Each entry opens some general notes if I have them before I launch into spoilers that might either be for that specific episode or span the entire series. In other words, readers who have not reached the end are urged to return to these posts only when they have.
"The Buys" (1x03)
This is The Wire.
Read more after the jump.
The internal politicking, the real police work, the bureaucratic intrigue and righteous insubordination, Omar -- this is The Wire.
Burrell shows us that while he may be no more than a self-interested political hack, his hackery is nearly unrivaled. He asks the FBI to investigate Daniels' finances, and when they turn up "a couple hundred thousand ... in liquid assets," ready to dive even deeper, Burrell preemptively thanks the Bureau for a job well done, perfectly happy to have this rainy-day chip to use against the department's rising star. A thing of Machiavellian beauty.
At a far lower scale of hackery, we also get the first appearance of Valchek, the delightfully venal gnome of a police brass, mostly interested in protecting the interests of his and his own, leaning on Daniels to not cut Prez loose in the aftermath of blinding the projects kid. And what do you know, Valchek was also right about Prez in a stopped clock kind of way, saying that his son-in-law "needs a little guidance, a little supervision." (What Prez needs is Lester.)
Real Police Work
After the head-busting debacle of 2 a.m. field interviews in the high rises, we get to see some real detection from real police. Lester shakes off his years of desuetude in the Pawnshop unit to find that elusive picture of Avon. Then, while mixing business and pleasure at Ronnie Pearlman's, McNulty edges the unit closer to getting surveillance on the Barskdale crew. And speaking of McNulty's insistence on surveillance...
Bureaucratic Intrigue and Righteous Insubordination
McNulty's anti-authority streak shines through when he openly rebels from the raid the projects in Burrell's attempt to get the drugs on the table. Not to be outdone in internal maneuvering by someone he hates, Rawls commissions Santangelo to narc on McNulty. And Special Agent Terrence "Brother" Fitzhugh gossips about Daniels with McNulty. Who doesn't like to watch a circular firing squad from the outside?
And the miscellany! Bubbles holds court, dispensing his gutter-philosopher's wisdom, holding forth on the ontology of the drug fiend to the eternal battle of the sexes. Kima and McNulty start to build their relationship which makes her shooting that much more heart-wrenching. (Honest question: Are they as tight in later seasons as they are in this one?) D'Angelo teaches Wallace and Bodie to play chess, giving the two younguns (Bodie especially) the vicarious thrill of controlling the Game, when in fact all three of them are pawns.
This is The Wire, dense and encyclopedic in its offerings. Granted, some aspects of the show are still in its embryonic, unrefined stage -- e.g. Omar isn't exuding his trademark drawly charisma, and he swears ("Some real raggedy-ass shit here, boy")! -- but "The Buys" features everything from a typical episode of The Wire, especially the gallows humor that I somehow had missed or forgotten about (e.g. one of the drunk, overtime-lusting cops holding a cigarette for his equally drunk knocked-on-his-ass buddy during the drug raid).
I wonder if Lester's brief encounter with the dealer asking him if he wanted blue tops was a reference to his character from The Corner.
Bubbles = Charlie Chaplin?
Indie rating: Basic Channel - "Octagon"