The Wire (Season 1, Episode 7): One Arrest – Warning: Contains Spoilers

 
 

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“One of the themes of The Wire really was that statistics will always lie. That I mean statistics can be made to say anything… Anything that is a stat can be cheated, right down to journalism. And I was sort of party to that.” David Simon underlines these injustices in episode 7.

Rawls, the main representation of the ills of the police force, is in characteristically cantankerous mood and informs Detective Santangelo that his ability to clear crimes has reduced significantly from last year’s rate of 40 percent. He subsequently reiterates his demand from the last episode – a request which emphasises his utterly corrupt and unsavoury nature: “Bring me something on McNulty or do your job,” he orders fiercely.

Yet Simon does not seek to portray all the series’ powerful figures in the manner of Rawls. The judge is as equally disreputable as Rawls, yet their commonality ends there. The judge could almost be regarded as the polar opposite of Rawls – he defiantly flaunts his heterosexuality by flirting with Rhonda (whereas Rawls is quite discreet about his seeming homosexuality – he is shown in a gay bar during season 3), he playfully chastises McNulty whom he considers his friend and he generally exhibits a cheerful demeanour.

However, the judge’s unthreatening visage is ultimately misleading, as evinced by callous betrayal of McNulty (back in episode 2) whereby he gives confidential information to a newspaper man. Similarly to Rawls therefore, he is acting primarily with his own interests in mind at the expense of others. Consequently, the judge and Rawls emphasise the interlinking of lighter and darker elements of humanity – a motif which Simon continually reinforces.

The motif of light and dark intermingling is also evident in the treatment of Prez’s character. At this stage of the series, the audience is slowly falling in love with the character. The charm which the actor Jim True Frost exquisitely exhibits is highlighted in the opening scene of the episode.

During the scene in question, the homicide team are attempting to decipher (by means of listening back on the wire-tap) the complex codes of language which the drug dealers utilise to keep their actions somewhat ambiguous. Nonetheless, Prez ingeniously cracks the code when he realises that their words mirror the lyrics to The Rolling Stones’ notorious drug anthem, ‘Brown Sugar’. “I used to put my head to the stereo and listen to that all the time,” Prez admits.

At this point, the audience sees Prez as an odd, but infinitely unthreatening idiot savant type figure – a dramatic alternative to Seinfeld’s Kramer. But just as the audience has been seduced by his endearing eccentricity, a follow-up scene reasserts his darker side.

McNulty and his fellow officers arrest a boy with an eye-patch. Once he is taken to the homicide lab, he begins to stare menacingly at Prez. The significance of this scene will be lost to viewers who fail to identify him as the character that Prez unwittingly blinded in episode 3. Yet for attentive fans, this scene reminds them of the duality inherent to Prez’s nature. Thus the light and dark motif again perpetuates itself.

What’s more Simon also elicits the moral duality of institutions. Despite Rawls unsavoury behaviour, Detective Santangelo’s staunch refusal to “f*ck another cop” (in the form of McNulty) illustrates that dignity and ideals occasionally prevail in the police department. He instead warns McNulty that Rawls is plotting against him (ironically occurring after McNulty has referred to him as an ‘asshole’ behind his back in an earlier scene).

But aside from Rawls’ behaviour, perhaps the most disconcerting indictment of the police force is provided by the image of the door of the interrogation room closing, while the sounds of cops beating the defenceless criminal are audible.

Consequently, in The Wire cops and criminals, statistics and lies, light and dark all merge and become virtually interchangeable. Tellingly, the episode ends with a visibly upset McNulty being comforted by Rhonda, after he learns of the ruthless and illicit behaviour in which Rawls – a supposed paragon of social virtue – has been engaging. 

Random Facts:

  1. Acclaimed blues musician, Steve Earle, makes the first of a series of guest appearances in this episode – playing Bubble’s sponsor, Walon.
  2. Despite the title of the episode being ‘One Arrest’, the episode actually features two arrests – Bird and the boy with the eye-patch are respectively detained at various points.
  3. Rafael Alvarez, who wrote the teleplay for this episode, is another ex-journalist that worked with Simon at The Baltimore Sun.    
  4. Isiah Whitlock Jr., who appears for the first time in this episode as Clay Davis, originally auditioned for the role of Lester Freamon.
  5. Despite the excessive physical brutality which Kima and company enforce during this episode, they are ostensibly meek compared with cops on most TV shows. Apart from Prez, no other officer is ever seen firing a gun during the course of the programme. 

Best Quote: “Yo Bubs, who the fuck we know with clean piss?” Johnny belatedly realises that his compatriots comprise solely of drug addicts.

Best Scene: Walon’s speech regarding his recovery from drug addiction. At one point, he says: “If God hadn’t wanted me to get high, he wouldn’t have made getting high so much like perfect. I know I have one more high left in me but I doubt I have one more recovery.” The intensity of Earle’s performance can be attributed to the fact that the musician is, in reality, a reformed drug addict.

New Characters: Senator Clay Davis, Damien Price, Walon.

WTF Moment: A highly intoxicated McNulty outlines to Bunk why he respects him, eliciting a bizarre homosexual metaphor in the process: “When it came time to fuck me, you were gentle,” he affirms. This also continues the writers’ consistently hilarious and inventive usage of profanity.

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