|The Wire episode|
"You cannot lose if you do not play."
- Marla Daniels
|Teleplay by||David Simon|
|Story by||David Simon and Ed Burns|
|Directed by||Clark Johnson|
|Guest stars||see below|
|Original airdate||June 9, 2002|
"The Detail" is the second episode of the first season of the HBO original series, The Wire. The episode was written by David Simon from a story by David Simon & Ed Burns and was directed by Clark Johnson. It originally aired on June 9, 2002.
The title refers to the newly formed Barksdale detail (see picture).
|“||You cannot lose if you do not play. - Marla Daniels||”|
This line is spoken in a conversation with Marla's husband Cedric about his impossible position of running the Barksdale investigation while trying to further his career. Extended to the episode as a whole the quote can also mean that if you do not become involved with the drug trade, commonly referred to as "The Game", you will not lose your life. This is most obviously evidenced in the episode by the murder of William Gant, about which D'Angelo exclaims, "he ain't have to testify"; if Gant had chosen not to testify he would not have become involved in D'Angelo's drug trial and would have still been alive.
Detectives Moreland and McNulty discuss murdered witness William Gant with the coroner. McNulty believes the Barksdale organization had Gant killed to send a message to people in the projects not to testify against them; Bunk, who is the primary investigator on the murder, is skeptical that anybody would kill a witness after they had already testified. McNulty visits Judge Phelan to inform about Gant. Based on Phelan's pressure, Burrell orders Lieutenant Daniels to let McNulty work the case, hoping to keep the murder of a witness quiet. Mollified, Phelan agrees not to call the media about the murder.
Daniels and his detail arrive at their new office - a damp basement with little furniture. The rest of the detail is introduced, but Daniels dismisses them all as useless "humps", especially after officer Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski accidentally discharges a bullet from his weapon. When Daniels visits ASA Pearlman to complain, she tells him that Prez was once indicted for shooting his patrol car. Daniels confides that he feels that Burrell sent him a message by not allowing him to pick his detail. Daniels meets with Lieutenant Cantrell and convinces him to assign detective Leander Sydnor (Cantrell's best man) to the detail to balance taking Prez (his worst).
Detectives Carver, Greggs, and Herc photograph Bubbles as he marks Barksdale dealers with colored hats, under the guise that they are for sale. When Greggs brings Bubbles in to identify the photographed drug dealers, McNulty is impressed with the technique and surprised by the scale of the Barksdale organization.
Bunk and McNulty visit D'Angelo Barksdale in the low-rise projects to discuss the Gant murder. D'Angelo is reluctant to say anything and when he attempts to leave, Bunk and McNulty bring him in. In the interrogation room, McNulty and Bunk try to convince D'Angelo that he was responsible for Gant's death. D'Angelo is moved to begin writing a letter to Gant's family, but Barksdale attorney Maurice Levy arrives and stops him before he can write anything possibly incriminating. Greggs and McNulty show the letter to Daniels who is skeptical about its usefulness in building a case. Now free, D'Angelo later takes his girlfriend, Donette, and their son to a family party, where his uncle Avon rebukes him about the letter.
While drinking late at night, Herc, Carver, and Prez decide to intimidate the tower operation. Prez pistol-whips a young man, Kevin Johnston, in the face for leaning on his car. This prompts a hail of missiles such as beer and liquor bottles, televisions and other household appliances thrown from the towers, and ultimately gunshots. Herc is hit by some glass as Carver calls for back-up but is not seriously hurt. The next day, Daniels berates Herc, Carver, and Prez for their foolishness and asks them to admit who hit Johnston. Prez steps forward and Daniels instructs him to lie about his actions and suggests a story. He warns Prez that he must be convincing or he cannot protect him.
McNulty is awakened by Bunk calling to tell him to look at the newspaper; the Gant murder is on the front page, and the Judge is quoted in the article. Homicide Major Rawls is enraged. McNulty again visits Phelan, who denies being the one who started the story and quickly leaves McNulty. Later, McNulty gets drunk alone. Daniels has dinner with his wife Marla and she reproves him for covering up the brutality. She counsels him the best course is to not get involved in the case as his superiors do not want it. Daniels is awakened later with the news that Johnston has been blinded in one eye.
The episode marks the first appearance of several new recurring characters. Joining Daniels' detail are Lester Freamon, an aging former homicide detective who has spent thirteen years (and four months) in the pawn shop unit; Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski, a young and inexperienced detective with a history of erratic behavior and a father-in-law in a command post; Leander Sydnor, a rising star in the Baltimore PD that Lieutenant Daniels requests for his detail; and Augustus Polk and Patrick Mahon, two alcoholic property detectives who are nearing retirement age and are only interested in overtime pay and are content to let their careers end while performing as little actual police work as possible.
In the Barksdale organization, this episode marks the first appearance of Donette (D'Angelo Barksdale's materialistic girlfriend and the mother of his son), Little Man (a lieutenant who handles resupply for the tower crews), Ronnie Mo (the lieutenant who was previously in charge of the low-rises), and Kevin Johnston (the 14 year old drug dealer who is wounded by Prez).
Guest star Erik Todd Dellums previously appeared in Homicide: Life on the Street as recurring drug kingpin Luther Mahoney. Reviewers have noted the similarities between the Homicide storyline involving this character and the plot of The Wire's first season. Creator David Simon has admitted a tendency to re-cast actors he has worked with previously on Homicide or The Corner in roles on the other side of the law; in The Wire Dellums plays a medical examiner, Randall Frazier, who appears a few more times over the course of the series.
The Guardian Unlimited review noted the scene where D'Angelo wonders about the possibility of a drug trade without violence as marking one of the traits that makes the series stand out from other cop shows: the humanizing characterization of the drug dealers.
The "Chicken McNugget" scene is often cited by fans, and some reviewers, as being one of the most memorable moments in the show. Poot and Wallace speculate that the man who invented the Chicken McNuggets must be rich, and D'Angelo explains to them that McDonald's owns the rights to the McNugget, and the man who invented it likely received nothing for it.