Monday, February 18, 2008

From Wire to Wire / EPISODE 14-15: Ebb Tide, Collateral Damage

Ebb Tide
Directed by: Steve Shill
Story by: David Simon & Ed Burns
Teleplay by: Ed Burns

"Ain't never gonna be what it was." - Little Big Roy

Collateral Damage
Directed by: Ed Bianchi
Story by: David Simon & Ed Burns
Teleplay by: David Simon

"They can chew you up but they gotta spit you back out." - McNulty

The new season introduces us to a new location and a new set of characters: the world of Baltimore's ports and the dirty union of stevedores who work it. There are three main characters: secretary-treasurer of the union Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer), his screwup of a son Ziggy (James Ransone) and Frank's more grounded nephew Nicky (Pablo Schreiber).

Nicky is an interesting character in that he's an almost exactly duplicate of the midlevel hood role that was previously played on the series by Larry Gillard Jr.'s D'Angelo Barksdale. Like D'Angelo, Nicky is the nephew of the head of the organization he works for, and like D'Angelo, he is an odd position as a result: he receives preferential treatment on the basis of his relation to the boss, but he's also still low enough on the totem pole to realize how royally cocked up "the game" is. And the similarities don't stop there; Nicky and D'Angelo are both fathers to young children with women they like but do not love, and both wrestle with the question of settling down. That allows Simon to have another of the parallels between vastly different groups that 0The Wire lives on, but I'm a little ambivalent on the sheer extent of the duplications on their character.

I'm even more down on Ziggy, the only character on The Wire to this point who I actively dislike. Understand, the show is populated by drug dealers, murderers, corrupt politicians, and the single slimiest lawyer I've ever seen on television. But all of them bring something to do the table: some are conflicted about what they do, some go about their dirt with such relish you admire them for the strength of their convictions. Ziggy, on the other hand, is just an annoying fuckup. Nicky tries to bring Ziggy along on his schemes out of familiar loyalty and constantly reminds him to keep his mouth shut, to go along with the plan, but he repeatedly refuses to listen. He's disrespectful and stupid to an almost impossible degree. As memory serves, his character does go through a bit of an arc over the course of the series. But at this point in the early going, I'm leary every time he appears onscreen.


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