"The Pager" (1x05)
Variations on domesticity. Click Landsman's delicious hams to read more.
"The Pager" shows a lot of people away from their jobs and at home, though even there most of these domiciles have been compromised in one way or another. The episode opens on Avon staying at a girlfriend's place, but of course it's a paranoid simulation of middle-class home-life: an elaborate ritual for signaling him by phone, making sure that nobody sees him there, etc. What's more, she's just one of many girlfriends he has. All further illusions of Avon's middle-class domesticity -- which is a home-life version of the ghost of legitimacy that Stringer keeps chasing -- fall away when he and nephew D'Angelo visit his brother, comatose from being shot. "Family is what counts, family is what it's about," he reminds D. "Family gonna always be there, 'cause it's blood." These words return near the end of the season, compelling D to shoulder Atlas-like weight in the name of family, but at the moment, they also characterize Avon's mentality: he may try to buttress himself against the dangers of the street in the outward normalcy of suburbia, but his past is always there, asleep but undeniable, bearing the scars of that life.
We also see D try to navigate a world that would hold a better life for him when he takes Donette to a tony restaurant. He asks Donette, "Think they know? ... What I'm about." The question might as well be rhetorical because of his complicated envy for and resentment at the skin he wishes he could inhabit as opposed to the body he actually wears.
It's like... we get all dressed up, right? Come all the way across town. Fancy place like this. After we finished, we gonna go down to the harbor. Walk around a little bit, you know? Acting like we belong down here, know what I'm saying?He tries to wrap himself in braggadocio to protect him from his envy, but his soliloquy is an excuse to imagine that he shakes off the street and enters a different world, though with the caveat that even in his imagination, he's tied to the street. "I'm just saying, you know, I feel like some shit just stay with you. You know what I'm saying, like, hard as you try, you still can't go nowhere, you know what I'm saying?"
Strangely, the only stable domestic scene that we see is Omar and Brandon's nest, though, clearly, given their trade, their situation is fundamentally volatile (which is about to come to a head by the end of the episode). That said, we get a parodic mirror image of domesticity through the two of them (parodic more for their line of work than their orientation): Omar goes shopping for Brandon, Brandon models his new bling, an affirmation of love, before they go to work together.
Strangely enough, "The Pager" also offers a parody of a parody with McNulty. He approximates Omar and Brandon's love with his own kiss, which only simulates genuine affection, and which informs the shallowness of his domestic situation. In his wasteland of a bachelor pad, he wrestled heroically with Ikea so that he can have a decent place for them to sleep, but underscoring just how barren his life is outside of work, they don't show up and he's left alone in his ersatz living quarters.
The most normative domestic mise en scene belongs to Tywanda, the friend of Deirdre Kresson, whom McNulty and Bunk interview. But even her current home, to which she ran to escape the Barksdale crew, isn't completely out of the orbit of Avon's reach; when the detectives come in, she immediately asks them, "You weren't followed here?" The mere presence of Jimmy and the Bunk, who are chasing down a murder case, reminds Tywanda that "some shit just stay with you."
Part whatever of my Bubbles/Charlie Chaplin comparison:
Indie rating: The Pentangle - "Omie Wise"