"The Dickensian Aspect" is the sixth episode of the fifth season of The Wire. It is the fifty-sixth episode of the series overall. It premiered on February 10, 2008. The episode was written by Ed Burns and directed by Seith Mann.
Dickensian refers to narratives that evoke British author Charles Dickens's exploration of the lower-class. Although Dickensian is often used praisingly towards literary works; it is used pejoratively to describe fabulist and sentimental journalism.
- "If you have a problem with this, I understand completely."
Lester makes this comment to Sydnor once the latter learns that Freamon and McNulty plan to use an illegal wiretap to arrest Marlo.
Scene opens on a body being stretchered out of Monk’s apartment building by paramedics. Homicide detective Ed Norris stands in front of the building looking up at the apartment’s broken window. A young boy on a scooter watches the body and the detective leave and then sets off himself.
The rest of the Stanfield Organization search for Omar Little following his jump from the apartment at the end of “React Quotes”. Chris Partlow searches a building with Savino Bratten to no avail. Monk poses as a police officer and canvasses the residents in the area for information but doesn't learn anything. Snoop visits all the area hospitals pretending to be Omar’s sister but is unable to find him. Chris and Savino meet one of the young Stanfield enforcers and Chris learns that no one has had any success finding Omar he tells the others that Marlo wants to meet and slams the boot of his car in frustration.
Chris finds Marlo in front of the apartment building. Marlo asks Chris which apartment Omar jumped from and Chris points to the a balcony four floors up. Marlo remarks that it seems impossible that Omar survived and Chris agrees. Marlo tells Chris that having missed their chance with the ambush Omar will now come after them again; Marlo sighs and walks away.
Fatface Rick and Philboy arrive at a hotel for a meeting of the New Day Co-Op. Rick tells Philboy that whoever now holds the supply connection is responsible for the murder of Proposition Joe and Philboy concurs.
Inside the meeting Marlo takes the lead and recounts the Co-Op's recent loss of Proposition Joe and Hungry Man. Marlo admits that he is responsible for their murders but claims that his responsibility is indirect – he lies and blames Omar for the killings themselves while maintaining that his role was simply antagonising Omar. Marlo announces that he is doubling the bounty on Omar to $100,000 for information and $250,000 for his head. Philboy asks about Proposition Joe’s connection and Marlo announces that he has it covered and that he will be conducting the meeting. Marlo asks Slim Charles to take over Hungry Man’s territory but Slim Charles declines, respectfully claiming that he is not ready to be a CEO. Marlo assigns the responsibility to Cheese. Marlo announces the cessation of further group meetings and tells the Co-Op members to bring their problems directly to him or sit on them. He puts Monk in charge of supplying the West side and Cheese the East side. Finally Marlo announces a $30,000 increase in the price of each kilo and leaves the meeting.
Partlow and Snoop hide out from Omar. Partlow is visibly perturbed by their situation and repeatedly throws a knife into the floor. Snoop suggests buying toys for his children to calm him down and Partlow reminds her that he must stay away from his family as Omar is after them. Snoop wonders how Omar will find out about them and Partlow reminds her that they found Butchie.
Omar hides out in the maintenance room of Monk's apartment building and bandages what appears to be a seriously injured right leg. He fashions a crutch from a broom and limps out of the building in obvious pain.
Omar waits for Fatface Rick at Boots Bail Bonds and uses a glass bottle to hold up the kingpin. Rick offers Omar anything he wants. Omar takes Rick’s gun and discards the bottle and tells Rick he just wants to give him a message – he is calling Marlo a “straight bitch” and claims that Marlo does not have the heart to face him personally. As Omar lets Rick go inside, Rick asks if Omar was responsible for killing Hungry Man or Proposition Joe and Omar laughs at the suggestion. Rick remarks that he was not convinced by Marlo’s claims.
Omar waits outside a row house for a Stanfield pick up. He shoots one man in the leg with his shotgun and drives the rest of the Stanfield dealers away with a few shots at their parked SUV. Omar destroys the money they collected by blowing up the SUV. Omar tells the wounded dealer that his injury should help convince Marlo of the truth to his story. He instructs the wounded man to tell Marlo that he destroyed the money and that Marlo is not man enough to come down to the street to face him.
McNulty reads The Baltimore Sun and finds his fake serial killer story on the front page. Bunk asks him if he is happy and McNulty gleefully explains that he will now have the funds he requires to restart the Stanfield investigation. Bunk guesses that McNulty phoned Scott Templeton, the reporter involved, himself and McNulty tells Bunk that Templeton is actually making up his own material. Bunk is restarting the Stanfield investigation himself without any lawbreaking – he is reviewing the case files of the vacant murders. Bunk tells McNulty that some of the cases are still missing lab work while others have been investigated thoroughly but that he will nevertheless start from the beginning with each case because he is a true murder police unlike McNulty. McNulty offers Bunk any funds he would like from the false serial killer case as he believes the money on his case will begin flowing following a press conference that afternoon.
Bunk discusses the Lex murder case with Sergeant Jay Landsman and DetectiveVernon Holley. Bunk tells his colleagues that he backed away from potential witness Randy Wagstaff out of respect for ex-police officer Roland Pryzbylewski. Bunk plans to reinterview Wagstaff.
Landsman and Holley show Bunk a set of sealed indictments. They explain that the papers were found in Joseph “Proposition Joe” Stewart’s electronics shop and include the indictments of Charlie Burman who fled before he could be arrested last year. Bunk asks who they don’t trust at the court house. Deputy Commissioner Cedric Daniels later approaches Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Pearlman with the leaked documents.
Pearlman later meets with States Attorney Rupert Bond to discuss the forthcoming Clay Davis trial. Bond insists on trying Davis himself. Pearlman also shows Bond the recovered documents from Proposition Joe’s store and explains that they have a leak.
Bunk interviews Randy at a group care home. Bunk offers Randy a seat but he does not take it. Bunk explains that they will continue to pursue the Lex murder investigation. He threatens Randy with criminal charges if he does not share all the information he knows before the case is solved. Randy asks if Bunk is going to promise to rescue him from his situation as that is how he sees the role of the police – to deceive young black youth. Bunk is taken aback and Randy walks out of the interview and announces that he would have hit Bunk if he was forced to stay. As Randy climbs the stairs he pushes a smaller boy out of his way.
When Bunk returns to his desk he finds Kima Greggs waiting for him. Greggs explains that an informant has tied her Junebug triple homicide investigation to Marlo Stanfield and therefore linked it to Bunk’s re-working of the vacant murders. Greggs explains that the community is so scared of Stanfield that she has been unable to find any witnesses to the Junebug shooting. She asks how Bunk is doing with the other cases and he explains that he is still waiting for labwork on 14 of the 22 victims and that his requests to Landsman have been ignored. Greggs remarks that McNulty would have gone to the press and Bunk angrily states that he is not McNulty. Greggs asks if Bunk plans to take no for an answer.
Bunk and Greggs confront Ron, the crime lab supervisor, about his department’s failure to deliver the analysis on the vacant crime scenes for over a year. He offers the familiar excuse that his funding has been cut but eventually admits that a temporary lab assistant mixed up the samples and they are no longer able to determine which scene the evidence is from.
Bunk decides to take a different approach to the cases and begins to look through computer records for all information associated with known members of the Stanfield Organization. He begins with Darius “O-Dog” Hill. Greggs remarks that they will have already been checked for priors but Bunk explains that he is widening the search to include court appearances, parole, probation, gun permits, department of correction and open bail. Greggs calls the effort looking for longshots but Bunk believes he is just playing the hand he has been dealt. The search uncovers a juvenile record for Michael Lee (date of birth 07/15/1993) that has been attached to a homicide case file. The case is the murder of Devar Manigault – the partner of Michael’s mother Raylene Lee. The case was originally investigated by Donald Worden. The case file includes the name of Michael’s half brother Aaron “Bug” Manigault. Greggs thinks the case is unlikely to be connected because the mode of death is a beating in an alley rather than a shooting in a vacant house. Bunk agrees but is committed to working the case regardless.
Bunk interviews Raylene Lee at her home. She explains that Michael does not live with her and that she is not responsible for his criminal activity. Bunk explains that he is following up on Devar’s murder. Bunk explains that he sees the crime as one of passion and believes that a woman will be at the centre of it. Raylene denies any knowledge but Bunk threatens to bring her in for a grand jury hearing. Raylene refuses to leave and tells Bunk that Michael, Chris Partlow, and Felicia “Snoop” Pearson are responsible. Bunk is suspicious but Raylene admits that Michael told her Devar was not coming home before his body was found.
Bunk returns to the crime lab and demands DNA comparisons between known suspects in the vacant murders and the DNA from the Devar murder scene immediately. Rob tells Bunk that he will prioritise the task immediately after the trace from the homeless killings.
Carcetti holds a poorly attended press event to commemorate the opening of “New Westport.” He discusses the rejuvenation of the docks project and the contributions of his predecessors Tommy D’Alessandro, William Donald Schaefer, Kurt Schmoke and Michael O’Malley. He is watched by a group of Union Stevedores including Nick Sobotka, Nat Coxon, Little Big Roy, Chess and New Charles. The Stevedores shout abuse at Carcetti and Andy Krawczyk, redevelopment consultant, school board adviser and political fund raiser. Sobotka is removed from the scene by the police. Carcetti asks who Sobotka is and Krawczyk tells him that Sobotka is nobody.
Carcetti, Michael Steintorf and Norman Wilson wait impatiently for the police department press conference to begin. Carcetti asks his advisors if they recall the advice they received from the DNC about taking the statehouse. Steintorf reiterates the key points – build something downtown with the Carcetti name on it, induce a drop in crime and stay away from the schools. Carcetti adds that he was to retain his “boyish good looks.” Wilson jokes that 1 out of 4 is not bad. Carcetti gripes about the scheduling of the press conference on the same day as the New Westport announcement and Wilson explains that New Westport was planned before the homeless murder story broke.
Carcetti begins the press conference by admonishing the assembled media for their preponderance of interest for negative stories and the poor turnout at the New Westport announcement. He then thanks the press for their turnout at the current conference and for caring enough to address themselves to the tragedy affecting the city's most vulnerable people – the homeless. Carcetti lists the reasons the homeless could be viewed as unimportant and the ways that city policy has failed them to date. Carcetti states that he believes he will be judged by his efforts to provide for the weakest and most vulnerable of his constituents. Carcetti vows to stop the homeless killer and to do everything his power to deliver that promise. Wilson is impressed by Carcetti’s performance and asks what got into him.
Acting Commissioner William Rawls takes over the podium and reiterates the department's commitment to solving the case. Rawls directs questions to newly appointed Deputy Commissioner of Operations Cedric Daniels. Daniels is asked about FBI involvement and he explains that they will accept any assistance offered and plan to work with the behavioural analysis unit at Quantico. Alma Gutierrez asks about the difficulty of catching a serial killer and Daniels lists new technology that has altered their chances.
Rawls congratulates Daniels on his performance after the press conference. Daniels remarks that he was following Carcetti’s lead in announcing complete commitment and Rawls laughs before explaining that their resources remain limited despite Carcetti’s desire to solve the murders. Daniels is crestfallen to find that he is expected to deliver results without any additional support.
The next day Wilson and Steintorf congratulate Carcetti for his performance. Carcetti attributes it to his anger at facing yet another problem in the guise of the homeless murders. Steintorf suggests that the issue could garner some national profile for Carcetti and Wilson recalls that the governor cut programmes aimed at the homeless just last year. Carcetti is pleased at the prospect of attacking the Republican governor for his approach to poverty but is bemused that homelessness has suddenly become a campaign issue.
The Baltimore Sun
Alma Gutierrez remarks on Scott Templeton’s front page piece about the false serial killer and asks if it was strange to be close to the killer. Having actually faked the phone call Templeton is relatively unfazed. Executive Editor James Whiting and Managing Editor Thomas Klebanow approach Templeton to congratulate him on the story. Templeton downplays the story claiming that he was lucky to receive the phone call and Klebanow reassures him that it was his research on the street that brought him to the killer’s attention. The editors ask Templeton about a follow-up piece and he suggests that he could spend a night with the homeless to measure their lives in the shadow of the killer. The editors give their approval.
The editors tell Templeton that they have received requests from TV networks for interviews and encourage him to take interviews with the national networks. Templeton facetiously worries about becoming part of his own (manufactured) story and Klebanow reassures him that he can act responsibly and appear as an ambassador for the paper.
Whiting pulls Haynes aside to tell him about Templeton’s new story idea. Haynes objects that Templeton should be working on their education story and Whiting tells Haynes that they will now be focusing on homelessness instead. Haynes is frustrated and pulls out a cigarette as Whiting leaves.
Haynes later approaches Scott Shane and informs him that the education piece has been shelved until next year in favour of the homeless coverage. Haynes explains that it is Whiting’s decision and Klebanow has already rejected his appeal. The newsroom watches the television as Templeton appears on a talk show with Nancy Grace. Klebanow appears pleased by Templeton’s performance but Haynes returns to his desk to work.
Templeton arrives to a known homeless spot in the evening having canvassed there for an earlier story. He faces some shouted abuse and is ridiculed when he is frightened by a dog later that night. In the morning Templeton waits with a group of homeless people and food is dropped off for them by a baker.
Templeton buys milk for a homeless man named Terry to go with his doughnuts and the man tells him about his tours in Iraq and his problems with post traumatic stress disorder – which his superiors claim does not affect marines. Templeton asks the man to describe what happened and he explains that his convoy was hit by explosives while returning from a patrol and that he saw a driver have his hands amputated in the explosion. The wounded man was laughing and exclaiming “look ma, no hands.” Terry explains that he cannot shake the memory even knowing that the wounded man is better off than him now as he received prosthetic hands.
Fletcher talks to Haynes about some complaints he received at a community meeting about a story written by Templeton. Templeton claimed a fund had been set up for the children of a mother of four who died after an allergic reaction to seafood – a woman in the community told Fletcher that no money ever reached the children and that the woman’s sister is a known fraudster. Haynes passes the complaint on to Templeton, who is working on his homeless story, and asks him to go back to the family to double check the story. Templeton is annoyed but goes to make the call – Haynes tells him that it can wait until after he files his current story.
Haynes reviews Templeton’s work while Klebanow and Steven Luxenberg look on. Haynes congratulates Templeton on the authenticity of the piece and the restraint Templeton showed in the writing. Haynes checks in with Templeton regarding the complaint and Templeton claims that neighbourhood sources told him that a fraudster had stolen the identity of the sister when arrested in the past. Haynes accepts the explanation but looks concerned as he walks away.
Lester Freamon reveals his intention to pursue the Stanfield investigation, despite orders to drop it, to Leander Sydnor. Freamon shows Sydnor the illegal wiretap on Stanfield’s cell phone and delivers the epigraph “If you have a problem with this, I understand completely.” Freamon tells Sydnor that if he is unhappy with the plan he should put as much distance between them as possible. Sydnor enters the wiretap room and closes the door.
The detectives listen in on Stanfield’s phone calls and hear him making a lunch order. Sydnor wonders if they are talking in code and worries about the potential consequences of taking these steps just to hear trivial conversations. Freamon admits that he has heard no drug talk on the phone at all. Sydnor suggests that they should shut down the wiretap if they are not gaining anything from it. Freamon reveals that he has recorded several 30 second long calls where nothing was said and believes these are significant. McNulty arrives and checks that Sydnor is on board. McNulty is disappointed to learn that they have not made any progress from the wiretap but Freamon mollifies him and requests more manpower to see how the phones are being used. McNulty brings up the newspaper story and his conviction that he will soon have funding for the homeless murder investigation. He pledges to secretly assign detectives to Freamon when the funding comes through. McNulty leaves and Sydnor wonders what the link is between the homeless murders and the Stanfield investigation – Freamon does not enlighten him.
McNulty and Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Pearlman meet with Judge Daniel Phelan to discuss wiretapping the phones of the Baltimore Sun following the claims that the homeless serial killer phoned there. Phelan explains that he is reluctant to tap a reporters phone because of the paper's rights to protect their sources and the potential political consequences of making an enemy out of a newspaper. McNulty is disappointed with the reasoning behind the judge’s timidity. Pearlman accepts his decision and afterwards criticises McNulty’s lack of diplomacy.
McNulty delivers a request for surveillance teams to Landsman as promised. However, Landsman puts the request in his desk drawer and tells McNulty that despite the press conference he still has not been allocated further manpower. Landsman reminds McNulty that he refused to accept Greggs as a second detective and tells him that if he does not accept Greggs then he is on his own.
McNulty reports the continued lack of manpower to Freamon over late night drinks. McNulty gripes about Phelan’s reluctance to provide a wiretap on The Baltimore Sun and Freamon questions why McNulty is interested in pursuing one. McNulty claims it is the principle of the matter. McNulty suggests that the case needs another body to increase media attention and Freamon agrees to call Requer in the Southern district.
Freamon continues to work on preparing evidence for the Clay Davis trial while he monitors the Stanfield wiretap. He radios Sydnor when a call is made but Sydnor reports no visible cell phone activity. Pearlman arrives at the office with some notes to go over. Freamon diverts her by claiming that Sydnor is bringing in a confidential informant. Pearlman is mortified and she apologises and leaves.
Sydnor later returns to the office with surveillance photographs of Monk at the time Marlo received the last silent call. Freamon notices Monk holding a cell phone at some distance from himself. Sydnor guesses that they are using text messages to communicate but Freamon points out that most Baltimore drug dealers are educated by local public schools and lack the skills for text messaging. Freamon asserts that Monk must be looking at a photograph.
McNulty drinks alone that evening and rants about his frustration with the department to a statue of General Samuel Smith. McNulty gets a call from Oscar Requer about a suitable body and leaves for the crime scene. When McNulty reaches the scene he finds Oscar waiting for him along with a full coterie of Southern district officers. Oscar explains that now that the case profile any body is being treated as urgent.
Freamon and McNulty meet up in the morning and Freamon explains that he now needs to intercept photographs sent from Marlo’s phone. McNulty is annoyed that Freamon has changed his requirements again. McNulty tells Lester that he is a supervisor's nightmare and Freamon reminds him that he is just following the thread of the investigation. McNulty asks Freamon if the picture intercept will guarantee an arrest and Freamon explains that the messages are probably coded but that he is confident that he can break any code. Freamon admits that once they break the code they will need further man power to track down a stash or resupply. McNulty reluctantly explains that crime scene response is now too fast for them to fake another murder.
McNulty gets caught in traffic and watches a homeless man wandering between the cars. McNulty pulls over, parks and observes the man. Later, McNulty discusses the man with Freamon, having brought him to the unit office. Freamon states that taking the man was kidnapping but McNulty counters by saying the man accepted money to accompany him. Freamon asks McNulty if he thinks the man will find his way home and McNulty speculates that he will eventually but they will have already completed the Stanfield investigation and the man’s misfortune will be written off as a fraternity prank. Freamon asks if the homeless man is aware that they are police officers and McNulty reassures him that the man is crazy. Freamon asks McNulty to substantiate his assumption and McNulty shows him prescription antipsychotics that he found on the man. McNulty explains that he is going to obfuscate the man's identity by removing the man’s identification and scratching his details off of the pill bottle and placing an ID card taken from Donald Pettiford, the decedent at McNulty’s first staged crime scene. Finally McNulty reveals that he plans to photograph the man and send the pictures to Templeton with a threatening message to give them probable cause for picture intercepts. Freamon questions McNulty’s sanity and their willingness to carry out the plan but McNulty insists it is necessary to achieve their goal of bringing down Marlo.
McNulty tries to make conversation with Larry, the abducted homeless man, as they travel south out of Baltimore. McNulty reassures Larry that he is taking him to a nice place but Larry seems distressed.
McNulty takes Larry to a homeless shelter in Richmond, Virginia. He claims that “Donald” approached him outside of his workplace and that he said he came from Cleveland. The shelter staff accepts McNulty’s story and offers “Donald” something to eat. McNulty looks on guiltily as Larry struggles to eat a sandwich. He asks the shelter staff if there is anything further he can do and she thanks McNulty for bringing “Donald” in. McNulty dejectedly returns to his car.