‘The Wire’: Jimmy McNulty Adds to His Rap Sheet

Photo: Courtesy of HBO

Episode: "The Dickensian Aspect"

Opening quote: "If you have a problem with this, I understand completely." —Freamon

First of all, let's get straight which superhero it is that Omar most closely resembles. In our recap of last week's episode we called him Superman, since seemingly he flew away when he jumped off the balcony. Meanwhile, David Plotz over at Slate called him Batman, since he disappeared mysteriously into the night. But leave it to Marlo to get it right: At the beginning of last night's episode, taking a long look up at the balcony from which Omar escaped, he intones, "That's some Spider-Man shit there." And that's what Omar is: the homicidal, trench-coat-wearing, shotgun-wielding, black, gay Spider-Man.

Or maybe he's the Punisher, because he sure is meting out some aggressive justice.

After limping away on a push-broom crutch, Omar takes to the streets, holding up Co-op members, shotgunning Marlo's people, and blowing up cars. The message he's sending is clear: "You tell that man I'm in the street, waitin'. But like a little bitch, he ain't nowhere to be found." It's a canny plot to draw Marlo out of hiding, out into the city, where Omar has a fighting chance to take him down. Omar's tirade is the second-most-impressive speech this episode; the first comes from Carcetti, who inveighs against homelessness before national reporters and then, behind closed doors, hatches a plan to make that his signature issue — the cause that will get him out of Baltimore and into the statehouse.

That means what few resources the city has are going straight to the imaginary serial killer, much to Bunk's annoyance. Angry at himself for allowing McNulty's bullshit, he punishes himself by going back to square one on every one of the bodies in the vacants. "You know why?" he asks a smirking McNulty. "Because I'm a murder police. I work murders. I don't fuck around with no made-up bullshit." The files lead him back to poor Randy Wagstaff, who's no more willing to share now that he's spent a year getting the shit beat out of him for being a snitch, and — eventually — to Michael's mother, who tells Bunk that Michael was behind the death of his stepfather. Too bad he can't get lab work done, because some dumb temp screwed up the files — and the homeless murders are priority one, anyway. Bunk wanders out of the lab, seething; you can almost hear him muttering "Rassin frassin…" like Muttley in old Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

On the other hand, the homeless murders have been pretty good to the Baltimore Sun's Jayson Scott Templeton. There he is on Nancy Grace! There he is getting pats on the back from the big bosses! There he is spending a night out with Baltimore's homeless, and coming back with a great story — one he didn't even make up — about an Iraq-war veteran on the streets. Gus loves this one, unlike every other story Templeton's ever written, because Gus is a super-editor with an unerring nose for truth, except for that he never actually does anything about Templeton's inventing stories. Our prediction: Templeton will get away with every fake piece he wrote but will lose his job over this Iraq-war vet, when it turns out the homeless guy made it all up and disappears off the face of the earth.

When that happens, maybe it'll be because Jimmy McNulty kidnapped him! Yes, McNutty adds kidnapping to his long rap sheet this week, as — disgusted that no new money is being thrown at his serial killer — he tries once more to up the wattage on the story. This time that means finding a crazy homeless guy, driving him to an out-of-town shelter with fake I.D., and planning out a whole story line about the serial killer's next victim being held captive. This is not the greatest idea in the history of police work, or in the history of television. The episode ends with a troubled McNulty about to get in his car, clearly realizing (a little too late!) the precariousness of his position — in Baltimore, and in our hearts. Please, David Simon, don't screw this up.