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The Wire (Season 3) Visual Presentation
Transcript of The Wire (Season 3) Visual Presentation
Cutty arguably succeeds the most at true reform by opening a boxing gym. However, he was only able to successfully start up the gym with funding from Avon (episode 11), showing how he may have grown as an individual but he's still tied to the drug economy system. He was also only able to leave the Barksdale organization because Avon allowed him to (episode 6), whereas if he were a part of another organization they may not have been so understanding; this leaves a feeling of Cutty still "owing"/being loyal to the Barksdale organization for the rest of his life.
Furthermore, once "Hamsterdam" is shut down and the dealers move back out to the streets, the majority of his students return to the corners on orders from Marlo (episode 12). This signifies that even though he has succeeded in personal reform, he still has work to do in order to reform the lives of the boys stuck in "the Game" - the nature of the drug economy system is relentless, no one can truly leave.
Dennis "Cutty" Wise
Cutty is a well-respected veteran of "the Game". Nearing the end of his 14 year sentence, Cutty gets offered a position in Avon Barksdale's crew (episode 1). Although he accepts after failing at "honest" work (episode 4), he quickly learns that "the Game" has changed. After taking part in a brief turf war skirmish he tells Avon, "I ain’t got it in me no more," and leaves the crew (episode 6).
In leaving the Barksdale organization, he starts meeting with the deacon of a local church to get advice (episode 8). He works honestly by landscaping but even then he realizes he wants more. Cutty eventually opens up a boxing gym as a shelter for youth from the constant violence on the streets (episode 10).
The Wire, Season 3
Ideas for Reform Versus the Reality of the System
The Wire Season 3
Howard "Bunny" Colvin
Law Enforcement Reform
Barksdale Organization Reform
As a councilman, Carcetti is passionate about helping reduce crime in Baltimore and make it a safer place for its citizenry. Throughout the series, he offers help to Burrell in assisting the police department with the war on crime (episode 2). Toward the end, he even humors Bunny Colvin with his Hamsterdam experiment (episode 11). Carcetti also looks down upon the passive mayor who, in choosing inaction when faced with the decision whether or not to improve witness protection (episode 7), spurs him to run for mayor. He desires to be a politician that actually takes action and doesn't allow his power to get to his head.
Carcetti views his main obstacle to reforming the city as just the fact he is a white candidate running in a city with a majority black constituency. However, his real obstacle to reform is the system of politics and government itself. In trying to get the police department to shape up, Carcetti inevitably puts unwarranted pressure on each district, which causes most to lie about their numbers. Though motivated by a genuine concern for the citizens of Baltimore, he fails to address this issue and instead decides to run for mayor, an act that starts a theme of turning his back on his moral code. Examples of this are many. He encourages his friend and fellow councilman Tony Gray to run for Mayor (episode 9) in order to split the black vote and ensure his win, despite his initial ethical reservations. In defiance of wanting to help Burrell in the beginning, Carcetti later throws him under the bus at the public safety meeting to make the current mayor look bad (episode 8). And, worst of all, Carcetti turns his back on his own his ideas for reform. He ignores the success he saw in Hamsterdam and regurgitates a seemingly inspiring, yet highly dogmatic "we-need-to-get-tough-on-crime" speech at a council meeting (episode 12). In the end, the viewer cannot tell if he will either become mayor and truly turn Baltimore around, or become just another jaded cog in the wheel of political inaction.
With the pressure to get the murder stats down, the law enforcement officials get creative by "cheating the stats". However, Colvin has a different idea and even playfully proposes "thought I might legalize drugs" (episode 3), to which the other officials laugh.
Colvin actually does this by creating zones where the police will ignore the drug market, which are called Hamsterdam (episode 4). He believes this will keep the corners clean and decrease violence overall (thereby reducing felony and murder numbers with real strategy, and not just numbers manipulation). His reasons for doing so are because in the face of his impending retirement, he wants to enact some real change, instead of just maintaining the status quo.
In some respects, Colvin's reform does succeed. His numbers go down, an unprecedented 14% decrease (episode 9), and the corners are clean. Local medical nonprofits and community members applaud the venture. And, even the mayor seemed impressed with Colvin's strategy, initially.
However, there are unintended consequences of his "reform" and the "free zones" get shut down (episode 12). Violence still occurred, an old lady was removed from her home, and the "free zones" were chaotic. Colvin loses his rank and the job he lined up for after his police career.
The law enforcement system entangles with the political system which holds back any experimental solutions such as Colvin's Hamsterdam. The political system wanted the numbers down, Colvin provided that, but the means did not parallel what the political system wanted - so the law enforcement system suffered. We saw Royce attempt to keep the project going (episode 11), but in the end the political system hinged on the support of the people so the experimental solution had to end.
After taking over as the head of the Barksdale empire (episode 1), Stringer attempts to adopt more legitimate, business-like practices. On top of securing his legitimate money-laundering businesses, such as the Copy Shop, he also focuses his efforts on the reduction of murders and violence from within his crew. He meets with the New Day Co-Op in hopes that collaborating with fellow gangsters will improve profits and decrease violence, a project that he sees as the way of the future for the Barksdale crew (episode 5). He cooperates with Prop Joe, donates to politicians and attempts to invest drug profits into real estate, all in order to ensure a more efficiently running drug market without the hassle of jail time and police interference.
It becomes obvious that Stringer doesn't have the know-how to run a legitimate business as he bribes a politician to help him out with the bureaucracy of forming a business but doesn't see results (episodes 8 & 9). He finds out that he has been played by the politician after talking to Levy (episode 11). When Avon returns, we also see that the new organization in town (Marlo's crew) is taking over corners and Avon brushes off Stringer's strategy, wanting to go directly after Marlo. In the end, we see Stringer & Avon both turn on each other, with Avon ending up back in prison and Stringer ending up dead.
Stringer tried to change a system (Barksdale organization) when you can't stop a system from functioning a certain way, such as through violence. His personal dreams of legitimate business clouded his judgment, making it so he couldn't see that there were some people (like Marlo and Avon) who perpetuated the traditional drug economy system.
Starting from the police department review meeting shot in a basement in Episode 1 and closing with a shot of the precinct rooftop in Episode 12, Season 3 is about reformation of individuals and institutions. It follows the parallel reform efforts of four characters who each strive to change the system they have given themselves up to. Throughout this process, we see that the outcome of their actions can be in sharp contrast to their idealistic intentions. The discrepancy between ideals and reality amount to a cruel twist of cosmic irony: achieving the opposite of they had worked for. Amidst the destruction (demolition of the towers and Hamsterdam) and wars (turf wars, gang vendettas), is reform possible? Perhaps the lesson is this: you cannot change the system, but you can always change yourself, as Cutty is arguably the most successful in his reform endeavor.
The result of the pressure Mayor Royce puts on his subordinates is the creation of Hamsterdam (episode 4), which becomes a political catastrophe for the mayor's office (episode 12). Other police officers also find other ways to meet the mayor's demands, they try to "cheat the stats" (episode 3). His goal was to decrease crime but what he actually achieved was a national crisis of legalized drug trafficking, exacerbated by a flood of media attention.
The extent of the political system was shown through Royce's indecisiveness about Hamsterdam. For a while he thought the 14% decrease is too good to pass up, and put off closing down Hamsterdam (episode 11). When everything finally comes to light, Royce mumbles "what the fuck was I thinking" (episode 12) - showing that he should have recognized how the political system would respond to Hamsterdam. Overall, he had put his own personal goal of making himself look good above actually finding ways to fix the city and in the end his goal fails miserably.
Mayor Royce wanted reform by way of decreasing the murder stats down in the crime unit. He orders that the crime rate is to drop to just 275 murders in the police department (episode 1). He also leads the way to demolishing the 221 Tower in the hopes of reforming the neighborhood and providing affordable housing (episode 1). In both these instances, he could have had good intentions or he could have been trying to clean up the crime unit to make himself look good for re-election - either way, we see that these shining ideals he tries to create have unintended consequences.