Episode 5: Straight and True

There is a theme in this episode of The Wire that deals with acting unjustly to appear just. I kept seeing this happen over and over again in episode 5. It certainly reminds me of Machiavelli and how he said that it was good to appear unjust as long as no one knew about it. And for the most part, the characters in The Wire are pretty good at that.

I immediately noticed this with Dennis. When he got out of jail it looked like he was going to stay on track, that landscaping was going to keep him off the streets. Things soon changed though. He gets tired of making minimal money, of having to strain himself in order to stay on his feet. As a drug dealer, he would not have had to worry about that. He would have to worry about the law enforcers, but what are they really going to do to him? And so Denis transitions from drug dealer, to jail bugger, to landscaper, back to drug dealer. This is where Machiavelli comes in. While Denis is back into drugs, his grandmother still thinks he has a real. He convinces me – if no one else – that he is a good person. I actually felt bad for him when he first got out of jail and was trying to make it on his own with little to no skills. He convinced me of this idea of justice, this appearance, but before I knew it he was slapping a woman on the street because she would not stop to talk to him and his guys. Next thing I know he is no longer struggling to get back on his feet. He is telling people what to do rather than the other way around.

This episode is when the safe zone or Hamsterdam is finally established. This safe zone is an extremely weird concept. While I understand where the police are coming from, a safe zone for drug sellers does not seem right to me. It completely messes with the justice system. Once again, the police appear just, their job is about holding the community to justice after all, but instead they give the wrong-doers a place to do their wrong-doings? Carver had this huge smile on his face when he saw the system coming into place. Not only that, he actually went to pick up people so the dealers would have some customers. This makes me sick to my stomach. I know the officers feel like they are in control because the drug dealing is happening in one spot; I know that innocent people are not forced to live one the drug dealing corners of town. But is that all that justice is? Control?

Later on in the episode when city councillor Tommy Carcetti was talking about working his way around the mayor again, he said he did not want to admit something because it would be like admitting “the city’s broke and can’t be fixed.” Well, Tommy, I hate to break it to you but I think that is the case. That is why Dennis is faking his demeanour, that is why the police are using injustice to do justice, that is why officers like Carver and Herc beat criminals to a pulp, that is why when Barksdale gets out of jail Stringer brings him right back to the business. The people of Baltimore do not know any different. Injustice is their life. The legal system is obviously flawed, certain laws are unenforceable, and the police have to go beyond the law in order to get anywhere with these guys.

The title of Season 3, Episode 5 of The Wire says it all. While something like a safe zone appears to be the police’s last resort, in the end, it was their only one. “Straight and True:” This is the way things are. Adjust accordingly.

McNaulty tells Stringer that he had “such fuckin’ hopes for us.” Hope might be useless in a city like this.

Alyssa M.



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