''The Wire'': The Paper Trail

Even the corner has its own known routine and comforts. (Much love, Bodie!) Though (and I'll cop early to being a yellow-bellied sentimentalist when it comes to this show, and I kick and scream and cry at every damn loss) seeing Michael and Dukie again about killed me. Both boys are bigger, and their voices have changed. Dukie seems to have permanently lost the earnest grin from Prez's lunchroom study hall. He's ill equipped for a life out on the streets, and Michael knows it, suggesting that his friend instead might just earn his pay by babysitting Michael's kid brother. ''So I'll be a nanny and shit?'' said a betrayed Duquan. Michael suggested that Dukie do whatever he wants to with his day before Bug gets home from school. While the girl raised by network TV in me wants to believe this is great because now Dukie can return to school, the realist suspects that a dive into drug use can't be far behind.

Which brings me to Bubbles, dear Bubbles, trying to get by one day at a time in his sister's basement. He might be dealing with the biggest lie of all right now. (And I mean this only in the scope of this review about this character on this episode.) Bubbles is sober, and his life isn't the better or richer for it. He's living in a dank cellar, locked away from the joyful breakfast clatter of a regular life that's still forever out of reach. Since his sister rightfully won't leave him unattended in the house when she's off at work, he has to troll the same streets each day sober and alone. Bubbles, hang in there. Damn you, Wire, keep him safe.

And because what saves The Wire from being unbearably grim is its terrific sense of humor, I'll end with my favorite laugh of the night. Gus is in the newsroom, desperate for a front-page photo. He gets a scene of the fire, but there's a charred doll's head in the shot. ''I got a Barbie in the foreground,'' he growls into the phone. ''Every fire photo he brings in there's got to be some burnt doll somewhere in the debris!''

What did you all think? Are you a fan of Steve Earle's version of the opening song? (I love Steve Earle but am still iffy on his take.) Which character that we didn't get to see last night are you missing most? (Omar!) And will you pick Amy Ryan for Best Supporting Actress in your Oscar pool?

Sign up for EW.com's What to Watch Newsletter!

What to watch on TV. Hear what's on tap for the night ahead and get witty, morning after recaps of top shows (sent weekday mornings).
Originally posted Jan 06, 2008