Episode 12: Mission Accomplished

It only makes sense that all the themes of justice that the preceding episodes have touched on come to a head in this season finale episode.  The episode starts with Stringer Bell found dead. McNulty is upset by this, not because he is actually mourning the man’s death, but because there seems to be something grossly unjust about the fact that Bell died before he knew he had been caught on the wire. It finished with Avon Barksdale and company brought before a judge. Though this justice seems hollow as the drugs continue to be pushed on the corners and Marlow is there to step up and fill the leadership void.

Slim Charles brings up an interesting question of when to fight a war and when to back down which is contrary to Aquinas’s three rules for an unjust war. Everyone believes it must have been Marlow’s crew, though Avon knows better. Slim Charles says that no matter who it was they are in a war and there is no going back. If it is a lie then they have to fight on that lie, but they have to fight. This is contrary to Aquinas in that he states that there must be a wrong committed by the enemy and one must have the right intention when they engage in war. This war over corners has been an unjust one, according to this definition, from the start and that they aim to continue when they know no wrong was omitted only worsens their intentions.

Though it has been prominent throughout, this episode highlights the flaws in judging according to the letter of the law and not taking into account the particulars of a person,  and in this case, a community. The Mayor actually contemplates maintaining Hamsterdam, though it is against all levels of law, as there are some perceptible benefits to the community. Could it be viewed as a harm reduction measure? If one was to follows the letter of the law it is a clear cut issue, no it cannot. However, because of the perceived benefits of crime reduction and containment of a difficult problem, most of the characters have difficulty balancing a law which fails to take into account all human particularity with the common good. Ultimately, when he sees the news images of the free zone, what it looks like in reality, not just on paper, he realizes that though there may be some good in crime reduction, there is still something fundamentally wrong and unlawful about dealing with the problem in this manner.

Injustice often does not just have one victim and one criminal. Crime affects the community, both as victim and perpetrator. Carcutti’s speech at the hearing illustrates this when he comments that the real failure was the community of injustice that had developed and that was failing the city, the neighbourhoods and the people of Baltimore. He uses this speech for his own political gain yes, but it is also what needed to be said and if it revived a desire for more community justice it did some good. The question that is yet to be answered is whether this will translate from a desire for particular justice to some change in the laws or any sort of practical application of justice.

To conclude, there are two scenes that were particularly poignant in terms of justice issues. The first is when Carver is approached by a known drug user asking for five dollars. Carver asks him how he can know he won’t use it to buy drugs, a common thought when it comes to dealing with the disenfranchised. He shows him the five he already has for the drugs. Aquinas states that there is no place for cynicism in justice, however in reality we never know, or take the time to know the particularities of every situation, but are forced to make these snap judgements. The other is the last scene when Bubbles approaches Colvin surveying the bulldozed buildings of the free zone. Colvin says “It was a good thing, huh.” Bubbles replies, “No, I’m just saying, you probably don’t know by it is rough out there.” And that is a large part of the problem. Colvin didn’t know. Crime stats aren’t everything and though the common good make have been perceived to have been in mind, intention without taking into account for the consequences does not often amount to justice at all.

Kathryn E.

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