The Wire, season 1, episode 10: officer down
Let me admit up front that I cheated. I assumed Kima was dead, that this was from a time before Glenns crawled under dumpsters, that there wasn’t supposed to be any dangling ambiguity over the week between one episode and the next. I assumed The Wire was — if you’ll excuse the expression — shooting straight.
But I was going to be really pissed to be upset at Kima being dead, only to have The Wire drawing out the uncertainty. I mean, you don’t take bullets like that to the chest and survive, do you? Maybe you do. I couldn’t wait to find out. With the next episode only a few mouseclicks away, I couldn’t very well sit around for a week. So whereas I was going to write about the episode when Kima got killed, I am instead writing about the episode in which Kima is seriously wounded. I am writing in the aftermath of seeing her name on the opening credits for episode 11, after Daniels has described her condition in the hospital. I have traveled forward in time and now I’ve returned to write about the episode in which Kima is only wounded.
In any other show or movie, my antennae would have been alerted when she explained to her friends why she wanted to be a cop. To get that monologue this far into the season, this far along knowing who she is, with her connection with McNulty so keenly developed. That’s one of the main advantages of long-form television. These scenes don’t always have to mean something. So that when they do mean something, you might not realize it until after the fact.
It didn’t start well. I nearly rolled my eyes when the random actress with two lines — a role I know well — asked Kima when she knew she wanted to be a cop. This is usually where a supporting actor gives the main character a chance to talk about himself (it’s usually a woman asking a man). But as Kima tells her story, her girlfriend looks on disapprovingly. Has the girlfriend heard the story too many times? Is it a “god, not this story again” look? That doesn’t feel right. Why would her girlfriend react this way when everyone’s drinking and having a good time?
The story itself is pretty simple. When Kima was a rookie, after grappling with a purse snatcher, another cop offered an approving comment as he gave Kima the handcuffs to cuff the suspect. It’s the epigraph before the episode. “…and then he dropped the bracelets,” she says.
“I mean, I know you don’t like it,” she continues, acknowledging her girlfriend’s misgivings about Kima taking on the dangerous role of being a police officer, which will get her nearly killed the next day. “But I was proud.” It’s not just a monologue. It’s about their relationship. It’s about the fact that the two of them come together after the story anyway.
(On a purely personal note, I could relate to the story. I was once involved in a foot chase along Sunset Boulevard, running stupidly after a guy who had broken into my friend’s car. Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll tell you about it. It ended with me and the guy grappling in an alley, and the police showing up with their guns drawn, arresting the guy. Because we’d run so far, one of the cops offered me a ride back to where my friend, who had called 911, waited by his car. As I rode in the back seat of the police car, the cop asked, “Did you touch that guy?”
I thought maybe I was in trouble. Maybe I was going to be lectured for my recklessness. The cop was a severe military-looking type guy, with close cropped hair, powerfully built, straight out of Central Casting as a police sergeant or something. This is, after all, Hollywood.
“Yes,” I admitted.
“You’ll need this,” he said, handing back a wet wipe packet. I was proud.)
I took the scene revealing Kima’s undercover outfit to be one of The Wire’s lighthearted moments.
I actually laughed. Of course it was a light-hearted moment. Like Shardene’s glasses, or Prez as a garbageman, or Deirdre pressed into service as McNulty’s lawyer.
At the end, it’s an uncomfortable choice to cut to the view from the support helicopter, through its IR camera, with the HUD in the way. Impersonal, remote, electronic. But it alternates with the scene on the ground, where Daniels screams into a radio, McNulty attempts CPR, and Carver rages and kicks uselessly. Raw, immediate, emotional. Godammit.
But at least she’s alive. If there are any gut punches waiting for me in The Wire, they won’t be here today.
(Wondering what’s all this stuff about an old TV show? If you support my Patreon campaign for $10 or more, once a month you’ll have to opportunity to assign me a review. The first season of The Wire won one of the recent drawings.)