The Wire’s Omar: The New Batman?

by | February 4, 2008 at 11:15 AM | General

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Today, Slate wonders if The Wire is going too far by giving Omar nearly magical powers (flying off balconies?? Come on, now) and asks, what’s up with the preachiness of the show? Too much talk of hope and dreams and such.

So Omar is Batman now? He can dodge a hail of bullets, then fly off a fifth-story balcony, and slip away? The Wire has always allowed itself a little magical realism when it comes to Omar. Alone of the show’s characters, he’s allowed to exist outside the normal laws of space and time. We’ve seen that in small ways (last season’s impossible, catbird-seat observation post) and large (his hilarious gunslinger duel with Brother Mouzone in Season 3). It’s as though David Simon has decided, perhaps as a present to Omar’s many fans, to suspend the show’s otherwise ruthless realism when he walks on camera. That said, I fear the balcony escape stretches the Omar Rules too far.

I can explain in one word why this episode disappointed me so much: McNulty. I’ve already mentioned my puzzlement over Jimmy’s too-fast decline and my frustration over the serial-killer fabrication, but it’s something else about him that’s troubling me: The show drags whenever Dominic West is on the screen. He lacks the unexpected, living, three-dimensionality of practically everyone else on The Wire—from Bunk to Carcetti to Marlo to Dukie. West’s McNulty is a dead weight, and I think this season is suffering in direct proportion to the amount of time he spends on the screen. (Also, my friend Jessica Lazar asks a great question: If McNulty is such a drunken wreck, why does always he look so natty? He dresses dandier and dandier every episode.)


Let me return to another point I made a few weeks ago, about this season’s over-preachiness. There was a stark example of that this week, in the heartbreaking scene between Cutty and Dukie. Having failed as a boxer, Dukie is finally realizing that he’s not made for the streets, that he’ll never have it in him to fight. (Boy, did I identify with him at that moment!) Cutty gently encourages him, saying that he has the intelligence to make something of himself. Dukie pleads, “How do you get from here to the rest of the world?” And Cutty answers, “I wish I knew.” It’s a beautiful scene, a perfect scene. But for reasons inexplicable, it continues. Dukie and Cutty are shot from behind as they leave the warm safety of the gym and enter the dark city. As they walk, they conduct a cliched, obvious version of the conversation they have already had. (“All I got is hopes and wishes …”) Not for the first time this season, I muttered, “They need an editor!”

Enough griping. Here are some favorite moments for this week. When Chris asks Marlo how Vondas took the news of Prop Joe’s death, Marlo deadpans, “The man overcame his grief.” Norman cautions the mayor not to celebrate the Clay Davis indictment: “You don’t dance on Clay’s grave unless you are sure the motherfucker’s dead.” And as for Davis himself—what a show! His talk-radio spiel was a hypnotizing monologue, and he also uttered the longest “sheeeeeee-it” in the history of The Wire.

Finally, big ups to you, for predicting both that Herc would betray Marlo and that McNulty and Templeton would merge their crazy fabrications. Also kudos to David Simon, who proved both of us wrong about newsroom cursing. Both of us doubted that any journalist had ever been chastised by a boss for excessive profanity, but we invited our colleagues to correct us. During the week, Romenesko’s Letters column and my inbox crammed with stories from journalists who had been rebuked for their dirty mouths. I also liked all the letters celebrating the importance of vulgarity to the newsroom. I particularly recommend this story, whose punch line is, “Thanks, sheriff. Now I owe you TWO blow jobs.” [Slate]