Episode 11: The Wire Blog

The dominant emerging definition of justice in this episode appears to be revenge. Striker [Editor: Stringer] wants revenge first on Clay Davis, and then on Avon. Avon wants revenge on Striker. And Brother Mouzone and Omar want revenge for the wrong that has been done to them by B&B. The definition of justice as revenge is connected with the definition Cephalus, and Polemarchus, put forth in Plato’s Republic: “justice is getting what is owed”. The desire for revenge in this episode operates on the principle of everyone involved owing something to another person involved in the search for revenge.

The first indication that Striker is seeking revenge comes when he approaches Slim Charles to hit Clay Davis. Slim Charles objects, and Avon joins him in his objection. It becomes apparent that both men recognize the code of honour that lies within their own corrupt system. As Avon exclaims, Davis is a “state senator.” Striker’s desire overcomes his reason when he considers killing a man in a very important position in the community. This is where we can assume Striker Bell begins his spiral downwards, considering his outcome at the end of the episode.

The meeting between Striker and Bunny sparks the question of what Strikers role has become. Striker betrays the unjust system he is a part of, but he also serves the just system he has betrayed thus far. The question then becomes what Striker’s intent is behind meeting with Bunny. Here arises the same problem that David Lurie brings to light in Disgrace: we can’t know his intent, because it is internal. One can assume, however, that Striker doesn’t have a sudden desire to see justice served. Striker is attempting to resolve a personal issue: Avon’s return to command. Striker has a desire to regain control of what was his while Avon was in jail. And Striker’s solution is sound: to get Avon put back in jail. If this is Strikers intent, then it is safe to assume this justice he seeks is not justice at all, but rather a self-serving manipulation of both the corrupt drug-dealer and justice system.

Brother Mouzone’s desire for revenge is evident in the first scene of the episode: he is going to kill Omar for a wrong, he believes, Omar has done to him. Here, Brother Mouzone shows mercy: he gives Omar a chance to explain himself. Omar is, evidently, able to redeem himself and Brother Mouzone, perhaps properly, directs his revenge towards Barksdale’s gang. Avon willingly gives up Stringer Bell to Brother Mouzone and Omar, but why? Avon is most likely aware of the rising conflict between himself and Stringer, and his intent is to betray Stringer before Stringer betrays him? Or, is Avon simply on the same quest as Bell: to regain control of the gang, something Stringer stands in the way of. Avon confirms the rising suspicion of his intent to betray Stringer in their code of honour in the scene on the balcony when he asks where he will be and at what time. One has to wonder what role friendship has in this code of honour put forth by an unjust system, if we consider the friendship between Stringer and Avon it seems that friendship does not exist in an unjust system—something that appears to be confirmed three times in the episode when referencing the friendship as “just business.”

The entire episode comes down to one scene: Omar and Brother Mouzone killing Striker Bell. Is justice served? They get their revenge, but does Striker actually get what he deserved? They give him no chance for explanation, repentance, or redemption. The two reveal how willing Avon was to give him up: but what function does this revelation play? Is this a demonstration that a code of honour can’t exist in an unjust system? Or, perhaps, that friendship can’t exist? But Brother Mouzone and Omar aren’t simply hired by Avon, the two go willingly because they want to serve what they believe is owed to Striker Bell. This episode doesn’t go into the detail of justifying their desire for revenge,  sure we know their backstories, but it simply demonstrates their desire for revenge—and isn’t this a further demonstration of a human beings inability to never truly know what another human being feels or thinks, just like David suggests during his hearing with the University board. This seems to be the existing dominate problem in The Wire: when Bunny creates Hamsterdamn, both the city council and the media see it at face value, and don’t consider the intent behind it. If we can’t know someone internally, who can judge what justice is and what it’s not?

Jessica B.

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