"The Target" is the first episode of the first season of The Wire. It is the first episode of the series overall. It premiered on June 2, 2002. The episode was written by David Simon and directed by Clark Johnson.
After Barksdale Organization lieutenant D'Angelo Barksdale is acquitted through witness tampering, homicide detective Jimmy McNulty informs Judge Phelan of a powerful West Baltimore drug trafficking organization run by the defendant's uncle, Avon Barksdale. When the judge relays this information to BPD administration, a police detail is formed to investigate Barksdale. Meanwhile, D'Angelo is demoted to managing a low-level crew while grappling with the brutality of the drug trade.
Avon Barksdale becomes the criminal target of the new Baltimore Police Department detail.
- "...when it's not your turn."
McNulty criticizes Bunk for taking on a homicide case when Landsman's squad was not in detective rotation. Bunk repeats this phrase back to McNulty when he circumvents the chain of command to discuss the Barksdale Organization with Judge Phelan.
BPD Homicide Unit Detective James "Jimmy" McNulty asks a young man about the murder of an alley craps player named Omar Isaiah "Snot Boogie" Betts. The young man reveals that every Friday night, Snot Boogie would steal the craps pot after matching a few bets. Provoked by Betts's thievery, a fellow player shot Betts. When McNulty asks the man why Betts's fellow players continued to let Betts play when they knew he would steal, the young man replies, "Got to. This America, man."
The next day, McNulty arrives at the Circuit Court for Baltimore City courthouse with fellow homicide detective and partner, William "Bunk" Moreland, and reveals that Bett's friend identified Betts's shooter. McNulty intends to observe a homicide trial while Bunk drops off evidence with Assistant State's Attorney Ilene Nathan. McNulty wryly advises Bunk to not answer Homicide phone calls because the pair are not in rotation.
Assistant State's Attorney Taryn Hansen prosecutes D'Angelo Barksdale, a young drug lieutenant charged with shooting Pooh Blanchard in Tower 221 of the Franklin Terrace high-rise public housing projects. Maurice Levy defends D'Angelo while Barksdale Organization members Russell "Stringer" Bell, Savino Bratton, Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice, and Anton "Stinkum" Artis monitor the trial. Maintenance man William Gant reticently identifies D'Angelo as the shooter; however, Franklin Terrace 221 security guard Nakeesha Lyles retracts her initial photo array identification and claims that D'Angelo is innocent.
McNulty informs the case's primary investigator, Detective Frank Barlow, that Barksdale Organization members undermined D'Angelo's homicide trial, which Barlow curtly dismisses.
Narcotics Unit Detective Shakima "Kima" Greggs monitors a drug corner with Tiffany, the ex-girlfriend of drug lieutenant Ghost. After Ghost collects the day's earnings from dealer "Little Mike", Kima instructs fellow Narcotics Unit Detectives Thomas "Herc" Hauk and Ellis Carver to perform a traffic stop and search the sedan. Carver and Hauk locate cash and a shotgun, but overlook the pistol stored under the sedan's rear seat, to Kima's irritation.
The jury acquits D'Angelo of murder in the first and second-degrees. The Barksdale Organization members celebrate as an irked Barlow threatens Stringer, claiming that he will eventually investigate Stringer's murder.
The bailiff informs McNulty that Judge Daniel Phelan, the presiding judge and an acquaintance of McNulty's, wishes to speak with McNulty.
Phelan asks McNulty why he attended a homicide trial if he was not the primary investigator. McNulty informs Phelan that D'Angelo's uncle is Avon Barksdale, a narcotics trafficking kingpin who controls the West Baltimore drug trade. McNulty divulges that the Barksdale Organization is not being investigated by the BPD, despite Barksdale's responsibility for ten homicides in the past year and repeated witness tampering which has led to three acquittals.
Kima instructs Hauk to contact ECU (Evidence Control Unit) to submit the seized heroin and two firearms from the traffic stop. Narcotics Unit Lieutenant Cedric Daniels is instructed to meet with the incensed Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Ervin Burrell; the Narcotics Unit Commander, Major Raymond Foerster; and the Homicide Unit Commander, Major William Rawls.
Bunk answers the homicide report of an unidentified man in a vacant house in the Poe Homes housing project. McNulty is amused that Bunk ignored his advice and an irritated Bunk resolves to investigate the homicide alone.
Daniels and Foerster return from their meeting. Daniels informs Kima that Judge Phelan contacted an unprepared Burrell, who has ordered the Homicide and Narcotics units to prepare briefings on Avon Barksdale by tomorrow morning. Daniels instructs Kima to contact the DEA to gather more information on Barksdale.
McNulty returns to Homicide Unit and is greeted by his supervising sergeant, Jay Landsman, who is also annoyed that Bunk picked up the homicide case. Landsman informs McNulty that Rawls wishes to speak with McNulty. Rawls is infuriated that McNulty circumvented the chain of command by complaining to Phelan. Rawls instructs McNulty to type up the Homicide Unit briefing on Avon Barksdale by the following morning.
An irritated Kima types her briefing.
While driving to Orlando's, Wee-Bey curtly reminds D'Angelo to not discuss Barksdale Organization affairs via phone, in cars, or in other non-secure situations.
Avon instructs Orlando to make a recently released felon, Marcell, pay for his drinks. Stringer informs Avon about McNulty's presence at D'Angelo's trial. Avon admonishes D'Angelo for his recklessness and reminds D'Angelo that he must make amends.
As McNulty types his briefing, Detective Ray Cole sleeps and Bunk reveals that Medical Examiner Randall Frazier found a bullet in the body of the deceased man found in the Poe Homes. Landsman reprimands McNulty for bemoaning departmental affairs to a judge. He warns McNulty to be careful or McNulty will be reassigned to a less desirable department. McNulty replies that he does not want to be transferred to the Marine Unit.
The next morning, D'Angelo arrives at the 221 Tower of Franklin Terrace. Stringer informs D'Angelo that he has been reassigned - and demoted, to D'Angelo's chagrin - to The Pit, the McCulloh Homes low-rise public housing project.
The irritated Foerster and Rawls return from their morning meeting with Burrell. Foerster instructs Rawls to have Homicide Unit investigators coordinate with Daniels.
Foerster complains to Daniels that the Narcotics Unit briefing is much smaller than the Homicide Unit briefing. Daniels reminds Foerster that the Homicide Unit briefing contains ten open homicide case files. Foerster instructs Daniels to contact The Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office and assemble a detail to investigate Barksdale. As Daniels exits Foerster's office, Carver informs his lieutenant that Burrell wishes to speak with him.
Bubbles purchases heroin with counterfeit cash from Wallace and Malik "Poot" Carr. D'Angelo reprimands Wallace and Bodie for distributing narcotics and receiving payment in the same location. As he counts Wallace's earnings, D'Angelo notices the counterfeit cash and warns Wallace that he will be demoted to a lookout position if he is deceived again.
That night, Bubbles lectures Johnny, who asks asks Bubbles if he can perform the counterfeit cash scam the following day.
Burrell instructs Daniels to conduct an expeditious and affordable investigation using buy-and-bust arrests. Burrell informs Daniels that there will be no long-term investigations, Kel Audio microphones, or dialed number recorders (DNRs).
The next day, McNulty visits the FBI's Baltimore Field Office to meet with his friend Special Agent Terrance "Fitz" Fitzhugh. Fitz impresses McNulty with live surveillance of an ongoing drug investigation in Pimlico. Fitz reveals that the Pimlico investigation will be the Baltimore Field Office's final narcotics investigation as the FBI transitions to counterterrorism.
After attempting to use counterfeit cash to purchase drugs, Johnny is assaulted by Bodie, Poot, and Wallace. An unnerved D'Angelo walks away.
The Barksdale Detail assembles for the first time. Daniels brings Detectives Greggs, Herc, and Carver from the Narcotics Unit while Rawls sends Detectives McNulty and Michael Santangelo from the Homicide Unit. The Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office sends Narcotics Unit Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman. McNulty claims a wiretap is the only way to secure convictions. Daniels rebukes McNulty and details an investigation strategy focused on arresting low-level dealers through hand-to-hand busts and reviewing old homicide case files.
At a bar, McNulty laments to Bunk the limited visitation times his ex-wife allows him. Bunk warns McNulty about Daniels's preoccupation with his own career.
Greggs returns home to her partner, Cheryl.
Early in the morning and near the train tracks, a drunken Bunk tells McNulty about how he once shot a mouse in his home with his service weapon. McNulty resolves to conduct a comprehensive investigation in the Barksdale Detail.
Greggs visits a distraught Bubbles and an unconscious Johnny at the ER of University of Maryland Medical Center. Bubbles offers to become her Confidential Informant (CI) again to exact revenge on the Barksdale Organization.
Landsman assigns a hungover Bunk a fresh homicide case.
Western District Patrol Officer Robert "Bobby" Brown guides Bunk to the crime scene as a crowd gathers. D'Angelo arrives and realizes that the victim is William Gant, the witness in his murder trial.
- James "Jimmy" McNulty
- William "Bunk" Moreland
- D'Angelo Barksdale
- Maurice Levy
- Daniel Phelan
- Russell "Stringer" Bell
- Savino Bratton
- Anton "Stinkum" Artis
- Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice
- Frank Barlow
- Shakima "Kima" Greggs
- Ellis Carver
- Thomas "Herc" Hauk
- Cedric Daniels
- Raymond Foerster
- Jay Landsman
- William "Bill" Rawls
- Avon Barksdale
- Wendell "Orlando" Blocker
- Ray Cole
- Preston "Bodie" Broadus
- Malik "Poot" Carr
- Reginald "Bubbles" Cousins
- Johnny Weeks
- Terrance "Fitz" Fitzhugh
- Ervin Burrell
- Rhonda Pearlman
- Michael Santangelo
- Shardene Innes
- Snot Boogie's murder, Bunk's mouse shooting, and Jay Landsman are derived from Simon's nonfiction work, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
- Several actors in the series previously appeared in Homicide: Life on the Street, The Corner, and Oz. In addition to Reddick and Harris, Oz alumni include Seth Gilliam (Ellis Carver) and J.D. Williams (Bodie Broadus). Peter Gerety (Judge Phelan), Clayton LeBouef (Orlando), and Delaney Williams (Sgt. Jay Landsman) appeared in Homicide. This episode was the first of several directed by Homicide veteran director Clark Johnson. Larry Hull (William Gant) starred in The Corner.
- Although the episode was shot only a few weeks after 9/11, the writers correctly predicted the FBI's transition from drug enforcement operations to counterterrorism.
- The opening scene was filmed at the corner of Faltington and Lexington in West Baltimore. The scenes at Orlando's Gentlemen's Club were filmed at the Ritz in Fells Point.
- The DVD release features a commentary track recorded by showrunner David Simon. Robert F. Colesberry died shortly before the recording. Simon discusses the season's novelistic structure, the theme of the insidious and stifling nature of institutions. He discusses the usage of framing shots through security cameras surveillance methods to create a sense of perpetual monitoring. He also explains how diegetic music grounds the show in realism. Simon distinguishes The Wire from other police procedurals by observing how many detectives are motivated not by benevolence but by intellectual vanity.
- David Simon. (2005). 'The Wire "The Target" commentary track [DVD]. HBO.
- "Wire Power", Entertainment Weekly, 2002-06-28. Retrieved on 2007-10-03.
- Rob Owen. "TV Reviews: Networks aren't taking it easy this summer", Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2002-06-01. Retrieved on 2007-10-04.