Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More on Omar

WARNING: If you aren't up-to-date on The Wire, and are avoiding spoilers, stop reading.

During lunch yesterday, I read a short piece on Slate that speaks to David Simon's intent with the final scene of this week's episode. Briefly, from the HBO episode summary:
At the morgue, a technician notes that the names have been changed on two body bags —Omar's body bag is identified as a white male, heart attack victim, and vice versa. Amused, he switches the names back, correcting the mistake.
The piece on Slate argues that this was Simon's way of knocking Omar down a few notches. The writer of that piece says:
No one in the episode realizes how important Omar's passing is, and maybe that's because it's ultimately not that important. Omar is a distraction: entertainment in an otherwise bleak and weighty depiction of the death of a city. Simon puts his finger in our eye and dismisses our favorite character with nary a backward look, and he's probably right to do so.
I could not disagree more. I've touched on the shaky waters of guessing at authorial intent before here, and it makes me nervous to do so. That ain't gonna stop me today, though, because I love The Wire and I think that Omar and what he meant to the show is too important to dismiss.

I read the amused morgue technician's actions, the newspaper's failure to print a story about Omar's murder, and the cops' short quips at the crime scene all continue to tell the story that Simon has been telling for 5 years. I think that Simon says "Baltimore is a sick and dying city. Look how little attention is paid to the passing of an enormously important figure like Omar Little!" Omar is the only character on the show who sticks to a moral code, except maybe the sociopath Marlo who doesn't think anything is wrong. All of the other characters are equally bad and good -- in other words, they are complex characters who all contribute to the decline of a great American city, and in a larger sense this American existence. I think that Simon says that we are consuming our way to a very scary future where the great among us pass without notice. Simon wants us, I hope, to be horrified by Omar passing without notice.

On a more personal note, I hate the fact that Kenard the cat torturer was the one who got Omar. I don't think Omar would have been surprised at that fact, but for me it was a shock. He deserved a more glamorous, guns ablaze death, and I know I'm not alone in wishing he would've gotten Marlo before getting got himself. Here again, I think, Simon says that we are fucked and have done this to ourselves. We don't get what we deserve. We get the bullet to the brain because we allow the little street punk to run shit. We get what he gives us because we gave up on him before he had a chance to know any better.

Any thoughts, yo?

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