TV Club

Week 8: Why Marlo Is Safe

Dear Jeff,

When The Wire ended, I switched right over to the Academy Awards. Now that’s a culture shock and a comedown: Clay Davis to Colin Farrell. On the other hand, now they’re playing that great song from Once, so I’m not going to complain too much.

Much as I would prefer to bicker with you, I totally agree about the episode’s excellence and about Omar’s murder. Even though Omar’s shooting was the YouTube superspoiler sent to me by a reader a couple of weeks ago, it still came as a heart-rending shock. Didn’t you like the way they set it up with that shot of Kenard preparing to set fire to an alley cat? Omar’s death also gave us a wonderful newsroom moment: Prop Joe’s murder at least rated a brief in the paper, but not Omar’s. Even the Dalai Gus—who bought Google at $70, cooks chicken soup for his shut-in neighbor, and restores the blind to sight with a well-chosen word—doesn’t know who Omar is and blows off his killing.

You’ve been right about an astonishing number of your predictions, but I can’t get behind your Chris-killing-Marlo guess. I still don’t think Marlo can die: The lesson of The Wire has to be that the game never stops and that it always gets worse. Avon could be deposed, because Marlo was there to replace him and make the streets bloodier and crueler. But Marlo, as the embodiment of the remorselessness of capitalism, can’t be killed, because there’s no one who could replace him. If Marlo died, there would a vacuum: None of his lieutenants or rivals possesses his homicidal entrepreneurship. Marlo’s death would leave us the possibility of hope, but I don’t think Simon would leave us with that. As he’s shown us time and again, he believes only in individual redemption—Bubbles, or Bunny and Namond. The city itself, and all the institutions that belong to it, can only get worse. So, I think Marlo’s safe. Then again, I’ve been wrong about everything else.

I’ve been watching the decay of Carcetti with a sickening fascination, and tonight’s scene between him and his wife was particularly choice. When we see Carcetti scheming with Norman and his other cronies, his relentless ambition seems natural and acceptable. Transplanted into the home, into sweet domesticity, it’s revealed for the cynical sickness that it is. His wife is repulsed and disturbed by his opportunism, reminding us that we have to be, too. As I wrote those sentences, I realized that the Carcetti/wife moment parallels the McNulty/Beadie face-off at the end of the episode: Jimmy expects forgiveness from Beadie for his professional crime (and personal sins), but she turns her back on him. It is the women, in the sanctity of home—the only safe space on The Wire—who can see the ugly truth about their men and their deeds.

Omar-less and rudderless,