that he’s sort of a stereotype of a movie cop (an insubordinate “loose cannon” type, who’s great at working cases but terrible at everything else) and The Wire shows how freaking irritating that would be in real life. He’s not a team player, he always thinks he’s right, he doesn’t give a damn about anyone else’s safety or job security until it’s too late (and sometimes not even then.) I mean you don’t hate him, you can’t hate him (though there is definitely one scene in the third season where I temporarily hated him) but you get really annoyed with him. His selfishness continues in the romantic arena, where he’s alienated his wife and mother of his children (via cheating) but also manages to be a completely selfish ass with the woman he’s cheating with. (Rhonda – we’ll get to her later!) Anyway, I feel like this all makes him sound completely irredeemable, but he’s frustratingly charming. I mean there’s literally a tumblr blog devoted to a collection of McNulty smirks. Dominic West does such a great job with the character that I can’t imagine how anyone else would play him.

Oh, and Dominic West should get a million bonus points for inhabiting a now iconic American character, because THE DUDE IS BRITISH. HE IS A BRITISH PERSON WITH A BRITISH ACCENT, FROM BRITAIN. I found this out midway through the first season and it blew my fragile little mind. I knew that Idris Elba was British and he does a great job with the accent, but Dominic West makes McNulty seems so thoroughly, absolutely convincingly American I just cannot believe he’s British. In fact, I refuse to believe it. I have decided instead to believe that Dominic West is a made up name for some actual American guy from Baltimore who is in the witness protection program. He decided becoming a famous British actor would be the ultimate version of hiding in plain sight and so that is what he did and YOU WILL NEVER CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE, LIZ.

Kima

Kima: Kima is an awesome, bad ass cop and one of my personal faves on the show. She’s smart mouthed and tough and is a protegé of Cedric Daniels. She starts off as a narcotics detective along with Ellis Carver and Herc Hauk, where she schooled (or attempted to school) them on how to be less terrible at their jobs. Kima is also a lesbian and in a long term relationship with her partner Cheryl, who is not too fond of Kima being a cop. Kima is studying to be a lawyer at home, under pressure from Cheryl, but she absolutely loves being po-lice, so you can probably go ahead and assume the whole law thing is not going to happen any time soon. Also, Liz, Laurel and Jeff named one of their cats after her, so you know Kima is pretty awesome.

Lester

Lester AKA Undercover Genius: Lester is a slow burn. He starts off the series as this weird, quiet guy who makes doll furniture while on the job and I figured immediately that he was either a genius or very mentally ill. Turns out he is a genius, or at the very least a really good cop. Bunk (more about him later) refers to Lester as “natural police” because he’s so smart and has such amazing instincts. Lester made the mistake of being too good at his job (a real thing that can get you into trouble in this police department) and pissed off the higher ups. As punishment, he got put on a crappy pawnshop detail for 13 years, where he was waiting out retirement and creepily making his little doll furniture, until he got put on this case by people who forgot that he is actually an amazing detective.

Herk and Carver (Dumber and Dumb)

Herc and Carver and AKA Dumber and Dumb: No, I didn’t get that backwards, I’m putting it from left to right to match the photo above. On the left, we have Herc, the whitest and dumbest of the two men pictured. On the right, we have Carver, who isn’t really, really dumb, but he exhibits a pretty poor judgement throughout season one. The cutest thing about Herc and Carver is how they’re best buddies. The decidedly uncutest thing about them is that, particularly in season one, they both love the “busting some skulls” type of police work more than any other kind. They mature a bit, over the course of the seasons, though Carver decidedly more than Herc, but in season one they are basically thugs in police uniforms.

Presbo

Pryzbylewski: See that look on Pryzbylewski’s face? That expression that’s sort of half terrified, half self loathing? Yeah, that’s because knows that, without a shadow of a doubt, he’s going to do something horrifically, tragically stupid at any given moment. He is the type of guy who should never, regardless of the circumstance, be allowed to come within 20 feet of a firearm, but yet, here he is, a cop with a gun. He’s okay as long as he’s never let outside of safety of the office, in fact, he sort of has a knack for a certain type of investigative work, but one he’s out on the streets, good god, watch out, world! He does something terrible part way through season one and I just couldn’t let it go. Every time he would appear on screen during the first couple of seasons I’d be like, “Hey, ‘member when you SPOILERED THAT SPOILER??? Cause I will never forget it!” (I won’t tell you what he actually did cause I don’t want to ruin how shocking and horrible it is when it happens.) Then in later seasons he does something even worse than THAT and I was like okay dude, I’m just done with you and the hapless, violent tragedies you accidentally visit upon people, like some sort of clumsy, apologetic version of Death. Ugh.

Ronnie

Rhonda “Ronnie” Pearlman: Not a Cop, Technically, But Heavily Involved With the Unit – And when I say Ronnie is “heavily involved with the unit” I don’t mean McNulty’s dick. Well, I don’t just mean McNulty’s dick. She is technically sleeping with him, but she is also a major part of the Avon Barksdale investigation as the Assistant State’s Attorney they have to go through in order to get wire taps. Smart, tough and good at her job, she also has the patience of a saint, since she deals with McNulty showing up drunk on her doorstep in the middle of the night all the time, one drink shy of screaming out “STELLA!!!!!!!!”, then remembering Ronnie’s name isn’t Stella, then puking in her bushes. That’s how drunk he is when he shows up some of the times:

McNulty Drunk

Everybody else in the unit:

There are a couple of other misfits in the rag tag Major Crimes Unit Daniels is in charge of, but I swear none of them are important. There’s like, an old guy, an alcoholic, some people just looking for overtime and waiting for their retirement, it’s not important that you ever know their names and, unless I want this blog post to rival War and Peace in length (it’s already far superior in quality, surely, right Liz??) I need to cut some people out.

OTHER PO-LICE

Bunk

Bunk: Bunk is a homicide detective who is McNulty’s best friend. He’s also a total dog. See the expression on his face? He is undoubtedly leering at some poor woman until she gets so uncomfortable she gets up and leaves. Also, fun fact, Bunk is married and has three kids. (Note to Liz – one of the lessons you learn in The Wire is that 100% of cops cheat on their significant others or will do so in the future. It’s so pervasive I think it might be in the Baltimore PD code of conduct or something – Article 37 Must Cheat on Spouse.) Anyway, Bunk is also a super alcoholic. Not like, an alcoholic with super powers (though that could kind of be a weird and awesome super hero story) I just mean he has a super serious alcohol problem. But, in a show like this, that doesn’t stand out that much since most of the cops seem to have an alcohol problem. (Maybe being a drunk is also in the po-lice code of conduct along with the dictate It’s Okay if We Drive Drunk – We’re Cops!)

All that aside though, Bunk is actually pretty good police. He’s smart and good at his job and much smarter than McNulty because he understands he works in a political minefield and doesn’t actively try to piss anyone off. You get the sense that he just wants to get the work day over with in a no fuss no muss kind of way and then park himself at the bar with McNulty, hitting on any uninterested lady he can find.

COPS IN CHARGE

Ervin Burrell

Ervin Burell: There’s not too much I can say about Ervin Burell as a man, because we don’t get to know him too well, personally, other than the fact he’s ambitious. He’s the Deputy Commissioner and he wants to be the Commissioner. I have no idea why, because both jobs seems absolutely terrible. To preside over a dysfunctional and corrupt police department in a violent and crime riddled city seems like a recipe for drinking a bottle of Pepto Bismal with breakfast, but what do I know? He really wants the job and he spends most of the season trying to play politics and generally getting yelled at by Mayor Royce.

Rawls

Rawls: See that guy who looks like he’s not only eaten a lemon whole, but is currently, very painfully processing it through his digestive tract? Yeah, that’s just how his face is. Rawls is a very angry man who scares me, quite frankly. He’s like an amalgam of all the nightmarish bosses you’ve ever dreamed of having, crammed into one scary guy. To be fair, his loathing of McNulty is probably kiiiinda warranted, given that McNulty would be hell on earth to supervise. He’s an endearingly assholish guy though, in the manner of Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister or Michael Douglas in literally everything he’s ever played, because actor John Doman is just really good at being really mean.

Valchek

Valchek: Valcheck doesn’t become a huge character until season two, so really the only thing you need to know about him at this point is that he looks nearly exactly like a fish. Like, if there isn’t fish DNA in his ancestry line, I call bullshit, because someone’s great great grandfather mated with a carp. Also, his character is a petty jerk, so I don’t feel bad about all the He Looks Exactly Like A Fish talk. Oh, and also, also, he is the father in law to Pryzbylewski, and that factors into things at several points in the show.

OTHER PLAYERS: Look, if I list everyone in the world you’re not even going to want to watch this show anymore. There are a couple more players in season one, Mayor Royce, Judge Phelan, a radioactive squirrel named Zippy. Okay, that last one I just made up in order to see if you’re still paying attention. But anyway, you’ll do fine starting off with this roster of characters and anyway, Liz, I can practically hear you ask/beg – “Are we done? Are we almost, finally done???”

YES. Well, almost yes, one last stop – to get a brief education in Cop/Drug lingo and you’ll be off to watch The Wire with a head full of knowledge!

TERMINOLOGY

re-up: To resupply, drug wise. Sometimes corner boys will call in that they need a re-up when they run out of drugs.

burner: A disposable cell phone you use then discard, making it harder to trace/tap. (Most people know this because of modern times, but it’s new to the po-lice!)

package: A penis. Just kidding, Liz! In this instance the package refers to drugs packaged for sale. Unclear if they have the option of gift wrapping. (My guess is no.)

soldier: A higher up member of the crew who is willing to dole out punishment (including death types of punishment) if there’s a rivalry between crews or if someone in his/her own crew gets out of line.

corner boy: The youngest and lowest men on the drug trade totem pole. They, as you may have guessed, hang out on corners and help sell drugs, but they report to higher ups.

hopper: Actually, I lied, the hoppers would be the absolute lowest rung on the ladder, but they’re only loosely affiliated with the group. Generally very little kids, hoppers work as look outs or messengers only. I don’t know if there’s a 100% clear distinction between hoppers and corner boys, but they’re all young and on the lowest level.

yo: What police call hoppers or corner boys (interchangeably) and just seems to be a shorthand for a very low level member of a gang.

murder police: Homicide detectives.

carrying weight: Either doing time or doing your part by not talking to the cops.

points on the package: A percentage of the money from selling a package of drugs.

And because someone, like me, had a lot of time on his/her hands, here’s a complete list of every single drug name they use in The Wire.

Well, Liz, my friend – you’re all set. Like a corner boy ready to move up to being a soldier, or a rookie po-lice ready to steal his first bag of cash from a crime scene, you’re fully prepared to move on to the next level of, you know, actually watching the damn show. If we lived in The Wire universe, I’d have to haze you by cutting off your tie while you slept or pretending I didn’t get you whores to sleep with when you got out of jail, but then I actually totally did, so then we’d all have a laugh. But since we don’t live in The Wire I will just wish you happy viewing!

And I’ll be back when you need me with an overview of The Wire, Season Two: Boat Cops.

Love,
Maureen

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About A "Liz Tells Frank" Guest Writer

I'm a guest writer for Liz Tells Frank What Happened In..., which makes me a very special breed of person, and someone Liz admires deeply! Want to become a guest writer yourself? Just reach out to Liz and ask!

Posted on December 2, 2014, in Other People Telling Liz Stuff, Some Spoilers, TV and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The extent to which my spouse and I resisted watching The Wire was epic. My husband worked in the Baltimore Housing Department while it was being filmed, and in fact had to sign the paperwork to give the crew right of entry to various abandoned buildings and housing projects, and then when he switched to the school system the damn show followed him there! We have so much to work against in terms of our city’s reputation, both of us were like, hell no. But then a friend acted out the scene with the nail gun at Home Depot and we were sunk. Now no other TV will ever measure up. I was rooting for DeAngelo so hard. Sigh. Great, great writeup!

  2. Oh ps the guy who played Valchek was legit Balto police.

  3. I resisted this show for so long, then watched the entire thing in about three weeks. The only thing I’d add is that season 1 version of the theme remains the best (taking nothing away from either Steve Earle or Tom Waits, especially since the latter wrote it).

    And in perfect timing news, they just announced that we’re getting a remastered HD version! Yay!

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