‘The Wire’ Takes a Vacation

Photo: Courtesy of HBO

Episode: “Not for Attribution”

Opening quote: “They’re dead where it doesn’t count.” —Fletcher

This week many of our favorite Wire characters get a little R&R, as the series wanders far afield for one of its infrequent forays into the world outside Baltimore. A stressed-out Michael takes Dukie and Bug to Six Flags, where the older boys pick up some northern-Virginia high-school hotties, only to face resentment when they arrive back on the corner. (“I’m from Baltimore,” Michael tells one girl. “That’s so cool!” she squeals, and we almost expect her to add, “I watch The Wire, is it like that?”) Meanwhile, an aloha-shirt-wearing Marlo takes a trip to sunny St. Martin, itching to put his hands on the $400,000 Prop Joe helped him launder through an island bank. (“It’s hard work civilizin’ that motherfucker,” Joe grumbles.) And we find out that Omar’s been living out his own tropical retirement on some faraway island — one with a surplus of happy kids but a severe shortage of Honey Nut Cheerios. By episode’s end, though, when Omar finds out that Chris and Snoop killed Butchie, it’s back to Baltimore and back to work.

Of course, some Baltimoreans are working harder than ever. McNulty’s putting in actual overtime scraping together his cockamamy serial-killer scheme but is hamstrung by the laziness of his colleagues. He casually mentions to one of his Homicide buddies that he’s starting to see a pattern in recent vagrant murders, only to have the detective respond with a resounding fart. Gus Haynes at the Sun is following a hot tip from the mayor’s office that Carcetti is planning to replace Commissioner Burrell with Cedric Daniels, but he’s fighting through a fresh round of buyouts that’s stripping him of experienced reporters — and an inexperienced one, Scott Templeton, who seems to come up with majestic reaction quotes without ever picking up the phone. And reporter Alma Gutierrez is stuck with her triple-homicide briefs landing below the fold in “Metro,” and with a tumescent Jimmy McNulty feeding her his serial-killer story.

Also working harder than ever: The Wire’s writers, who after a rough couple of weeks deliver a vintage-quality episode, full of backroom dealings, interwoven story lines, and nearly every single character doing something interesting. Even the serial-killer plot gets some legs, with the show pulling some great comedy-of-errors moments out of McNulty’s hapless attempts to get someone, anyone, interested in his totally fake mass murderer. But by episode’s end, we’re given an angry Lester Freamon, the voice of wisdom, telling McNulty he “fucked up” — that his serial killer wasn’t nearly sensational enough to catch anyone’s attention. As an irritated Bunk slams the door on the pair, McNulty and Freamon start planning their next “murder.”

But of course it all comes down to Omar. Michael K. Williams give us a little bit of everything we love about Omar in five short minutes: his beneficence, his passion, his rage. Which is why one friend is already preparing himself for Omar’s upcoming death. His theory? David Simon can’t stand to see Omar becoming a folk hero; he can’t handle anyone thinking he’s pandering to the audience. That’s why, our friend says, Omar will head back to Baltimore, and in the ultimate crowd-displeasing turn, will get offed by Marlo, leading McNulty to redouble his efforts to bring the kingpin down. We can’t deny that this idea is just awful enough to sound like something David Simon would do, just as we can’t deny that our initial reaction to McNulty’s serial-killer shenanigans might have been wrong. In his noble, impotent rage, McNulty’s always been Simon’s stand-in. Could they both be tilting at windmills? Or are their crazy plans just crazy enough to work?

‘The Wire’ Takes a Vacation