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'The Wire' is the Greatest TV Show Ever Made, and Preston 'Bodie' Broadus was its Scarred, Beating Heart

By Petr Knava | Think Pieces | June 7, 2019 |

By Petr Knava | Think Pieces | June 7, 2019 |


the-wire-bodie-heart-header.png

(Obviously, here be spoilers. Like, ALL the spoilers. Straight away.)

——

‘This is my corner! I ain’t runnin’ nowhere!’

A youth stands on a street corner at night. He stands alone. His comrades have scattered out into the darkness. One tried to drag him along, away from the remorseless predators that stalk the night, silently flitting from shadow to shadow, their guns trained on the youth. But the youth didn’t run. He never ran from anything. That was to be his undoing. Deep down he probably always knew that no other fate could await him. Where else could he make his final stand than on the streets. The streets were his home; the streets raised him; the streets were always fated to be his grave. As certain death closed in from every direction he stood to face it, unflinching, firing his gun defiantly into the void. Clever, resourceful, and brave until the very last, the bullet that laid the youth out in the end came at him like a coward, from behind. He had dodged more than his fair share in his time, but this was the one that finally found him, and there at last on a forlorn corner he lay. Preston ‘Bodie’ Broadus. Son of Baltimore. Soldier, worker, and victim of a system that—like for so many before and after—never cared about or appreciated him.

via GIPHY

What we now call the ‘golden age’ of modern prestige television started around the dawn of the new millennium. Though labels like that are in some ways fundamentally meaningless and era demarcations remain inherently porous it’s still true that in those two decades the medium has brought with it a quite unprecedented procession of absolutely top-notch shows. Many of them have been breathlessly gushed over, with countless sites passionately recapping and meticulously pouring over their content. Shows like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and others of their ilk have had us glued to our screens, and provided internet writers with generous material to chew over. But the passage of time and the benefit of remove has allowed the critical euphoria felt for some of these shows to cool. Not all of the stories experienced in the heat of the moment feel like quite such transcendent masterpieces with a few years’ worth of hindsight. And when the history of these days is written in a few decades, as humanity scrabbles around the barren wasteland that ecocidal capitalism has doomed us to; when some remaining ancestors of ours take a break from foraging through a landscape that makes Snowpiercer look verdant and inviting by comparison, when they pause for a minute to scratch the story of our fall upon lifeless rock—if they ever find a space on that slab to mention one television show as a highlight of the medium as a whole… Well, it’ll be the the Golden Era of The Simpsons. But if they find room for two—maybe splitting the slab into comedy and drama—they’ll surely have to include The Wire.

Because that’s the thing about The Wire: The further we get away from its initial run, the more we want to talk about it. Or I do at least anyway. Unfailingly that is with an ever more potent rapture and adoration for not just for its clear-sighted analysis, but also for its layered, dynamic drama. Because despite its stunning devotion to verisimilitude, The Wire does remain a work of fiction. Aside from anything else, it’s just a great goddamn story. A multi-layered, incredibly complex story with a rich mythology and wide-ranging view of the world that it takes place in, but a story nonetheless. And just like any story, it lives and dies by the strength of its characters. And lord oh lord what strength there is on display here. The cast of characters packed into The Wire’s five seasons is the definition of an embarrassment of riches. My immensely talented colleague Roxana put it so well when she said:

I’ve been rewatching The Wire lately, and every so often I’ll turn to my partner and declare a random character my favorite character, because the writing is so strong that anyone can be a worthwhile candidate.

The Wire short-changes no one. Its Baltimore is so richly populated with people—not even characters, but people; actual, real three-dimensional people—that the task of picking out a highlight among them is an exhausting yet also euphoric one.

Indeed almost immediately after Roxana’s point above she also touches on a thing I want to expand upon here. As she says in her brief rundown of a few of The Wire’s players, illustrating how almost anyone in the show can be a powerful candidate for favourite character:

Bodie, a soldier until the end, whip-smart and loyal and never without a comeback.

For a while before reading Roxana’s piece I had been thinking about this a lot, trying to determine who—aside from the tragic figure of Baltimore itself—could lay claim to being some sort of Main Character on the show, and by what metric that could be judged. Most popular narratives are relatively straightforward, the hero readily apparent and easily identified. The Wire is not ‘most narratives’. Many people naturally point to Jimmy McNulty—Dominic West’s inconsistently accented, hard-drinking yet gifted scoundrel detective—when attempting to isolate who the character heart of The Wire might be. But great as that character is, I find McNulty to be a boring answer, and a far too simple and obvious one for a show of The Wire’s calibre. An alternative and more thematically interesting answer has been dancing around my mind for a few years, and when I read Roxana’s piece it all clicked into place and the stars aligned. Reductive as the question may be for a tapestry of a show like The Wire, the answer still felt right. It was Bodie. For his place in the grander story, never in the centre of things yet always involved to some degree; in the way that he could never quite break through despite bountiful reserves of drive and smarts; for being the thread that we caught up with over and over again as we surveyed the hopeless microcosm of late-stage capitalist America that is his Baltimore; for the way that his body and soul bore the marks of an accelerated ageing brought on by an unceasing assault by forces far greater than he—it had to be Bodie. For me at least anyway, it always had to be Bodie.

via GIPHY

As a show, The Wire’s perspective was rooted in the hard-won experience of its creators. David Simon worked for years as a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun, and Ed Burns, his creative partner, was a former Baltimore homicide detective and public school teacher. The two had extensive, painful, first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of three of the city’s most important public institutions, and of how their throttled nature increasingly neglected those most in need of their support. Simon had also written a book in the early 90’s, ‘Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets’, about the day-to-day war of attrition that played out on Baltimore’s streets between its drug gangs and its police force. That book was later adapted into the NBC procedural Homicide: Life on the Street. Simon worked as a writer and producer on that show but he would find himself at odds with the network, his vision for the televised version of Baltimore proving too dark and pessimistic for NBC—a cheap network euphemism for ‘too true to life’, or ‘not Hollywood enough’. Simon later also developed another series set in Baltimore—The Corner, a six-part HBO mini-drama based on a book he co-wrote with Ed Burns that took a snapshot look at the life of despair and neglect of the individuals caught in the orbit of one of the city’s open-air drug market street corners. HBO proved a far friendlier atmosphere for the depiction of Baltimore that Simon had wanted. By this point, all roads were leading to The Wire, and when it came time for Simon and Burns to decide on a home for the show, the choice was relatively easy.

The Wire is a story of a Black majority city struggling to survive in a nation structured along white supremacist lines. The struggles portrayed within are told with an intentional specificity to the African American experience. But it is also a depiction of that other societal demarcation which intersects so deeply with race, especially in America: Class. The Wire is a melancholy dissection of the total failure of American capitalism’s ability to look after the majority of its citizens. To understand its Baltimore, one has to consider the historical context, the roads that could have led to the kind of despair on display in The Wire to be taking place in the richest nation on Earth.

Prior to the mid-1970s, and the triumph of the doctrine of neoliberalism that followed, rising economic growth in the United States was broadly associated with falling rates of poverty. There are huge provisos here of course for race, gender, sexuality, and other markers of identity, but it’s true that during that era that famous rising tide actually did lift a fair amount of boats, with relatively modest earnings still allowing a person to have a healthy stake in society—in education, in housing, in opportunity—thanks to a number of government measures ensuring that the weak would be relatively looked after, and children could be better off than their parents. Then, the two became un-moored. Free market fanatics in business and various think thanks collaborated with extremist ideologues in government in order to begin to turn the tide back in the favour of finance. Their program of societal restructuring gathered pace, and the two markers—economic growth on a national scale and personal prosperity—became decoupled. What little tempering mechanisms capitalism had been subjected to were dismantled or made toothless and a system was created that resembled nothing less than socialism for the rich and dog-eat-dog capitalism for the rest. Growth continued to soar, but the spoils were enjoyed only by an increasingly tiny, ever more gilded (overwhelmingly white) elite. Wealth inequality grew, as did the rate of that growth itself. Jobs became less secure, and people found themselves having to work longer hours for ever worsening relative pay.

As noted above, however, it’s important to remember that despite this malady affecting an ever-broader swathe of people the problem was, as always, stratified heavily along racial lines. In the United States of America of today, African Americans are the ethnic group afflicted by the highest poverty rate: 27.4 percent. For white Americans the number is 9.9 percent. And whereas 14.5 percent of white American children live in poverty, for African American children that number is a staggering 45.8 percent. Capitalism is an inherently racist ideology. It thrives on the subjugation of a sizeable proportion of the populace. American capitalism is a particularly dramatic example. Built on the back of slave labour, the incredibly vast wealth generated by kidnapped and un-recompensed African workers and hoarded by a white elite has shaped the society we see today. The roots run deep and wide, inextricable from national and indeed international power structures, with the systems of exploitation mutating as the oppressed fought back—from slavery to the 13th amendment to Jim Crow to racist housing and finance policies to gerrymandering and voter ID laws—but never going away. The legacy of this institutionalised racism is everywhere to be seen, from the massive discrepancies in wealth, health, incarceration, and virtually every other socioeconomic metric, between America’s Black population and its white population. Even when America made history and elected its very first Black President, the image for most remained dire. According to the Harvard Business Review, in an article about the after-effects of the financial crash of 2008:

Racial disparities in income today are as big as they were in the pre-civil rights era. In 1950, the income of the median white household was about twice as high as the income of the median black household. In 2016, black household income is still only half of the income of white households. The racial wealth gap is even wider than the income gap and is still as large as it was in the 1950s and 1960s. The median black household has less than 15% of the wealth of the median white household. The financial crisis has hit black households particularly hard and has undone the little progress that had been made in reducing the racial wealth gap during the 2000s. The overall summary is bleak. We document that over seven decades, next to no progress has been made in closing the black-white income gap. The racial wealth gap is persistent and a stark fact of postwar America. The typical black household remains poorer than 80% of white households.

It is at this incredibly complex and nuanced juncture of the personal, the institutional, class, race, and power that The Wire, and its Baltimore, sits. Moreover, as a Black majority city in the heart of America, The Wire’s Baltimore is a quite special case study in how an oppressed minority can carve out a relatively successful and representative form of government, yet still be fundamentally in thrall to the larger power structures at play. The Wire’s Baltimore shows us a system in which a disproportionately—in the context of the broader white supremacist capitalist system that it finds itself in anyway—larger number of its higher ups are also Black. Yet despite this relative success story, the case study also reveals the limits of representation, as staffing more positions of power in an unjust system with members of an oppressed minority does not necessarily do much to alleviate the suffering of that minority. One of The Wire’s chief theses is the inertia of institutions, and their preternatural ability to resist change. So though the city of Baltimore could have its fair share of Black councillors, lawyers, and judges—many of them well-meaning, at least at the start—the macro picture would always remain broadly the same. Baltimore cannot really change, because America hasn’t changed. That hopeless cyclical nature is made explicit by The Wire’s almost tragicomic final moments. As the dust begins to settle on the stories and the characters that we have been following for five seasons, a curious sense of déjà vu hangs over proceedings. We’ve come so far, lost so many along the way, yet have we really gotten anywhere? A new kingpin has risen and many other roles have changed faces, but the roles remain the same. The Wire is damming in its statement: It doesn’t actually matter who occupies the positions, it’s the positions themselves that define existence. The game doesn’t stop. If you really want to change things, you have to change it, not just the players playing it. Or, as Fred Hampton said in 1969: ‘We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.’

The show’s creator David Simon once provided a suitably elegiac comment on the state of the nation, and on the reality he was trying to reflect in The Wire:

There are two Americas - separate, unequal, and no longer even acknowledging each other except on the barest cultural terms. In the one nation, new millionaires are minted every day. In the other, human beings no longer necessary to our economy, to our society, are being devalued and destroyed.

Over the course of its five seasons, The Wire synthesized character-focused storytelling with this broader, systemic analysis so seamlessly and so deftly so as to border on the miraculous. By starting its journey on the streets—in the day-to-day grinding interaction of drugs gangs hustling and the police brutally apprehending them in an effort to meet short-term targets—and then gradually expanding its scope to include an elegy for the eviscerated state of unionized labour, a merciless indictment of the proliferation of political corruption, a truly heartbreaking account of the stretched-past-breaking-point state of public schools, and a nostalgia-tinged look at the decline of the responsible newsroom, The Wire attempted nothing less than the writing of a postmortem for an America that had finally given up at even pretending to care for its most vulnerable. It was a clinical yet humanist examination of the powerlessness of even heroic individuals to challenge the tectonic power of American institutions. The Wire’s thematic goals were mindbogglingly ambitious, yet it never forgot to care about its characters. Its main protagonist may well have been the city of Baltimore itself, yet it understood—better than perhaps any other show ever made—how the individual relates to the institution in a modern capitalist society, and this understanding was woven throughout its narrative structure and reflected in its dazzling cast of characters.

One of The Wire’s greatest successes is the balance it manages to strike between realism and artifice. It does this better than almost any other work of fiction out there. The show understands keenly the fine line that so often exists between truth and fiction, and it knows that while the latter can frequently be stranger than the former, audiences will only accept a certain amount of madness. By grounding itself so solidly in David Simon’s and co-creator’s Ed Burns’ police and reporting background, and by creating such a believable, true-to-life version of Baltimore, The Wire allows for moments of poetic conceit that feel dramatically heightened, yet still plausible. In other words, because everything else is so well developed, we mostly have no problem accepting the flights of narrative fancy that decorate the story before us with dazzling filigree. A striking example of that is the sheer volume of memorable utterances and turns of phrase that the characters of The Wire are responsible for.

I’m thirty-one years old. I’ve met and spoken with a lot of people in my time. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who came up with even a single phrase that is a fraction as quotable as anything in that compilation. The easy retort to that is, ‘Of course not. That’s fiction. We expect rhythms and poetry and music in speech there that we don’t in real life.’ Well, yes, but the point is that in The Wire, those moments feel fundamentally earned. Real. They follow logically from the groundwork laid down by the writing. They aren’t jarring. And they are not overused. This is not a mannered, over-contrived Sorkin script so often more interested in revealing and reveling in the ‘genius’ hand of its creator rather than the inner workings of the people on screen. The Wire premiered on HBO on June 2, 2002, almost seventeen years to the day. It ended its run on the 9th March, 2008. Just over a decade ago. Its the characters do not fade. Instead they shine ever brighter in our cultural consciousness. McNulty, Stringer Bell, Kima, Bunk, Carcetti, Clay Davis—these are names that will ring down through the ages. We love them, we quote them, we use their names as shorthand.

The character who skirts nearest to what could be described as something contrived is probably Omar Little. Michael K Williams’ gay, gang-robbing, shotgun-toting gangster is one of the great wonders of modern television. An empathetic, witty badass with a twisted yet coherent set of morals—violence is okay, justified; but never against someone who isn’t in the game—Omar is a philosopher-warrior who stalks the streets of Baltimore getting paid by ripping off drug dealers. His long duster swirling behind him and an ominous whistling often announcing his presence, networks of sympathetic citizen informers spread throughout the labyrinthine streets allowing him a view of things not afforded to others, Omar seems to be able to appear and disappear at will, his very existence the closest thing Baltimore’s dealers have to a boogey man.

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

An instantly iconic presence and many people’s (entirely justifiable) favourite character, Omar is the closest thing The Wire has to a superhero. He’s the element for which we have to suspend our disbelief the most. Yet because of the hyper realistic world that surrounds him, and because of the wonderfully drawn inner life that the script and Williams create for him, even Omar remains firmly within the realm of the believable. For a stark depiction of the balancing act that the show manages, look no further than the balancing of Omar’s Spider-Man window jump while escaping an ambush in the fifth season by the other side of the equation: his brutally anti-mythic, anticlimactic death at the hands of a barely remarked upon tertiary character a few episodes later. Even the man who seemed to command the very shadows of Baltimore to do his bidding, the man who could go toe to toe with Brother Mouzone himself, could wind up lying lifeless on the floor of a convenience store, his killer’s name never even known by most.

But while we all look back and remember and quote the likes of Omar and Bubbles and McNulty and Clay Davis, there is one character who is in real danger of being forgotten. This despite his pivotal status in multiple plot threads and his relationship with a number of central characters. Yet in many ways, there is perhaps something like poetry even in this potential erasure. Some thematic resonance with The Wire’s overall thesis. Because the ballad of Bodie Broadus is the ballad of Baltimore itself.

via GIPHY

A low-level yet smart and driven drug runner, J.D. Williams’ Bodie was a charismatic, witty, and adaptable presence on the streets of West Baltimore. Over the four seasons that he managed to stay alive we returned to him again and again, his part in the story varying in prominence as we went on. Even as The Wire ranged further away from the streets in its latter seasons, it always found time to check in with Bodie when it returned to them. Even as the show broadened its cast of characters, you could always count on Bodie to flit in and out of the story, Williams’ pitch perfect portrayal showing the young man with a cocky swagger prematurely ageing into a cagier veteran, the unforgiving routines of the system weighing heavily on his body and soul.

Preston ‘Bodie’ Broadus began working in the drug trade as a teenager. Raised by his grandmother following his mother’s tragic spiral into addiction, homelessness, and death, like so many other children of Baltimore he learned to fend for himself early on. Turning to the steady work and support network that it provided, he started running drugs for Avon Barksdale’s gang. As a low level but reliable cog in this vast machine, Bodie started to get noticed by higher-ups like Stringer Bell and rewarded with greater responsibility. He was charged with picking up the main supply from Philadelphia. He was given one of the Franklin Terrace Towers to oversee, and he had people working underneath him.

Then things took a turn. Avon got arrested. Times turned hard. The quality of the Barksdale crew’s product dropped considerably, and their hold on their empire started to fray as new challengers appeared. But despite those trials and tribulations Bodie held strong, using his brains as well as his brawn to try work around the internal limitations as well external threats. As the turf war between the Barksdales and newcomer would-be kingpin Marlo Stanfield’s crew escalated, Bodie did not shirk from defending his and his employer’s territory. He fought for his corners, always on the frontlines, and he evaded police capture with skill and wit, once citing entrapment to avoid imprisonment after police swooped in on Bunny Colvin’s ill-fated ‘Hamsterdam’ free zone.

As the world shifted around him, Bodie—as always—adapted, though not without expressing his distaste at the state of things. With Avon in prison and Stringer Bell murdered, the supply shifted to Proposition Joe. Slim Charles became Bodie’s main contact. Bodie knew Slim and trusted him, so while working for Prop Joe meant aligning himself with the previously despised East Side contingent, Bodie did what a good worker does and he—mostly—bit his tongue, and got on with the job. But even the steadiest rock can be eroded by too much turbulent surf, and when one of his friend’s turned up dead after Marlo’s crew tidy up some loose ends, Bodie snapped. Booting a police car out of impotent, sorrowful rage at the crime scene, Bodie got taken to a cell.

But when Marlo’s crew murdered one of Bodie’s friends in an effort to tie up loose ends around a hit, that proved a step too far for Bodie. Finally snapping, he kicked in a police car window out of primal rage and was taken into custody. Having crossed paths with him numerous times over the years, and being aware of the mug’s game that is day-to-day policing-for-the-sake-of-numbers as well as the nuances of the streets, McNulty urged the police to release Bodie, and he picked him up outside out of sympathy and took him away from everything, just for a minute, for a meal, and perhaps to see if Bodie would be willing to testify against Marlo. Unbeknown to both of them, however, one of Marlo’s lieutenants saw Bodie getting into McNulty’s car, and the writing was on the wall. The word was out. Bodie might be compromised. From then on, all roads lead to that darkened corner and Bodie’s last stand.

By the time his number came up Bodie was almost spent, tired, his fire and zeal burned out to a significant degree. Yet such was his strength of spirit that he still had enough spark to refuse to go down without a fight. When Snoop and Chris melted out of the darkness on that fateful night, swooping down on his corner to enact the merciless logic of the streets, Bodie saw the writing on the wall. Channelling Emiliano Zapata himself in that moment Bodie made the choice to die on his feet rather than to live on his knees, and his final scene is a minor tragic masterpiece. The tension, lighting, and especially J.D. Williams’ expressions here are incredible. The moments after he spits in that trademark insouciant way of his, when he catches a glimpse of a shape moving in the dark, his instincts immediately rising up to tell him something is amiss, is some of my favourite facial acting of all time. His fear is apparent yet his Herculean defiance dances along with it on his features. There’s an anger there, too, a fury cloaking his fear. And when his long-time friend and partner in crime Poot tries to beseech with him one final time to please see sense and run away, the look Bodie gives him is just heartbreaking, a momentary snapshot of a hard life lived on a face far too young to have lived it, and an acceptance of the imminent ending of that life.

Apart from that heart-rending ending there are two scenes that broadly speaking bookend our journey with Bodie, and demonstrate so poetically his tragic, poignant, and thematically resonant arc. The first is the instantly iconic chess scene from season one, in which two of the low rise boys—Wallace and Bodie—get a lesson in institutional power dynamics from D’Angelo Barksdale via that ancient, metaphor-friendly board game. D’Angelo explains the rules to them, highlighting the function of each type of piece, and the boys naturally assume that lesser pieces can rise up to attain top status. D’Angelo quickly disabuses them of that notion. It doesn’t work like that. No matter how far the pieces advance on that board, ‘the king stay the king.’ It doesn’t matter if a lowly pawn topples the king—he will never replace him. He may rise up to a decent level, but there is a hard limit to his ambitions.

The chess scene is one of those rare moments in The Wire in which things were allowed to get almost a tad too on the nose, where its otherwise steel commitment to verisimilitude—the extensive research, the lack of cheap happy endings, the almost total lack of non-diegetic music—relented briefly, and the dramatic flair was allowed to rise to the top. ‘The king stay the king’ is The Wire laying out its thesis in stark and concise clarity. It’s also a quick summary of some of our boy Bodie’s defining characteristics. He is quick. He listens to D’Angelo explaining the rules of this game, and he picks them up sharpish, immediately applying them to the real-world game they know so well. Once Bodie draws the analogy, Wallace follows suit. Bodie is also insightful, and curious, asking the two key questions: ‘What about them bald-headed bitches?’ in relation to the pawns, and—revealing his tenacity and drive in the exchange that follows—‘But if I make it to end, I’m top dog?’ D’Angelo tells him, no, it’s not like that. Pawns are cannon fodder. They go out early. No glory awaits them. To which Bodie: ‘Unless they some smart-ass pawns.’

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Fade to black.

This is Bodie as we first meet him. A youth already bruised and battered by forces far beyond his control, born poor and Black in America, yet still full of fire and wit, his eyes alive with ideas, and still somehow a believer in the meritocratic lie that has been sold in the country of his birth for generations. The Wire is an indictment of modern racialised capitalism, and Bodie is every forgotten and abused worker in that system who nevertheless gives it his all for as long as he can, his life’s spirit fighting an unwinnable war.

The second bookend scene takes place just before Bodie’s untimely end at the hands of Chris and Snoop’s ambush, and it calls back to the scene above. McNulty has just gotten Bodie out of the police station and taken him for a meal. They stop in the type of landscape that is rarely glimpsed in The Wire: peaceful, verdant, with birds singing instead of gunshots ringing out. As they eat in quiet, the two chat, the fault lines of the law that officially divide them but which have shown themselves to be porous and often meaningless dissolving completely. It’s a heartbreaking scene when you know what is to come, this quasi-Garden of Gethsemane moment, but even without that burden it exacts a heavy emotional toll. This is a young man enjoying a moment the likes of which he has had too few, finally reckoning with the scale of the con that is the system that has consumed him, and that has been the only world he’s ever known. The monologue Bodie delivers is one of the best on the show, J.D. Williams fully infusing every word with palpable pain and exhausted anger:

‘I feel old. I been out there since I was 13. I ain’t never fucked up a count, never stole off a package, never did some shit that I wasn’t told to do. I been straight up, but what come back? You think if I get jammed up on some shit they’ll be like, ‘Aight, yeah, Bodie been there, Bodie hang tough, we got his paid lawyer, we got a bail.’ They want me to stand with them, right? Well where they fuck they at when they supposed to be standing by us?! I mean when shit goes bad and there’s hell to pay, where they at? This game is rigged, man. We like them little bitches on the chess board.’

Because that’s what Bodie was. He was a worker. A soldier. He came from nothing. He did the dirty jobs when told to do them—even some truly horrible ones. He took responsibility and stepped up when he needed to. He was proud. Smart. He got shit done. And all his efforts, all his talents, all his blood, sweat and tears in the end served to expose the lie at the heart of it all. A feeling that you’re invested in a system that cares about you. That you’re part of a meritocratic feedback loop that rewards people proportionately to how much they give to it. It’s a feeling that sours, and turns to ashes—for some sooner rather than later. Bodie learns this lesson hard, and way before his time. He takes one for the team, time and time again. He gets roughed up by the cops. He goes to prison. He freezes and he fights on the corners for the bosses that say ‘jump’. And what reward comes back for him in the end? A lonely death on a dark corner, a bullet in the back of the head. Bodie grows prematurely old in a pyramid scheme of epic proportions, the fire of his youth extinguished along with all the potential that it could have brought with it.

As the merciless wheel of The Wire turned, and kingpins replaced kingpins; police commissioners replaced police commissioners; judges replaced judges; there remained thousands upon thousands of Bodies we never even got to meet, giving their everything to a thankless cause because they had no other options, their lives robbed of the joy and vitality they deserved. Bodie never did fully lose that swagger—his energy was simply too big and resilient for that to happen—but as the bodies of friends and enemies alike piled up around him the light behind his eyes began to change, and as the relentless grind of being caught beneath the boot heels of an uncaring system took its toll, so too did Bodie’s shoulders sometimes slump a bit. But he held strong, and died on his feet. For my number he was the scarred, beating heart of this show, and always will be.

the-wire-bodie-ending.png

‘I’ll do what I gotta do. I don’t give a fuck. Just don’t ask me to live on my knees, you know?’

‘You’re a soldier, Bodie.’

‘Hell yeah’.



Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.


Header Image Source: HBO


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