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by Jason Mittell

p. 224

At the end of The Wire’s first season, we also witness the death of character at others’ hands, as Bodie and Poot shoot Wallace per Stringer Bell’s orders. While there are certainly character resonances between the three friends, and we recognize that this is a point of no return for Bodie’s and Poot’s commitment to “the game,” it is clear that they have no real choices: their only source of livelihood is as part of a drug crew, and the game demands that they demonstrate their loyalty or end up like Wallace. Ultimately what underlies the emotional impact of the scene is the social conditions and institutional logics that led inevitably to this moment, not complex moral calculations or psychological developments for the characters—Poot and Bodie undertake an all-too-common action dictated by their institutional marginalization, while Walt’s act is fully unique and individualistic, not standing in for larger social forces. Both deaths are powerful, memorable scenes that resonate emotionally. But Breaking Bad’s impact is felt more through Walt’s complex psychological characterization and the lingering shadow it casts on his relationship with Jesse, while The Wire uses Wallace’s death to put a memorable human face on the social costs of urban poverty and the drug war.

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Other media by this contributor

THE WIRE treats the death of a beloved character less as a psychological moment than a product of a corrupt and dehumanizing system

Wallace's death highlights how the series foregrounds social circumstances over psychology.

from The Wire season 1 (2002)
Creator: HBO
Posted by Jason Mittell