They’re dead where it doesn’t count

“Not for Attribution” continues to push the concepts victim-profiling and a good story trumping good reporting.  McNulty plants enough evidence to link his homicide case to two others and even gets a reporter to buy into it but the story gets buried in the back of the paper and his superiors insist that the case be given similar treatment.  It’s Freamon who hits upon the solution of sensationalizing the case to create a better story.  He may be on to something, given how things work at the Baltimore Sun, but he’s dead wrong as far The Wire’s concerned, and the series doesn’t seem to appreciate the irony.

This show is, of course, fiction but it’s spent four years captivating us by telling the most grounded, realistic stories imaginable.  Now it’s giving us a couple of cops fabricating a serial killer in order to get funding for a real case.  It’s not a ludicrous plot given who these characters are and what they’re up against but it doesn’t really fit the “dramatized reality” that this show’s given us thus far.  Freamon and McNulty aren’t just creating a sensational story, they’re living one and it’s… like a TV show.

I think it’s fair to say that McNulty’s latest obsession is less credible than his previous ones, but it’s much more challenging to explain.  It’s easy to see how the McNulty of old might be pushed to this, particularly after the job seems to have cost him his second chance at a happy home life, but “true to the character” does not necessarily mean “true to the series.”  It’s not that Jimmy’s scheme has produced some significant change in the way Baltimore operates; it’s that the show has never been driven by one character in this way before.

McNulty’s always been an instigator, but he was limited to upsetting the apple cart rather than charting any sort of course.  It was a delicate balance, but one the series managed far more often than not; the characters simply existed within the story rather than being its agents.  This season is shaping up to be “about” McNulty’s scheme rather than “about” the city.  It’s a change for the worse and one that, perplexingly, gives into the kind of BS journalism that Gus rails against.  The “real” Baltimore is far more complicated, messy and (as four seasons have proven) captivating than any straightforward narrative.

Final Thoughts

All this bitching about the season arc has given the episode itself short shrift.  I’ll try to make up for that in this section.

Nice to see Scott’s fabrication having negative impacts on real people.  Daniels has stubbornly refused to politic through his recent rise and now his position is in jeopardy.  It’s a nice reminder that even “small” lapses in integrity can have a big impact.

I feel kinda bad for Joe, helping Marlo outmaneuver him with the Greeks.

I find it a little hard to swallow that Burrell’s latest cooking of the stats is what sees the axe fall on him.  At the end of season four, Carcetti wanted to fire the man but wasn’t in a position to do so.  Now he “decides” to fire him and simply finds out that he can?  Did I miss the part where Tommy and Ervin were friends?

No Bubbles this week and that makes me a sad Panda.

We do get a slight better-fed Omar, which brightens things up a bit.

Speaking of Omar, Chris and Snoop’s torture and murder of Butchie was suitably brutal.

Michael and Dukie have about as perfect a day at Six Flags as two teenagers could ask for.  Of course, Michael’s responsibilities on the street undermine all those good times.

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