In fact this whole post is one big spoiler, so if you haven’t got half-way through series 2 of The Wire then stop reading. If you’re watching on BBC2 right now, then step off this motherfucker. Serious, yo, back up or yo ass is gon’ get spoiled, f’real.
Still here? Well, don’t say you weren’t warned. The fact is, I still can’t believe they killed D’Angelo.
Sure, I know why Stringer did it, it makes sense in narrative terms — I’m talking about the writers of the show. Because to me, D’Angelo Barksdale was the heart and soul of The Wire. The show opened at his trial, and even though he left the courtroom he remained on trial, in a battle for his soul between the game and something better. I wanted him to be there until the end, because I was truly gripped as to which way he would go.
The other characters are, to some extent, locked into their roles. McNulty’s battle with his demons is compelling because of the vicarious thrill of watching his legendary exploits, but we know his drinking and whatnot can’t ever overwhelm his love for his kids, and his fierce and contrary desire for justice. I thought maybe Daniels’ ambition would cause him to betray the trust of the detail, but it doesn’t seem to be going that way. And the shark-like Stringer Bell is fascinating, but in his Shakespearean power machinations he’s more the calculating Iago than the tormented Macbeth.
The only other character with as much scope to go as far to either the light or dark side is Bubbles. I love Bubbles; his relapse at the end of season one was heartbreaking. From the spoilers of later series I haven’t avoided I understand that his progress both up and down — and further down — is central to the show. But somehow I can’t see his story being as compelling as D’Angelo’s. Maybe it’s the big soulful eyes, but D’Angelo just burned himself into my consciousness. Maybe it’s the soft-spoken speeches on chess or the Great Gatsby. But I wanted him to make it.
I understand why he was killed, in dramatic as well as narrative terms: it’s almost like the creators proving a point. Life is random, cruel, unexpected, and so is our show. Still, without him there’s a soul-shaped hole in The Wire.
Update: If you haven’t reached the end of Series 3, back the fuck up because there’s another big-ass spoiler pointed straight at your grill. Now they’ve killed Stringer! Two of the three who formed the psychological centre of the story are gone. Again, I understand the contrary desire to deprive us of resolution, but can’t they give us something! I’m dyin’ here! Now we’re stuck with Avon and Marlo, two characters who are pretty similar and not that interesting. I was expecting Avon to go next, in the next stage of Stringer’s machiavellian rise to power.
Still, in the way of light relief, I always crack up whenever Cutty introduces himself as Dennis Wise.