I thought for a moment there we were going to have another contribution or two to our Wire roundtable, but it looks as if they didn’t pan out alas. So I thought I’d finish up by highlighting a couple of the more interesting comments.
Pryzbylewski: not about temper, not about mentoring. Anger plays into it, but not in the heat-of-the-moment uncontrollable way. It’s a deeper anger, an anger of resentment and insecurity. Prez in his early days is not acting out of raw temper, or assuming a learned mode of behavior; he is lashing out from a volatile mixture of fragile ego and stark fear. In short, Prez is Ziggy.
If Ziggy’s family connection had been to police rather than stevedores, he’d have shot up his patrol car, put a slug in the wall of his unit’s office, and he damn sure would have clocked a project kid in the eye with the butt of his gun. But Ziggy wasn’t a creature of temper. Ziggy was desperate for respect in the only milieu he knew to look for it. Ziggy was terrified of being proved a failure, a fuckup, a geek, and so he formed a thick layer of humor, bravado, and rage.
A cop acquaintance of mine once said this to me about his profession, and I take it to be true. He said, “About a third of the guys out here, they’re like me. They just want to help people. All the rest of them are the kid that got picked on at school and now he’s got a gun.” When Prez takes that kid’s eye out in the projects in Season One, he’s not doing it because the kid pissed him off. He’s doing it out of anger at the world, and to prove to the world and to himself that HE’S in control now.
It’s only later, after Lester has shown him how he can be competent and respected through the wiretap, that Prez is then confronted by the kid he hurt, and he realizes that he was not in control at all.
And that isn’t the end of his journey, because while Prez finds a new well of confidence and self-respect in his work with Lester, he’s still a cop, and he still carries a gun, and he has not recognized his own flaws sufficiently to make him safe with that responsibility. And so his renewed confidence leads to overconfidence, and in the chase with McNulty, some part of him (subconscious, surely) sees an opportunity to finally achieve that original goal of respect through “manly” police work. That it goes so horribly wrong is Prez’s second wake-up call, the one that finishes the job that the kid with the eyepatch started of shocking Prez into self-awareness. At that point, Prez knows he shouldn’t have been a police, with the power of life and death.
Prez is driven to teaching primarily out of his guilt over the kid from the first season (though there is also an element of him needing to have a career that feeds his ego’s need to be in control. Cops and teachers both wield big swinging dicks, even, or maybe especially, the good ones. And Prez, like all the major characters on the show, is complex. Nothing he does has only ONE motivation).
The Prez that shows up in that classroom, though, has had two huge blows to his sense of self that have resulted in him making an absolute resolution to himself to never let something like the blinding of the kid or the shooting of the cop happen again. Prez’s arc as a teacher is not a wimp learning to be a disciplinarian. It’s someone who has seen what can happen when he lashes out getting over his fear of ever doing so again and learning how to instead exert force (either verbally or physically) in a safe, mature manner. When he disciplines the snatchpops kid in the last episode, it’s through a controlled hand on the shoulder and a stern and unwavering voice of authority.
All of the preceding is why Pryzbylewski’s character arc is my absolute favorite from the show, and why I could not let stand the dismissal of his intense personal growth as mere plothammer.
Jones, One of the Jones Boys on Wallace:
The beating of Johnny Weeks, and Wallace’s role in it, is different from Brandon’s death, and his role in that, in several ways. (1) Johnny is “merely” beaten. Brandon is tortured, mutilated and murdered. (2) Wallace’s participation in the beating occurs in the heat of the moment. His decision to rat on Brandon is dispassionate and calculated. (3) Wallace doesn’t really see the long-term effects of Johnny’s beating. Brandon’s body is displayed in Wallace’s backyard. (4) Punishing cheating junkies is presumably a relatively routine event for Wallace. Participating in a murder is novel, and thus more salient. (5) Wallace’s role in the beating is not crucial; even if he didn’t participate, Johnny would still be beaten by Bodie et al. His role in Brandon’s murder *is* crucial; if Wallace didn’t make that phone call, Brandon wouldn’t be murdered–at least, not at that time. (6) The beating happens in the company of Wallace’s peers. The murder involves him with his superiors, who are adults, and serious–and scary–criminals. (7) Johnny is just a junkie, a figure of contempt. Brandon, although a homo and dope-snatcher, is at least higher in the street hierarchy. (8) Brandon seems closer in age to Wallace. Johnny is indisputably an adult; when Wallace spots Brandon, he is playing pinball at a local hangout. (9) Wallace beats on Johnny. He (kind of) snitches on Brandon. Snitching is worse than beating (exhibit A: Randy Wagstaff). (10) Finally, doesn’t DeAngelo express some qualms about Brandon’s vicious treatment? Boadie couldn’t give a shit, but Wallace takes his moral cues from DeAngelo, to some extent.
Given all these differences, Wallace’s different reactions seem not at all inconsistent. Could the show have made these differences, or Wallace’s thinking about them, more explicit? Sure. But if the show made everything explicit, each season would have been one thousand episodes long.
Ugh, the hell with Zach Snyder… not only does he constantly favor flowery look-at-me phrasing at the expense of the text, his Moore translation seemed flatly ignorant the critical aspect of DIALOGUE with the oral tradition Noah mentions. Specifically, Moore’s liberal, detailed quotations from Steve Ditko are so bowdlerized as to render them mere surface decoration, despite being utterly fucking central to the work, down to seemingly tiny sections — Dr. Manhattan’s disastrous encounter with the scribes — referring directly to crucial verses from Ditko’s Captain Atom. And yes yes, the Kalermites will tell you that attribution is difficult in antiquity — where would our classics departments be without “Bob Kane”? — but Ditko, remember, commonly operated with an intent of conversion, to deliberately replace earlier, pagan narratives with substitutes derived from that unfashionable monotheistic bedrock, Mr. A, himself (of course!) parodied in the form of Rorschach, despite the protestations of “Sunday Catholics” with no appreciation of tradition, duly aided and abetted by Mr. Snyder… you see why I’m pissed??
Although, I’ll even read Snyder’s shitty-looking novel this weekend before I sit through one more second of Ayn Rand, the enduring (if limited) popularity of whom can only properly be analogized to the embrace of Tommy Wiseau among particular Victorians… contrary to one million posts online, I found it a relief when she just plopped that dude in front of the camera and had him talk, because she cannot frame a shot to save her life…!
This has been a kind of amazing week here, as Joy Delyria and Sean Michael Robinson turned into a meme, linked by everyone from boingboing on down. My statcounter says we had 70,000 hits plus over the course of Thursday and Friday, which is the amount of traffic we usually get in two months. Things have calmed down a little (we only got as much traffic as we usually get in a week and a half yesterday) and our bandwidth has dropped to levels that allow the blog to function again.
So, I wanted to give a big thank you again to Derik Badman, who’s been fighting to keep the blog working and available to readers. Thanks also to Bill Randall and Caroline Small for helping out on the technical level. And thanks to all our contributors, commenters, and readers. It’s been a blast.