"The Target" is the first episode of the first season of The Wire. It is the second episode of the series overall. It premiered on June 2, 2002. The episode was written by David Simon and directed by Clark Johnson.

Overview Edit

After drug lieutenant D'Angelo Barksdale is acquitted through witness tampering, homicide detective James 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.

Title Reference Edit

Avon Barksdale becomes the criminal target of the new Baltimore Police Department detail.

Epigraph Edit

"...when it's not your turn." - McNulty

McNulty criticizes Bunk for taking on a homicide case when he was not in rotation. Bunk repeats this phrase back to McNulty when he circumvents the chain of command to discuss the Barksdale Organization with Judge Phelan.


Detective James "Jimmy McNulty" asks a young man about the murder of alley craps player Omar Isaiah "Snot Boogie" Betts. The man reveals that every Friday night, Snot Boogie stole the craps pot after matching a few bets. Provoked by Betts' thievery, a fellow player shot him. When McNulty asks the man why the players let Betts play when they knew he would steal, the 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 Bett's friend identified the shooter. McNulty wants to observe a murder trial while Bunk drops off evidence with Assistant State's Attorney Ilene Nathan. McNulty wryly advises Bunk to not answer Homicide phone calls because they 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 public housing high-rises. 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 nervously identifies D'Angelo but building security guard Nakeisha Lyles retracts her initial photo array identification and claims D'Angelo is innocent.

McNulty informs the case's primary investigator, Detective Frank Barlow, that Barksdale Organization members undermined D'Angelo's murder trial case, which Barlow curtly dismisses.

Narcotics 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 drug dealer Little Mike, Kima instructs fellow Narcotics Unit detectives Thomas "Herc" Hauk and Ellis Carver to search and seize the car. Carver and Hauk locate cash and a shotgun, but fail to find the pistol under the rear seat until Kima arrives.

Barlow and McNulty are present to see the jury acquit D'Angelo of murder in the first and second-degree. The Barksdale Organization members celebrate as an annoyed Barlow tells Stringer he will eventually investigate his murder.

The bailiff informs McNulty that Phelan, an acquaintance of McNulty's, wishes to speak with him.

Phelan asks McNulty why he attended a trial for which he was not the primary investigator. McNulty informs Phelan that D'Angelo's uncle is Avon Barksdale, a drug kingpin who controls the West Baltimore drug trade. McNulty divulges that the Barksdale Organization is not being investigated by BPD, despite their responsibility for ten murders in the past year and witness tampering which has led to three acquittals.

Kima instructs Hauk to contact ECU (Evidence Control Unit) to submit the seized heroin and firearms. 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. McNulty is amused that Bunk ignored his advice and an irritated Bunk resolves to investigate the case alone.

Daniels and Foerster return from their meeting and Daniels informs Kima that Judge Phelan contacted an unprepared Burrell, who has instructed 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.

McNulty returns to the Homicide Unit and is greeted by his sergeant, Jay Landsman, who is annoyed that Bunk picked up the phone. Landsman informs McNulty that Rawls wishes to speak with McNulty. Rawls is infuriated that McNulty circumvented the chain of command and spoke with Phelan. He instructs McNulty to type up Homicide's briefing on Avon Barksdale by morning.

An irritated Kima types her briefing.

While driving to the gentlemen's club, Orlando's, Wee-Bey curtly reminds D'Angelo to not discuss Barksdale Organization affairs by phone, in cars, or in other non-secure situations.

Avon instructs Orlando to make 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, which cost their organization time and money, but reminds D'Angelo that he is family and he must make amends.

As McNulty types his reports, Detective Raymond "Ray" Cole sleeps and Bunk reveals that Randall Frazier found a bullet in the body of the vacant murder. Landsman reprimands McNulty for subverting command and grumbling to a judge. He warns McNulty to be careful or he will be reassigned to a less desirable department, to which McNulty replies that he does not want to go to the Marine Unit.

The next morning, D'Angelo arrives at the 221 Tower, where Stringer informs D'Angelo that he is reassigned - and demoted, to D'Angelo's chagrin - to "The Pit," the McCullough Homes public housing low-rises.

The irritated Foerster and Rawls return from their morning meeting with Burrell. Foerster instructs Rawls to have homicide investigators coordinate with Daniels.

D'Angelo arrives at "The Pit" and meets young dealers Wallace and Preston "Bodie" Broadus.

Foerster complains to Daniels that the Narcotics briefing is much smaller than the Homicide briefing. Daniels reminds Foerster that Homicide has ten open murder 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 Burrell is on the line for Daniels.

At "The Pit," two drug addicts, Reginald "Bubbles" Cousins and Johnny, cut out counterfeit money.

As Bubbles purchases heroin with counterfeit money from Wallace and Poot, D'Angelo reprimands Wallace and Bodie for receiving payment and distributing drugs in the same location. While counting Wallace's earnings, D'Angelo notices the counterfeit money and warns Wallace that he will be demoted to lookout if it happens again.

That night, Bubbles lectures his protege, Johnny, and Johnny asks Bubbles if he can perform the counterfeit money scam tomorrow.

Burrell instructs Daniels to conduct a brief and affordable investigation using buy-and-bust arrests. He informs Daniels there will be no long investigations, Kel Audio microphones, or dialed number recorders (DNRs).

The next day, McNulty visits the FBI Baltimore Field Office to meet with Special Agent Terrance "Fitz" Fitzhugh. Fitz impresses McNulty with live surveillance of an ongoing drug investigation in Pimlico. Fitz reveals it will be the office's final drug investigation as the FBI transitions to counterterrorism.

After attempting to use counterfeit money to purchase drugs, Johnny is assaulted by Bodie, Malik "Poot" Carr, and Wallace as an unsettled D'Angelo walks away.

The Barksdale Detail assembles for the first time. Daniels brings Detectives Greggs, Herc, and Carver from Narcotics and Rawls sends Detectives McNulty and Michael Santangelo from Homicide. The State's Attorney's Office sends Narcotics Unit Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman. McNulty claims a wiretap is the only to secure convictions. Daniels reukes him and emphasizes 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' preoccupation with his career.

That night, at Orlando's, D'Angelo wonders if Johnny's beating was necessary to Stringer and stripper Shardene Innes flirts with D'Angelo.

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.

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.

Officer Robert "Bobby" Brown guides Bunk to the crime scene as a crowd gathers. D'Angelo arrives and realizes the victim is William Gant, the witness in his murder trial.


First Edit

The following recurring characters are introduced in this episode:



Main CastEdit

Guest StarringEdit


Notes Edit

  • 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.[1]
  • 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.[1]
  • 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.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 David Simon. (2005). 'The Wire "The Target" commentary track [DVD]. HBO.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Wire Power", Entertainment Weekly, 2002-06-28. Retrieved on 2007-10-03. 
  3. Rob Owen. "TV Reviews: Networks aren't taking it easy this summer", Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2002-06-01. Retrieved on 2007-10-04. 

External linksEdit

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