The Wire, revisited.

The Wire is proclaimed by many (including me) to be one of the best written tv shows, one of the most realistic, hard-hitting, and never missing a beat.

With that in mind, a couple of questions come to mind during season 3 that I’d appreciate someone’s thoughts on.

  1. Amsterdam - if you recall, at the end of Season 3, the shit hits the fan regarding Major Colvin’s drug free zones. There were three areas that dealers could deal and usersncould buy and use with impunity. Commissioner Burrell and Major Rawls didn’t know about this, and when they found out, they crushed Colvin’s retirement pay, and he lost his big paying post-retirement job at Johns Hopkins. The way they got Colvin To agree to this was to tell Colvin that no one would ever advance who happened to be under his command at the time of the scandal, whether they knew about it or not.

Instead of agreeing to this, why didn’t Colvin just threaten Rawles and Burrell with the following: claim that they, as his direct bosses, knew about Amsterdam and forced him to keep quiet about it. He was also forced to keep his people in the dark as ordered by Burrell and Rawels. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t true or not, because Colvin could have spun the story any way he wanted to, to the Mayor, the press, and anyone else that would listen. Burrell and Rawls would be guilty by association, and would probably get fired until when (and if) the truth could ever be sorted out. Burrell and Rawls would have wanted their names to be clear of the scandal no matter what, so they would have agreed to Colvin’s demands to retire at grade, not harm anyone’s career, and keep their mouths shut regarding his job at Hopkins. Seems rather simple to me.

  1. Major Rawls sexuality - if you remember season 3, Brother Mazone wanted to find Omar Little to get the facts straight about his shooting in season two by Omar, he sends his side-kick into a gay bar every night until someone gives up Omar’s location. During one of those visits, it is seen plain as day that Major Rawls is sitting comfortably on a barstool in that bar. I do not recall any development of this story line at all in the final two seasons.

Does anyone remember if Major Rawls’ sexuality was ever followed up on during the last two seasons. If so, what was the plot line, when was it played out, and what was the result? If it wasn’t played out, does anyone know why?

Re #1:

When i watched Season 3 for the first time, i wondered about this as well. It seemed to me that Colvin had as much leverage over them as they had over him. Of course, if Burrell and Rawls backed one another against Colvin, that might have made things hard for him.

Re #2:

I don’t think they ever addressed it again. And that’s what’s so great about The Wire. They didn’t feel the need to beat the audience over the head with stuff. That three-second shot of Rawls in the gay bar is, IMO, a fantastic piece of television.

  1. It was because they also threatened to make sanctions against his men. Major Colvin couldn’t accept his loyal men taking the fall for him. Telling the lie about them being knowing all along might work, but it might not, and it’s also not something he would actually do. He could threaten to do it though, but what if they decided to carry on with the sanctions against his men.

  2. It was not addressed again.

About Rawls. The only time it was addressed again was indirectly. Jay Landsman is using the bathroom and there is graffiti on the wall that say something like ‘Rawls likes cock.’ Landsman looks at it for a second, chuckles knowingly and walks away. Just a quick aside unrelated to the scene.

I think to your first point, it’s somewhat of a recurring theme on the show. Everyone has shit on everyone, it’s just a matter of who has more power and more friends. Colvin was pretty much on his own, but Burrell and Rawls also had the mayor. Colvin could’ve tried taking them down, but it probably would have ended up even worse for him and his people.

Also, I just finished watching The Wire this week and it was fantastic. It definitely lived up to the hype, and then some.

Where would be the evidence to support a claim by Colvin of the involvement of Burrell and Rawls? Even trial by media needs something on which to gain traction.

Your second question has been covered.

I can’t see that as anything other than wildly inconsistent with Colvin’s character. Colvin knew he was taking a ridiculous risk, but he felt desperate enough to try it. His only concern was that it all fall on him. Getting revenge on his superiors for a decision he made doesn’t seem like something he’d do.

That’s right! I had forgotten about that.


Although it’s not clear to me if he chuckled knowingly (i.e., if he actually knew about Rawls’ homosexuality), or if he just chuckled in the way that Landsman often chuckled about crude things.

As to the first question, and the threat of sanctions against his people.

to me, it’s sort of a stand-off. If Colvin decides to say that Rawls and Burrell ordered the creation of Amsterdam, with no written record to try to keep themselves out of trouble, I believe the Mayor would believe that. So would other people. No one would have been crazy enough to try what Colvin did. His simple answer would be "I was retiring in a few months when this started, and they thougth I’d be the perfect person to try this out. Because the mayor’s office and city council is breaking their backs to get the crime rate down, this was condoned by Rawls and Burrell. After all, how could those two NOT be aware of it? Are we to believe not one person loyal to Colvin would have looked at Amsterdam as HAVING to be sanctioned by downtown?

No… Colvin had them both. And there would be no way to prove him to be lying, just as there would be no way to prove that Rawls and Burrell didn’t know any idea that this was going on. There was no written record anywhere if I remember. So no one could point to any piece of evidence to say with certainty who OK’ed the Amsterdam project. If I was loyal to Colvin, I’d believe he was ordered to do it, and I’d also have no trouble believing Burrell and Rawls wouldn’t take credit for setting up the nightmare.

I don’t think anyone in the loop would want this stink around, and that would keep Burrell and Rawls from trying to bury any of Colvin’s people. First time they do it, Colvin calls the press, city hall, etc. and brings the involvement of Rawls and Burrell to light. It wouldn’t matter what the truth was. It would be pretty hard for them both to deny that a subordinate was able to set up Amsterday without the approval of Colvin’s bosses.

It just doesn’t seem in character for him to do things that are outright dishonest. Even during the Hamsterdam episodes he manages to carry a slightly guilty-dog look.

I think Colvin was caught off guard as well. He knew he would done as a cop once everythign came to light, but I don’t think he was expecting them to come at him so harshly (reducing his pension, ruining his future career, going after his people, etc.)

Burrell still had the support of the ministers, and of Royce. It would have been the lone voice of Bunny Colvin against Royce, Royce’s staff, Burrell, Rawls, and the testimony of all the officers at the Comsat where Bunny revealed his secret.

Colvin had very little chance of making a stink big enough to matter.


Thinking about it again, i guess the only way it could have worked is if Colvin managed to convince all of the Lieutenants and Majors to back him, which would have effectively constituted an organized uprising within the police department.

And, given all of the divided loyalties and backstabbing going on in the department, it would be extremely unlikely that you could ever get such a show of unity. Not to mention the fact that many of them, even if they supported Bunny in principle, would have balked at outright lying or (if it ever came to a courtroom) committing perjury.

Exactly. You may recall that Hamsterdam was first uncovered by the press because Herc (who reported to Colvin) called a newspaper man about it. Herc lying to protect Bunny from Burrell and Rawls is unlikely. Bunny asking his men to lie to save his ass is even more unlikely.

Bunny didn’t really think through his threat, and was severely outgunned in a potential shit-smearing contest.

In addition to all that, Bunny’s enthusiasm for the project was waning. I don’t think he was all that upset when it was over. He’d contained some of the crime and made the corners safe, but it meant giving up on a big segment of the area’s population.

“Okay, you guys can kill yourselves if you want, just do it over here.”

Back to Rawls: it’s quite plausible that this was just a plot thread that got dropped. No need to give the writers credit for a masterful move if they’re not talking about it, and it may have been dropped due to nowhere to put it.

I’ve thought about this. But the beauty of Amsterdam was that it made little sense to anyone. So, Colvin was safe with his people. All he had to say to them was something like "look, I know I left many of you in the dark. Those of you who were told about Amsterdam were not told the whole story. I was given the parameters of what I could share and with who during meetings with Burrell and Rawls. My apologies. As it turns out, like you, I was also in the dark. The Mayor is saying he knew nothing about it, or only what Rawls and Burrell told him. Rawls and Burrell are pointing the finger at Colvin.

There was so much backstabbing and politicing in that department, it would degenerate into a finger-pointing mess. Only Colvin would know the real truth, and he could spin it in any way that benefitted him and only him.

I believe it would work because with the election coming up, Royce would want to push this rotting fish off the dock before it stuck up the whole city. At the end of the day, arguing about who is telling the truth and who is lying would take too long and become an exercise in futility. Since there was no written record anywhere by anyone, Colvin could have called the union rep and put it into the courts.

No… Royce would have given him his full pension and make sure his people would be safe. Any questionable action by Rawls and Burrell on one of Colvin’s former employees would be taken by that employee to the union lawyers.

That’s called checkmate. Colvin wins, saves his people, his new job, and his pension. Everyone else realizes it’s a big shit sandwich, and they are all going to have to take a bite.

How do you address the fact that he admitted to it all being his idea at the ComStat meeting where he explained the drop in crime rate - in front of plenty of other high-ranking officers?

As I mentioned before, he could simply explain this meeting after the fact, by saying "I was sworn to secrecy by Burrell and Rawls on this, because they knew I was retiring in a few months. Neither one of them were interested in seeing their own careers ruined, so they told Colvin to take the hit

The drug zone was Hamsterdam, although I always found that name annoying. I don’t have anything to add on that front- Colvin just didn’t have enough to keep Rawls and Burrell off his back. And I never thought they were going anywhere with the shot of Rawls in the gay bar. I felt was just there to surprise us and remind us we don’t know everything about these characters.