''The Wire'': Small changes for the better
The storytelling of The Wire is as much dependent on loaded, little looks as it is on taut plot and sharp dialogue. And the absolute terror and resolution on Omar's scarred face as he's having an atlas duct-taped to his torso is about as grim and telling an expression as this show employs. That said, episode 44 qualifies at least within David Simon's perpetually dark alt Baltimore as uplifting. For starters, thanks to the makeshift body armor, Omar gets the jump on an assassin, quickly turning said inmate's prostate into pâté and proving that the five-figure bounty on our favorite stickup man's head won't be collected without considerable effort.
The good times don't stop there. Perennially clueless educator Pryzbylewski stumbles onto some brand-spanking-new textbooks and computer equipment while foraging around his middle school's basement. In a flash of brilliance reminiscent of his old crime-solving days with Lester Freamon, he also figures out how to hold his knucklehead students' attention for more than one bell by teaching them to use probability to play dice. Don't scoff. They're only rolling sevens for pistachios and Monopoly money. Industrious young hustler Randy Wagstaff would never, ever think to actually apply mathematical principles to a real, live corner craps game, now would he?
Rookie homicide detective Greggs demonstrates her problem-solving prowess as well, but not before mucking about with sleazy defense hack Levy and a fruitless lie-detector test. She tries to pin the murder of a state's witness on the kid the victim was ratting out and learns that even crooks have a conscience. ''I've been knowin' him since, like, Head Start and s---,'' the defendant tells her earnestly. (Levy's smug demeanor is yet another one of those great Wire looks.) Only after going back to the crime scene herself with ''soft eyes'' does Sherlock Greggs figure out whence the bullet truly originated, prompting hilarious non-actor Ed Norris to quip, ''Our guy's dead from a stray....I f---ing love this town.''
Also on the bright side, assistant district attorney Rhonda Pearlman and Major Daniels (the odd couple) finally get some respect at their respective workplaces; future mayor Carcetti and lame-duck mayor Royce make nice; and boxing coach Cutty apologizes to his gym rats for, um, sparring with some of their mothers. Hey, the dude was in prison for a long time, and as far as having Cutty for a father figure, those corner boys could do a lot worse. Check how he cocks his neck and backs down drugged-up Sherrod right as the thug is about to stomp Namond into the pavement. It's like watching a snake charmer stare down a cobra a truant, coke-snorting cobra with a handgun.
Of course, Sherrod shows no signs of going back to school despite Bubs' insistence and Namond keeps trying to get thrown out. Even the lionhearted cop turned social scientist Bunny Colvin curdles under Namond's flagrant F-bomb barrage. Come to think of it, a lot of not-at-all-uplifting, even ominous, stuff happens in this episode especially to children. The worst? Good cop Carver handing wide-eyed Randy over to insufferably bad cop Herc with the famous last words ''Look after him. He's a good kid.'' The expression on Randy's face as the thickheaded officer tries to bully him into a ridiculous confession says it all: This can only get worse.
What do you think? Is Omar going to beat the rap? Is Prez going to keep breaking through to his students? And does it seem that Carcetti has already decided not to even try to fight city hall?