“…when it’s not your turn” – McNulty

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Kobi and Dave go back to the pits to rewatch Season 1, Episode 1 of HBO’s The Wire.

This episode contains the voices of: 

– Frankie Faison (Deputy Commissioner Burrell)

– Lance Reddick (Lieutenant Daniels)

– Wendell Pierce (William “The Bunk” Moreland)

– Andrew Johnstone (Academic and Author)

– Gabriella Jones (The Guardian)

Setting the Scene – (This episode only)

David Simon likes to say that the first scene of each season of “The Wire” encapsulates the themes of that season. In the case of Detective Jimmy McNulty investigating the murder of one Omar Isiah Betts, known to friends and family as Snot Boogie, Simon gets to explain what the entire series will be about…

…The America of “The Wire” is broken, in a fundamental, probably irreparable way. It is an interconnected network of ossified institutions, all of them so committed to perpetuating their own business-as-usual approach, that they keep letting their own equivalents of Snot Boogie into the game, simply because that’s how it’s always been done. It doesn’t matter that it makes no sense. Only a rugged individualist/cocky narcissist like McNulty would even think to suggest that things could and should be run differently.

The Streets

As writer David Simon puts it, “those who are excluded from the legitimate economy make their own world.” This is truly another world. We see young kids out on the stoop unsupervised, just watching the police work as if nothing’s wrong. As if there’s not a bloody body out in the street.

The Police

These people generally aren’t familiar with the streets. Even when they are, their understanding is juvenile at best. Still, they are forced to interact with this different world, which means they often depend on those who live there. This relationship is examined in-depth throughout this season.

The Game

This is what unites the two different worlds. The “game” has many levels, and while it may differ on some levels, the rules are always the same: there are winners and there and losers, and you play the game whether you like it or not.

Storyline 1: McNulty

McNulty “snitches” to Judge Phelan, sets a series of events in motion that brings the team together and pisses off a million people in the process. He massively pisses off his boss, Rawles, who wants nothing to do with this case. Daniels in vice gets roped in to put a detail together, pulling in Kima, Herc, Carver and McNulty.

Storyline 2: D’Angelo

“D” Gets Out, we see Stringer Bell corrupting the trial and the witness. D’Angelo is driven to the Orlando Club – his uncle’s strip joint – by Weebay. We briefly meet Barksdale, and D’Angelo comes across as quite naive. He gets demoted to the low-rises from the towers, and meets his crew, acting the boss. Finally, he sees that the witness “Gant” from his trial has been shot dead.

Storyline3: Bubbles

We meet Bubbles, who is running a counterfeit money scam with Johnny Weeks – who is “green” and how Bubbles is trying to get “brown”. Johnny gets beat down, and Bubbles becomes a snitch.

Discussion Points?

– Who are the cops?

– Do you understand anything of what is going on here?

– Things you missed on first viewing

Key Characters

– McNulty

– D’Angelo Barksdale

– Bubbles


Sergeant Jay Landsman is the name of a real life cop. The real Jay Landsman does come into series later.

Both the Snot Boogie murder story and Bunk’s tale of shooting a mouse in his kitchen are anecdotes from Simon’s time researching his non-fiction book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (1991).

Simon deliberately used surveillance cameras throughout the show to add to the sense of always being watched

Simon makes the point that the detectives are motivated not by a desire to protect and serve but by the intellectual vanity of believing they are smarter than the criminals they are chasing.

The flashback at the end of the episode – David Simon says that HBO urged him to do that, and he didn’t feel like it fit with the show

Simon confirms that the pilot was shot only a few weeks after 9/11, but that the writers correctly predicted what the FBI’s response would be

Rawles and McNulty later star against each other in The Affair – hate each other just as much

McNulty references he doesn’t want to end up in the marine unit.

Memorable Quotes/Standout Scenes

“Shit rolls, piss trickles.” – Carver

“See these McNulty? These are for you.” – Rawles

“There you go… giving a £$^& when it ain’t your turn to give a £$%&.”

“How is it you always get the whole world so angry at you?” – Bunk to McNulty

McNulty “If Snot boogie always stole the money, why’d you let him play? Man on The Steps “Got to. It’s America Man”

Wee-Bay and D’Angelo drive in the car and Wee-Bay pulls them over “Don’t talk in the car”

First Appearances

– Maurice Levy

– Detective Ray Cole – is played by Robert F Colesberry who is one of the series producers – he is in the same cubicle as Bunk and McNulty – and tells McNulty “Type Quieter”

– Fitz – The FBI guy


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