Eugoogly: [Wire Spoiler Alert]
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 3, 2008
“I heard that one before…”
Before I get into eugooglizing two of the greatest characters in arguably the greatest TV show of the 21st century, I would like to send a big ol’ fuck you to HBO for making this show so difficult to write about in a timely fashion. The fact that episodes are made to some viewers a week ahead of the rest (via the On Demand service) ends up creating a sort of hierarchy among viewers, and results in it being almost impossible to discuss the show with fellow viewers, since you never know what episode they’re up to. Yeah, it’s nice to be able to get the show a week ahead of time, but I’d much rather everyone be on the same page. Thank god apaprently the finale is not being leaked ahead of time–if that had been ruined for me (as the death of Prop Joe was, for instance), I never would’ve forgiven the channel.
But anyway, I think both of these episodes have aired in all formats now, so let’s talk about the lifes and deaths of Omar and Snoop. Two obvious fan-favorites from the show, their characters are also linked by being possibly the two greatest hitters that the show ever saw and by being two of the only three openly gay main characters in the show’s history (and yes, there is one unopenly gay character, whose subtle outing I won’t reveal for those of you who, like me, missed it the first time). Their deaths might not quite be considerable as parallel, but the fact that they come so close together (and so close to the show’s end) doesn’t strike me as coincidence.
Over five seasons of The Wire, it’s hard to argue against Mistah Omar being the show’s most consistently great, and perhaps just as importantly, consistently visible character. McNulty disappeared for large chunks of season four, Marlo and his crew didn’t show up until season three, and Stringer (and for the most part, Avon) peaced after the season three finale. But since his debut a couple episodes into season one (for what was initially only supposed to be a seven-episode arc, until fan support proved too great for the character to be so quickly disposed of), Omar has always been lurking in the shadows, ready to strike when the need arose.
Part of what made Omar stand out so much from the rest of the cast was that unlike the great majority of the show’s characters, he was a man alone. He had help, sure, in the form of a rotating cast of like-minded gay stick-up boys that also acted as his lovers (which always made me wonder how exactly Omar advertised for such a position–is there a section in the classifieds for this sort of thing?), but unlike the show’s police, who had to answer to the city, and the show’s soldiers, who had to answer to the lieutenants and kingpins, Omar was in business only for himself, seemingly immune to the laws, standards and effects of society. Since we spent so much of the show seeing how these organizations end up tainting souls and destroying lives, it was inspirational to see someone as impervious as Omar, and thus it only made sense that while cops and robbers disappeared around him, Omar should remain the show’s one constant.
But ask an average fan why Omar is such a great character, and they won’t come up with any of this stuff. That’s because the appeal of Omar doesn’t need to be symbolic–he’s simply an undeniable presence in his own right. Omar has been called the ghetto Robin Hood (for his tendency to take from the rich and give to the poor–or, at least, to himself), but more of the time, he was the ghetto James Bond, a character who just wowed you with his skills, swagger and charisma, the kind of guy who’d meander casually into a burning building just to save a box of Cheerios. There didn’t seem to be any situation too sticky for him to get out of, an almost-superhuman resilliency evidenced beautifully this season from Marlo’s reaction to the scene of Omar’s six-story fall and escape from a high-rise shootout, “It just don’t seem possible.” He seemed invincible so much of the time–and seemed so confident in his own invincibility–that eventually you became convinced that he probably was.
Which is why his death is so unbelievably infuriating. In any other show and with any other character it’d have been obvious; the episode was spending more time documenting Omar’s quest to goad Marlo into a street war than it probably needed to, and when he was seen buying cigarettes in a corner bodega–a scene with no obvious plot relevance–you should have known that some shit was about to go down. But this was Omar on The Wire, so you didn’t sweat it too much. And even when you saw that bullet go through his head, and even when he went down and didn’t get back up, and even when you saw the kid with the gun standing behind him–your immediate reaction had to have been, “shit, I wonder how Omar’s gonna get out of this one?” Omar? Actually dead? Like, dead dead? I was yelling “WHAT??!?!??!” at my screen for five minutes afterwards. Like Marlo said, it just don’t seem possible.
It’s hard not to feel like his character has been given shafted a little. Let it never be said that The Wire was predictable, or that it caved to popular opinion instead of taking the path it felt it needed to take, but come on, look at the show’s other major death scenes. Stringer yelling “WELL, GET ON WITH, MOTH—-” before Omar and Brother opened fire on him. Bode going down swinging, refusing to back off from his corner. Hell, even Prop Joe, accepting his fate, closing his eyes, realizing that he can’t talk his way out of this one. They all died with diginity, on their feet, so to speak.
And yet what does Omar, possibly the most beloved character in all The Wire, get? A bullet in the back of his head out of nowhere, from the gun of a fucking pre-adolescent. I know, or at least I think I know, what the message is–that not even someone as brilliant and cautious as Omar can be a part of this world of drugs and violence and expect to escape with his health, that no individual is ever completely in control of their own destiny, and that even a street hero like Omar goes six feet under without even a blurb in the paper or a correct tag on his toe. Fine–it all makes sense, and eventually I’ll even forgive the show for it. But it just seems like he deserves better.
Of course, as Snoop would say, likely even about her own death, “Deserve got nothin’ to do with it.” Now I’m usually not a big fan of the quotes at the beginning of The Wire–too often they either don’t make much sense out of context, or just don’t end up meaning all that much (“This ain’t Aruba, bitch,” was particularly appropos of absolutely nothing). But Snoop’s “deserve” line was a brilliant teaser, since as the episode started to wind down and it still hadn’t showed up, you started to wonder where it’d come into play–would it be the last thing that Michael would ever hear before Snoop dispatched him, as she had so many others, for his alleged storytelling?
Amazingly, it turned out to be Michael turning the tables on Snoop, partly as given away by the above quote (said about the soldier Michael was supposed to hit, which Michael correctly surmised was just a ruse on Snoop’s part to set up his own disposal). Her willingness to take out Michael unquestioningly, despite an obvious affection between the two soliders, and despite a lack of any sort of proof to the point, was what defined Snoop as a character. More ruthless than any of her male cohorts (with the possible exception of her similarly cold-blooded partner Chris), and a much better shot, Snoop didn’t just carry out orders, she relished in the opportunity to do so. From the first moment that Marlo enlisted her for a hit (“Time to earn yo’ keep, girl”), nobody looked happier to be in the Game than Snoop. Unburdened with the ambition of Marlo, the romanticism of Avon or the moral code of Omar, Snoop simply lived to be a hitter, and her enthusiasm for her work was intoxicating.
Naturally, the primary legacy of Snoop might end up being the fact that no one that looked, sounded or acted like her had ever been seen on TV before. Discovered, ironically enough, by Michael K. Williams (the actor, who plays the character Omar Little, lest we forget) at a Baltimore club, the part of Snoop was created specifically for Felicia Pearson, who is nicknamed “Snoop” in real life as well. Something tells me that a 5’2″, boyish-looking, slurrrred-talking, openly gay gangster chick isn’t exactly a role you can hold auditions for. And indeed, even beyond the name, the overlaps between Snoop the character and Snoop the actress often border on the uncomfortable–Person was a real-life thug, who even plead guilty to a murder charge at the age of 14 and went to jail for much of her teenage years. But despite the tricky morality of having a real-life convicted murderer fictionally reliving her gangster ways with aplomb on national TV, the innovation of the Snoop character is undeniable, a groundbreaker in terms of gender and sexuality and a strike for TV actors that simply aren’t like everybody else (or, indeed, like virtually no one else).
At least she gets the exit she deserves. As Michael gets the drop on her, Snoop instantly confirms Michael’s suspicions and acknowledges her fate (one thing you could never accuse the Stanfield organization of is disingenuity, a second thing you could never accuse Stanfield and Co. of is regret for their actions). After letting Michael know the reasons why the two of them had come to this, she smiles a little and asks him “How my hair look, man?” “You look good, girl,” Michael responds, before blowing her brains out on the driver’s window, the shot of which is tastefully cut away from. Snoop doesn’t even seem particularly sad or angry at her impending demise–all she ever wanted was to be a soldier, and now that she gets to die a soldier’s death, she can’t really complain.
One episode to go.