‘The Wire’: Jimmy McNulty Gets Profiled

Photo: Courtesy of HBO

Episode title: “Clarifications”
Opening quote: “A lie ain’t a side of the story. It’s just a lie.” —Terry Hanning

Let’s start out with a virtual high-five to Poot, last seen hugging the pavement as his friend Bodie got shot in the head at the end of season four. As this week’s episode of The Wire begins, we find him sporting an Athlete’s Foot–style referee’s jersey, working in a local Baltimore shoe store. He recognizes Dukie from the corner, and tells him he can’t give him a job until he’s 17. “I guess you need to bang a while longer, then come back see if we got something.” But the junk man’s hiring, and Dukie hops on to his cart. It’s becoming clear that the last few episodes are about the next generation rising up to fill the familiar roles of The Wire; that sounds schematic and unsatisfying on paper, but there’s a visceral jolt to seeing the pieces click into place and Dukie assume his role as the next Bubbles. Let’s hope he won’t spend the next two episodes getting hooked on heroin.

Original Bubbles is helping out a Sun reporter, Mike Fletcher, who gets encouraged by Gus to follow him and tell his story — just as David Simon told the story of the real Bubbles all those years ago, albeit in an obituary. We look forward to Fletcher selling a TV show to HBO by season’s end. Jayson Scott Templeton, on the other hand, is having trouble selling his story; when homeless vet Terry Hanning disputes the facts in a profile Templeton wrote, Gus’s defense of his reporter is lukewarm, and the editor later spikes Templeton’s thinly sourced lead — and stands up to Klebanow when he protests.

Bunk finally swallows his pride and gets McNulty to sign off on his lab work; Michael’s stepfather’s body yields a DNA match with Chris Partlow. Bunk is itching to serve the warrant but holds off for a few days to let Freamon make his case. Sydnor cracks the Stanfield cell-phone code, and Freamon realizes that with Cheese running one side of town and Marlo running the other, Stanfield drugs have completely flooded the city. He may not get a chance to act on his discovery, though, because Kima has found out about the fake serial killer, and she is pissed.

That’s not the only thing going wrong with McNulty’s worst idea ever. He’s getting shaken down by cops for company cars to drive to Hilton Head for golf weekends. The profilers at Quantico give McNulty an unsettling glimpse into his own psyche with their portrait of the “serial killer”: “He is likely not a college graduate, but nonetheless feels superior to those with advanced education … He has a problem with authority, and a deep-seated resentment of those whom he feels have impeded his progress professionally … The subject has problems with lasting relationships and is possibly a high-functioning alcoholic.”

And in a charged and emotional scene, McNulty confesses to Beadie what he’s been doing. “I don’t even know where the anger comes from,” he says, “I don’t know how to make it stop. Now that I’ve done all this, I watched myself do it, I can’t even stand it. You start to tell the story, you think you’re the hero, and you get done talking and” — but Beadie, realizing alongside McNulty the monster he’s become, slams the door in his face.

Omar, for his part, is exhausted. As he trudges through the back alleys, kids call out “Omar! Omar!” as a heads-up and scatter as if he has the plague. He robs yet another Stanfield stash house, this time in broad daylight, and calls Marlo out to the streets one more time. But his oration takes a while to work up to; it’s all Omar can do to stay on his feet, and he gives Baltimore a long, sad look before he shouts, “Y’all put it into his ear! Marlo Stanfield is not a man for this town.” Buying cigarettes in the corner store, Omar is shot in the head and killed by a mere kid. It’s a shock, but not a surprise; in recent weeks Omar has sunk into himself, becoming more ghoul than ghost, and the head shot is just the last, unsurprising moment of the slow heat death of Omar Little. The paper doesn’t have room to cover his murder, and the medical examiner can’t even keep his I.D. straight. He’s gone, and the echoes of his name on the street will fade soon enough.

Who will replace Omar? The last time we saw Kenard, the boy who got him, he was playing cops and robbers in the street with his friends, each one claiming the role he wanted to play. “I wanna be Omar!” Kenard had insisted then. And now maybe he will be.

Earlier: Vulture Interviews Michael K. Williams on the Death of Omar
Omar’s obituary

‘The Wire’: Jimmy McNulty Gets Profiled