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‘The Wire’: Goodnight Moon

Courtesy of HBO

Leave it to David Simon to tweak one more convention of network television before he makes his grand exit: the egregious product-placement deal. Early in Sunday's episode of The Wire, Kima — excited that her son is going to spend the night at her place for the first time — asks McNulty where she can go to get children's furniture. "Ikea," he says with a jaunty grin, but what starts as a 30 Rock–esque plug turns into the most aggressive anti-product placement we've seen on television. Over the next hour we see Kima fighting the typically Ikean instructions to assemble a child's bed; at one point McNulty, in the middle of an argument with Freamon, fields a call and can ask only, "You got the right Allen wrench?" In the end, Kima gives up and trashes the furniture, snoozing in a chair while her son sleeps restlessly in her bed.

From Bunk's ten thousand McNulty-inspired slow burns to Templeton's sprinting through the newsroom, knocking papers over, when called by (he thinks) the real serial killer, last night's episode was the funniest Wire we've seen in quite some time. The highlight, of course, is Clay Davis's trial, a masterpiece of showmanship in which the dirty senator transforms from crook to stand-up comic to preacher to martyr in one well-practiced direct examination, and is acquitted. And that's not even to mention his dynamic entrance, a classic Simonesque surely-this-actually-happened-one-time moment: clutching a copy of fucking Prometheus Bound, Clay proclaims on the courthouse steps, "It's an ancient play, of the oldest we have. It's about a simple man who was horrifically punished by the powers that be for the terrible crime of trying to bring light to the people." There are limits to even Clay Davis's dramaturgical skill, though; he pronounces Aeschylus "A-see-lee-us."

Meanwhile, the drama McNulty's cooked up is getting a little too exciting. A voice-modulated call to Jayson Scott Templeton, along with a photo of the serial killer's next victim, finally turns on the taps, but suddenly McNulty finds himself heading, you know, an investigation, with Landsman all over him for updates and dates being made for McNulty to visit the behavioralists at Quantico. The call yields wiretaps and equipment to read Marlo's digital photos; they're of clocks, reading different times, a code Freamon is unable to crack. Meanwhile, McNulty's playing Santa Claus at the station, bleeding his serial-killer budget to help his fellow detectives get the extra man power and supplies they need to crack their cases. "Get me out of this, Lester," McNulty begs. "As fast as you can." The plan's starting to fall apart, and we predict that some enterprising cop looking to make a name is gonna dig into the archives for traffic-camera video of the missing homeless man's regular corner — and there, clear as day, will be Jimmy McNulty, shooing him into a car.

While Clay Davis likes the Greeks, and McNulty digs murder mysteries, Bubs is the master of the one-man show, and he's finally got himself an audience once again; he leads a Sun reporter around under the bridge Templeton was too scared to visit. Meanwhile, Gus still isn't acting on his suspicions that he's got a fiction writer on staff, despite his distaste for the purple prose Templeton's churning out. His superiors have nothing to say about it either, because they're not really characters, just incompetent straw men for David Simon's distaste for corporate journalism.

Omar's still calling Marlo out, even putting a gun on Michael; our season-four favorite, already skittish from being questioned by Bunk about his stepfather's death, is getting distinctly uncomfortable with his position in the Stanfield organization. He's lucky he didn't meet the same fate as another of Marlo's musclemen, Savino, whom Omar questions and coldly — almost as an afterthought — shoots in the head. Hobbled and scrawny, Omar has transformed from a ghost in the night, swooping down to enact justice, to a ghoul — cornering his victims and disgustedly taking them out.

The episode ends with Kima, asleep on her chair, woken up by a restless Elijah. Surprisingly, the beer and mustard in Kima's bachelor fridge aren't suitable for children, so Kima sits with him in the window overlooking the street and offers a tender Baltimore bedtime story. We'll be reading it to our children tonight. With apologies to Margaret Wise Brown, presumably, it goes like this:

"Goodnight moon," Kima says, and Elijah repeats after her as they look out over the dark Baltimore night.

Goodnight moon
Goodnight stars
Goodnight po-pos
Goodnight fiends
Goodnight hoppers
Goodnight hustlers
Goodnight scammers
Goodnight to everybody
Goodnight to one and all.