Episode 2 of The Wire does a fairly good job of dealing with the fallout of Episode 1 while also creating a fair amount of new fallout to be dealt with in Episode 3. The storylines also do a great job of illuminating some of the characters that weren’t as well fleshed out in Episode 1.
Perhaps the best aspect of this is in how we get to know Kima a bit better. If I had to pick a favorite character this early, it’s Kima. She shares McNulty’s rogue mentality, focusing on what she believes will actually get results rather than what bureaucrats tell her to do. However, unlike McNulty, Kima has close relationships with those in the drug scene. She’s not an outsider looking in like he is, but instead seems to have joined the police precisely because she has firsthand knowledge of how bad the city’s been ravaged by drug gangs.
That also means that at some point, McNulty is probably going to need Kima for something he can’t do all by himself. We see the seeds of this here in Episode 2 as McNulty commends Kima’s work with one of her drug-using friends’ after the two teamed up to snap some photographs of dealers the cops need to know about.
The intriguing thing about this is I could see McNulty having too big an ego to admit when he needs help. Thus far, McNulty’s never really had to admit that other people know things he doesn’t. As he builds a working relationship with Kima, that will probably have to change. That’s why Kima is such an exciting character to me. She’s not just interesting in her own right, but she’s also the kind of character that could spur meaningful arcs for those around her. The McNulty/Kima dynamic has so much potential and it seems like we’ve barely scratched the surface.
The other major talking point of Episode 2 comes when some of Kima’s less respectable colleagues set out to conduct a bust. They’re also joined by newcomer Pryzbylewski, dead weight that was dumped on Narcotics when Lieutenant Daniels asked for more man power. Pryzbylewski ends up beating up a 14-year-old and at the end of the episode, we’re told this victim is now blind in one eye. The incident will no doubt reveal how higher ups deal with brutality cases, and I’m sure future episodes will dive even deeper than this one did.
One of the big questions I’ve had about the show is whether or not it’s “pro-cop.” As much as the show acknowledges the shortcomings of the police, it’s still ultimately asking us to root for them over the other guys. At times, it even asks us to feel sorry for the police because they’re underfunded, implying the cops could fix the city if only they had more resources.
In the case of Episode 2’s drug-bust-gone-wrong, the show makes it pretty clear that we’re not supposed to root for these cops. There’s no productive purpose to this mission, they simply want to vent their own frustration by taking it out on civilians. It’s an abuse of power, and it happened because these particular cops enjoy abusing their power. As the brutality plotline unfolded, I was worried the show would take more of a “few bad apples” take and wouldn’t do enough to acknowledge underlying issues that perpetuate police violence.
However, the show didn’t stop there. When Lieutenant Daniels arrives on the scene, he scolds these cops and tells them how stupid they are. However, he also tells them exactly what story to tell Internal Affairs: you felt threatened. There was no other way. Essentially, this 14-year-old deserved a beating at the hands of the police.
There’s a mixed signal from leadership: “Sure, what you did was wrong, but also you shouldn’t have to face any real consequences for it.” Mind you this is after Lieutenant has spent the whole episode whining about Pryzbylewski, and you would think he’d love an excuse to kick him out of his unit. But no. Instead, we have someone in leadership encouraging his subordinate to lie so he can avoid real trouble, even though this leader has known all along that this subordinate is totally incompetant.
As Daniels discusses this with his wife, he defends his action for no reason other than “you just don’t do that.” I’m really hoping future episodes continue pulling at this thread. Police misconduct isn’t just about the “bad apples” it’s also about the “good cops” who refuse to hold bad apples accountable.
Overall, Episode 2 did a great job of balancing optimistic and pessimistic notes about the BPD. On the one hand, it looks like McNulty and Kima might be able to make some real progress if given proper resources. On the other hand, there’s clearly a toxic culture within the police force that protects bad cops, and we’ve likely only seen the tip of that iceberg. I’m excited to see what happens on both of these fronts.