Monday, February 11, 2008

From Wire to Wire / EPISODE 3: The Buys

The Buys
Directed by: Peter Medak
Story by: David Simon & Ed Burns
Teleplay by: David Simon

"The King stays the King." - D'Angelo

The title of this episode is "The Buys." That most obviously refers to purchasing drugs, which happens plenty in this episode. But then again, people buy drugs in every episode of The Wire. What makes this episode different is how much it focuses on the idea of "currency" on both sides of the law. It's a particularly complicated issue in the police department, where we learn how much of what gets done in law enforcement is based on offering of and cashing in of favors. Lt. Daniels doesn't throw Officer Pryzbylewski under the boss after his idiotic assault of a teenager, and that earns him favors from the Deputy of Operations and Major Valchek he can call in later. Detective McNulty is able to pry some equipment out of the FBI the unit needs because he helped someone over there build a major case against a drug dealer. Incidentally, that FBI man appeared in "The Target", in a scene that didn't seem to have a whole lot of importance to the overall show beyond establishing the state of surveillance technology. Two episodes later, the introduction finally pays off.

That happens a lot on the show. The Wire is paced more like a 13-hour movie with distinct chapters than an episodic series. In this episode we see Officer Freamon overhear a conversation about the unit's target, Avon Barksdale, and his past in the Golden Gloves. Without a word, Freamon leaves and heads to a boxing gym. What he finds there remains a mystery, for one episode at least. But Wire veterans know scenes like this will be resolved eventually.

The image I took from HBO's Wire site comes from this episode's most skillfully written scene. D'Angelo Barksdale teaches two of his employees how to play chess (previously they were using the pieces to play checkers) and equates each of the pieces to positions inside the Barksdale gang. Avon, is the king, "the kingpin" as D'Angelo puts it. "he move one space any direction he damn choose. Because he’s the king. Like this, this, this. But the rest of these motherfuckers on the team, they got his back and they run so deep he really ain’t gotta do shit." The Queen is Stringer Bell, Avon's right hand man. The rook is the stash, and so on.

Then he gets to the pawns. "They like the soldiers," D'Angelo says to his two soldiers. "They move like this. One space forward, only. 'Cept when they fight. Then like this. They be like the front line. Out in the field." He goes on to explain how if a pawn manages to get to the other end of the board, he can be exchanged for another, better piece. D'Angelo's pupils are confident they can do that, but the boss warns them, "Nah, yo. It ain’t like that. Pawns, man, in the game, they get capped quick. They be out the game early."

How much you want to be that scene will get paid off in a later episode too?



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