Thursday, March 15, 2007


I had an idea for an episode of the Wire one evening when I was in the shower.

The idea stems from the premise of the show, which in my estimation can be boiled down to the struggle between good and evil. This is a standard literary convention but what makes it compelling in the Wire is that the good side and the evil side are not readily apparent. In fact, those who we would normally associate with good are often as self-interested and immoral as those we would tend to associate with evil, if not more so. Further, the characters are so well developed that the struggle exists internally as well as externally allowing us to see flaws in characters we tend to believe to be good. The overarching theme is that righteousness and rightness exist in every element of society (excepting possibly politicians) but wears different clothes and assumes different stances depending which side of the law it's on.

That being said, the show thrives on it's authenticity. It moves at it's own pace and not a single line feels like it's a plot device or intended to further a story line. Every line is delivered as though it was meant for the character. This creates a reality that is both gripping and believable.

These two elements create the perfect backdrop for an examination of moral luck. Omar, a drug-dealer robbing, hood, is one of the most engrossing and likable characters on the show. He is "29, or thereabouts," as he says on the witness stand during season two, he's openly gay, and he has been robbing drug dealers for close to a decade and giving most of the proceeds back to the people from whom the drug trade steals (the innocents, I mean, not the users). He also has a menacing scar on his face, and has killed numerous individuals during the course of the show. But Omar has always existed within the confines of his own moral code. As he says on the witness stand, "I ain't ever put my pistol on nobody wan'nt in the game."

Omar's profession requires him to sometimes act recklessly in order to succeed. In several episodes he engages in what is essentially street warfare.

So I believe, an episode in which he were to accidentally kill a person, even a child, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time would lead Omar, and I think the viewer, to some really interesting moral questions.

Specifically, do we hold Omar in contempt because he had the misfortune of having a bullet of his hit an innocent bystander despite viewing him with adoration prior? Do his intentions cancel out the negative effects of his actions? Do his previous actions negate his misfortune? How can our own perceptions of him change simply because of his misfortune? What would be justice in this scenario?

And I'm curious how he would react. Would he turn himself in to the police? He has never seemed like the type of character that would believe ultimate justice should be meted out by law enforcement. What would be ultimate justice in his mind under these circumstances? I honestly don't know.

I mentioned this idea to a friend, Angry, and he immediately discounted it by saying that Omar was too good for that to happen. Frankly, I agree with him, but moral luck is a reality that we all must live with and it is for that very reason that I think this subplot should happen.

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