This is my attempt at the “Summarize A Wire Episode In GIFs.” I chose to pull six (actually seven) animated GIFs from episode 5 of Season 1 of The Wire: “The Pager.” It’s one of my favorite episodes because the theme of being watched and a more generalized sense of paranoia creeps into the episode constantly. The cops are finally up on the wire, and Avon Barksdale seems to have a sixth sense about it. In the opening scene he reminds Wee-Bay of their reality given they control the drug trade in West Baltimore.
And the cops aren’t the only reason they should be paranoid. This is one of the earlier, if not earliest, episode where we hear the refrain: “Omar’s coming!” As we all know, “the cheese stands alone!” —and he’ll be coming for Avon soon.
There’s a lot of warnings in this episode, and I found an interesting parallel between Omar’s raid on the East Side stash, and the young hopper’s in the pit calling the warning for “5-0” that Stringer Bell and D’Angelo hear while talking about there being a snitch in D’s ranks. Again, this constant sense of being watched, betrayed, and generally under someone else’s control.
I love this seemingly throw away scene when McNulty says “School’s out” as he sees the kids heading home while staking out Omar’s pad. He then remembers to call his ex-wife about his kids’ weekend visitation, while one of the neighborhood kids picks up on the cops presence and reports back to Omar. So many small, perfect details to reinforce the theme of being watched without driving them down your throat.
Possibly one of my favorite scenes in The Wire is when D’Angelo goes out to dinner with his baby’s momma, to use the parlance of our times. She notes he didn’t push hard enough to get a better table away from the kitchen door, and as she finishes he’s spooked by the waiter behind him. Not only demonstrating D’Angelo’s “soft,” but also suggesting his discomfort, bordering on paranoia (although not seemingly misplaced), with the race/class-driven logic of the system.
I love this one between Sergeant Jay Landsman and McNulty because it’s an allusion to Sidney Lumet’s 1981 NYC cop film Prince of the City. Interestingly enough, the “protagonist” of that film, Danny Ciello, turns state’s evidence on his fellow cops because of his guilt over the institutional corruption. Ultimately he’s torn apart by his choices and can’t trust anyone—in effect becoming paranoid. The tagline of the film: “A cop is turning. Nobody’s safe.” Also, it was Lumet’s attempt to make up for his two-dimensional portrayal of cop corruption in his 1973 film Serpico—so much potentially layered into a throw away line.
Finally, as a bonus GIF, D’Angelo relays the whereabouts of Omar’s partner Brandon to Stringer Bell. This is a moment that leads to a whole series of events that reverberate throughout Season 1.
That was fun, I love GIFs.