Mentors and whatnot in The Wire

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“My question for you is: A) Who arrived in Philly first, Andre or Eman? And B) By how much time? And C) Who gives a rat’s ass?”

The second episode of season 4 of The Wire, ‘Soft Eyes,’ largely concerns itself with the issue of who’s teaching kids lessons and which in fact do give a rat’s ass (though the above is actually from episode 3, ‘Home Room.’ I considered using my favorite line from ‘Soft Eyes’ instead, spoken by the state senator when he’s served a subpoena: “Major crimes? Sheeeeeeee-it.”) This is especially obvious in the episode’s conclusion, which features the long-awaited mayoral debate interspersed with people’s reaction to it, but also seems to have been a motif throughout the entire episode. The Wire is rarely very heavy handed when it comes to themes and symbolism, but “Soft Eyes” more than anything is about the people that serve as leaders and mentors in the world of the show and how people react to them.

At around 19:00, Dennis is approached at the gym by Sharon Johnson, who wants to thank him for coaching her son and the other neighborhood boys by ‘throwing down in the kitchen, among other places.’ At 19:09, towards the beginning of the conversation, there’s a shot of three other women in the gym looking on at Sharon and Dennis, followed immediately by a shot of one of the boys in the gym following along while jump roping. Every time the camera pans to Sharon during the season, the three women are right over Sharon’s shoulder, out of focus but visible in every shot. This caught my eye because it seemed completely unnecessary to have them in the shot (or at all), but later on at 40:41, when Dennis has instructed Michael (the seemingly most morally complex out of the neighborhood boys) to work the heavy bag, one of the three women (Gail, the one with short hair) approaches Dennis with some peach cobbler. Gail, for the record, doesn’t even have any sons. While two of them flirt, the camera cuts back to Michael working the bag. At 41:14, even Dennis’s assistant makes a motion for Dennis to refocus his attention on Michael. When we come back to the gym at around 49:00, the camera pans across the gym and we see Dennis receiving food from another one of the girls before settling on Michael and Naymond, who note that the coach is ‘working it.’ While they’re unsupervised, two other kids try to force Michael off the heavy bag and a fight almost breaks out.

I’m also interested in the storyline with Bubbles (the guy selling crap from the shopping cart) and Sherrod (the kid who sucks at math). Over the break I accidentally watched episodes from the first season, not the fourth, so I was surprised to see that Bubbles (a crackhead in the beginning of the series) had cleaned his act up and had a protege. Then he was shooting up later in the episode and I was less surprised. Also surprising was how well he cleans up for a junkie: he has no furniture and makes his living out of a shopping cart, but somehow has a shirt and tie lying around.

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