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Ellis Carver
The Wire Carver.jpg
First appearance "The Target" (episode 1.01)
Last appearance "–30–" (episode 5.10)
Cause/reason End of Series
Created by David Simon
Portrayed by Seth Gilliam
Episode count 52
Gender Male
Age 30
Occupation Baltimore Police Sergeant/Lieutenant
Title Sergeant/Lieutenant

Ellis Carver is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor Seth Gilliam. Carver is an African American lieutenant in command of the Major Crimes Unit [1] and formerly in command of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District Drug Enforcement Unit. He is a dedicated but sometimes wayward officer and an unfailingly loyal partner to Thomas "Herc" Hauk. Initially, he enjoyed the adrenaline rush of physical policing and was not above cutting ethical corners to get ahead. However, over the course of the series, he matured and became an upstanding officer, sometimes drawing the ire of his Western District brethren.




Season 1

Carver was a narcotics detective under Major Foerster in season one; he joined the Barksdale detail along with his friends from narcotics, detectives Kima Greggs and Thomas "Herc" Hauk. His shift lieutenant from narcotics Cedric Daniels was assigned to command the detail. Carver tells Bodie Broadus in season one, episode five ('the pager'), that he was brought up on the Flag House Courts project.

Herc and Carver typically worked as a pair. They were intimidated by Greggs' ability and annoyed at her superior attitude towards them. They got into trouble early on in the investigation when they drunkenly raided the Barksdale organizations tower operation and nearly incited a riot. They easily convinced the erratic Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski to accompany them and he worsened the situation by hitting a teenaged drug dealer. Daniels was exasperated with his detectives' lack of forethought but defended their actions to his superiors anyway.

The narcotics detectives took part in raids on Barksdale's low rise projects. When one of the young dealers, Bodie Broadus, punched Detective Patrick Mahone, Carver, Herc and Greggs were unrelenting in punishing him with a beating. Carver and Herc later received the task of travelling to Bodie's juvenile detention centre to try to convince him to become an informant; Carver was optimistic about their chances. Finding that he had absconded, they raided his home, finding only his grandmother.

Herc later spotted Bodie in the low rise projects while on surveillance and arrested him along with Carver. Finding that he remained defiant the detectives gave him another beating. Later, waiting to hand him over they softened towards him and the three shared a game of pool. Bodie was released from juvenile detention following the intervention of the Barksdale crew's lawyer. Unaware of this Carver and Herc angrily picked him up the next time they saw him, finding that he was a free adolescent once more they gave him a lift instead of bringing him in.

When they intercepted the Barksdale crew's profits for a day by tailing Wee-Bey Brice, Herc considered keeping some of the money, but it was Carver who realised the wiretap might leave them exposed to their superior officers. Some of the money went missing by accident, which led Carver to doubt Herc until it turned up. This also got both of them on the wrong side of Lt. Daniels. Otherwise, Carver and Herc were invaluable in providing much needed but tedious surveillance work for the detail.

Carver took his sergeant's exam and passed while in the detail. Although Herc scored better on the exam, Carver was placed ahead of him on the promotion list because Carver had been relaying information about the detail's activities to Deputy Commissioner Ervin Burrell. Lieutenant Daniels eventually came to suspect the arrangement, and cautioned Carver not to repeat the mistakes Daniels made earlier in his own career.

Season 2

When the detail was disbanded Carver was moved to the South Eastern district where he worked as a traffic sergeant under Major Stanislaus Valchek. His dissatisfaction with the post was apparent when Valchek assigned him to ticket dock workers' vehicles and he openly discussed his problems with his commander with Frank Sobotka.

Daniels brought Carver back into his detail when investigating Frank Sobotka. He told Carver that because he had caught him in his betrayal before he thought he was the least likely person to try something similar again. Daniels only condition was that Carver would not be treated like a sergeant in the detail as he felt that Carver had not earned his promotion and would report to Detectives. Carver was again partnered with Herc and the two investigated drug dealing around the docks area. They fabricated a confidential informant, actually using a listening device and took payments meant for the informant to cover the cost. However, they did establish a link between Nick Sobotka and drug trade near the docks.

They were again relied upon to do the leg work for the detail and were instrumental in placing satellite tracking devices on vehicles involved in the dock smuggling ring. Their low status in the detail was brought home when they were asked to install an air conditioner in the home of a judge who was approving the detail's wiretaps. After being left out in the rain waiting for Nick Sobotka to return home, despite having already turned himself in, Herc convinced Carver they would never be respected in Daniels' unit. While not stated explicitly, it can be assumed that Carver was given the menial status under Daniels' command as punishment due to his previous betrayals. Angered by the menial work given to him, Carver told Daniels that he wished to leave the unit. As Daniels convinced him to stay claiming that surveillance was part of the job, Carver pointed out a D.E.U. sergeant posting in the Western District for Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin. Carver quit Daniels' unit transferring to the flex squad where he felt better in a position where there was more "rip and run" recognizing his ranking status in the department. Herc then followed Carver as he had no interest in doing menial surveillance work for Daniels. [2]

Season 3

Carver returned to narcotics with Herc and worked in the Western District under Major Colvin. Carver again began to act as a sergeant, running the district's Drugs Enforcement Unit and commanding a squad of dedicated narcotics police including Det. Herc and officers Dozerman, Lloyd "Truck" Garris and Anthony Colicchio. He failed to learn one lesson from his work with Greggs - a police officer is only as good as their informants - as he failed to secure any for his unit and had none to present to Major Colvin. Officer Dozerman was shot and injured while under Carver's command in a failed buy bust sting operation.

Carver was responsible for policing Colvin's unsanctioned free drug trade zone, nicknamed "Hamsterdam". He was distressed by the consequences of the new zone - putting young hoppers out of work. Carver's solution was to tax the drug dealers for unemployed hoppers to ensure they found work. At the same time however, Carver took a personal mission to have the children in "Hamsterdam" better themselves out of work. With Dennis "Cutty" Wise, a former soldier in Avon Barksdale's crew, he helped organize the young hoppers into boxing and basketball programs that were becoming successful until the "Hamsterdam" project was shut down. After this Carver and Wise held a mutual respect for each other having worked together with these children.

Over the season, it was shown that while Carver's unit was good at making arrests for statistical reasons, they had demonstrated poor investigative techniques. Early in the season, Carver is criticized by Major Crimes Unit detectives Kima Greggs and Jimmy McNulty for his lack of informants. When asked for descriptions of gang members and mid-level drug dealers, Carver is unable to provide his district Major with any information. Before his forced retirement Colvin criticized Carver's work as an investigator and told him he was not doing his job properly. He urged Carver to get to know the area he was policing rather than treating it as hostile territory in a war zone. Colvin claimed that he felt this was a reason behind Dozerman's shooting and then claimed that Carver's stat based arrests were of little additional use to the district without adequate information about what was really going on in the neighborhood.[3]

Season 4

Carver maintained his position as DEU sergeant but turned over a new leaf in light of Colvin's advice. He began cultivating informants at street level and amassing a working knowledge of the drug dealers in his district. When Prez asks that a police officer be sent to Randy's house confidentially, Daniels elects to send Carver, telling the surprised Prez "Ellis has come along."

In particular he targets Bodie Broadus as a potential informant because he is now working independently. Carver seems to be on good terms with Bodie, as his first line in the season is "Where's the love, Bodie?" The two have a running joke of addressing each other formally, possibly influenced by Lieutenant D'Addario's use of the same ploy to entertain his sergeants in "Homicide". Colichio, however, is entirely unable to see the funny side, although Carver points out he can't go round beating the entire world up "cause who are you gonna talk to when the s*** happens?". Carver helps Herc when he has a problem that is political in nature by putting him in touch with Valchek, although he sees it as an attempt to advert a disaster when Valchek knows that it is the perfect opportunity for Herc to advance if he plays it properly. Carver also tries to help Bunk Moreland find a suspect in the murder of Fruit. The suspect is Bodie's second-in-command Curtis "Lex" Anderson and Carver knows where to find him. However, Lex has not turned up to work and Carver can't help Herc. Carver spots a group of kids from his neighborhood with a stolen car and rather than chasing them on foot- he is taking Herc, overdressed to go on a chase as it is, to see Valchek so he calls in the theft and elects to find the kids later as he knows where they hang out. When he returns he gives them a warning; telling them that he knows their names and addresses and if he learns that they are involved with stolen cars again he will arrange alleyway beatings for each of them. This is taken so seriously that even Donut waits until Carver has left before commenting on his "nice wheels".

Carver also shows concern for Randy Wagstaff and his situation of neighborhood kids harassing and labeling him as a snitch, even offering to be Randy's foster parent when not being able to find another foster parent after his current foster mother was injured in an arson started fire. He had a plainclothes car put outside Randy's house but it was spotted and the arsonists coordinated the attack, giving a false alarm of a police shooting to draw the car away before torching the house. He was not able to because of the long screening process that takes months to complete. After dropping him off at his group home, Carver angrily beats on his car horn, mad that he could not have done more for Randy. [4]

Season 5

Carver is acting as Western District Sergeant in Charge or SIC - he has the responsibilities of the district's deputy major for most every shift. The district's officers are outraged by the city's financial cutbacks and their morale is at rock bottom level. Carver faces dissent and abuse in his roll-call briefing and is told there is no point breaking up a fight between officers that later occurs in the parking lot. Carver meets up with his old partner Thomas "Herc" Hauk, Kenneth Dozerman and Anthony Colicchio for drinks. Herc has been discharged from the department and is now working as a Private Investigator for defense attorney Maurice Levy. Herc has the detectives get information from within the department for him.[5][6]

Colicchio is later involved in an assault on a teacher. Carver witnesses the event and sees that Colicchio acted irrationally out of frustration. He offers to help Colicchio prepare a statement for the subsequent Internal Investigations Division case but finds Colicchio completely unrepentant. Carver decides that he cannot allow Colicchio's behavior to continue and writes Colicchio up for charges of conduct unbecoming an officer. Colicchio calls Carver a "rat" but Carver is unput by the damage to his reputation. Carver meets Herc for drinks and Herc tries to plead leniency for Colicchio. Carver explains his philosophy that all of their actions as police officers matter and reminds Herc of some of their mistakes. Carver specifically mentions Herc's actions with Randy Wagstaff. Herc accepts responsibility and tells Carver to do what he feels he has to.[7] Carver is later seen assisting Jimmy McNulty in finding the "homeless killer." McNulty has Carver instead investigate Marlo Stanfield's drug organization under the overtime detail of the "homeless killer." Carver's officers are shown using new rental vehicles and following Lester Freamon's lead in finding the source of drug distribution amongst Stanfield crew members. When Kima Greggs questions Carver about the "homeless killer", he claims that he is happy to see his officers doing real police work and getting paid overtime for it. This is shared by his men, who are noticeably buoyed up by the news of some "rented wheels." At the end of the series Carver is promoted to Lieutenant and given command of the Major Crimes Unit, the position Cedric Daniels held for seasons 2 and 3.


Salon described Carver and Herc as providing needed comic relief to the show and acting as a bickering couple.[2]


  1. ^ "–30–". David Simon, Writ. Ed Burns (story and teleplay), David Simon (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-03-09. No. 10, season 5.
  2. ^ a b Dan Kois (2004). "Everything you were afraid to ask about "The Wire"". Retrieved 2006-07-12.  
  3. ^ "Org Chart - The Law". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-22.  
  4. ^ "Character profile - Sergeant Ellis Carver". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-22.  
  5. ^ "More with Less". Joe Chappelle, Writ. David Simon (story and teleplay), Ed Burns (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-06. No. 1, season 5.
  6. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 51 More with Less". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22.  
  7. ^ "Transitions". Dan Attias, Writ. Ed Burns (story and teleplay), David Simon (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-27. No. 4, season 5.


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