Listen to this

The Wire was a drama that ran on HBO for 50 episodes over 5 seasons, 2002 – 2008. 

What follows is from the opening moments of the first episode of the 4th season. 

A young assassin goes in a hardware store.  She is carrying the nail gun with which she shuts up the abandoned homes in which she leaves her victims. 

She is approached immediately by a salesman, a middle aged, white guy who lays on the sales pitch.  He wants the young assassin to buy the top of the line “Cadillac” nail gun.  It’s costs $650 so he’s pitching  hard.

Naturally, he has no idea is talking to a woman who managed to kill (and entomb) 5 people last week alone.  He thinks he is talking to a neighborhood contractor.

The conversation runs invisibly on two rails, the assumptions of the salesmen and the assassin working side by side.

The salesman calls his nail gun “powder driven.”

“Power driven?” the assassin asks.

“No, powder driven,” the salesman replies.

“Like gun powder.” she says.

He says, “The DX460 is fully automatic with a 27 calibre charge.  Wood, concrete, steel, she’ll throw a fastener into anything and for my money she handles recoil better than the Simpson or the P3500.”

She says, “27 calibre, huh.”

He says, “It’s not large ballistically but it’s enough.  Anything more than that and they would add to the recoil.”

It turns out the nail gun is metaphorically a lot like a real gun.  Or guys being guys, they just can’t resist making the comparison as an act of self aggrandizement. 

But all this gun-ish talk shakes something lose in the assassin.

She says, “I seen a tiny ass 22 drop a nigger plenty of days, man.  […]  Big joints, though.  Big joints just break the bones and you say ‘fuck it.’”  She laughs.

No more metaphor.  The concert is over.  The salesman sees he’s not talking to a contractor.  He’s speechless.  Someone has called his metaphor and raised it.  This is real guns, real violence, a real gangster.

The assassin goes out to the parking lot where her partner in crime is waiting in an SUV.  He asks if the new gun will hold a charge better, and she says,

“Fuck the charge.  This here is a gun powder activated, 27 calibre, full auto, no kick back, never through mayhem, man.  This shit is tight.” 

Her partner laughs and she says,

“Fuck nailing boards.  We could kill a couple of mother fuckers with this shit right here.”   Geez, we can dump the metaphor.  The nail gun isn’t like a gun.  It is a gun.  

Perfect.  Has anything this good appeared on TV before or since?  Now that you have your new iPad, load it up with a little David Simon genius.

2 thoughts on “Listen to this”

  1. That show changed how I watch TV. It was so cool and dynamic. I can’t watch many other cop, bad guy, law, politic, culture shows without comparing it to the Wire. Thanks for reminding me how good this is.

  2. I’ve been devouring your blog most of today and this post gave me a head rush…I just got to that scene in The Wire yesterday, and I loved the way you break it down.

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