In the opening scene, a cop & a criminal are talking about a corpse. Neither seems to know who murdered the man. Neither wanted nor expected him dead. The criminal says he had a contemptible nickname & that every Friday he’d shoot crap with the rest of the gang, lose, & try to run with the money. They’d catch him & beat him up. The cop asks: Why let him play at all then? The criminal answers: It’s America, you gotta. Thereafter, the law officers have a good laugh over this. – Law & one’s own good are opposed. Even criminals have their laws; not even those laws are the same as the private good of the criminal.
In the second scene, we see a trial fail on a formality. The law is powerless to convict an obvious criminal. The criminals know this. Judicial procedures need enforcement, but cannot provide either spirit or the knowledge. In the third scene, we see an arrest. The arresting cops are not too clever; there’s a woman cop there directing them, stalking the criminals, who seems to know their minds.
A street cop says the ‘war on drugs’ cannot be a war, because wars end. War ends in victory or defeat: Both belligerents agree on who won. Cops & criminals have not yet achieved such an agreement. The laws the cops enforce are therefore in question. Our protagonist is McNulty, a cop who wants to go through hell, for reasons he dares not disclose. His superiors are apparently aware of this; they are scared. He explains himself by comparing himself to William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai. This would make the cops the POW camp led by Alec Guinness…
It seems the drug business is a family business, top to bottom. The law knows no such thing; our protagonist is divorced & does not get along with the wife, although they have two boys. But the organization on both sides functions independently of that question: It follows a craft, or know-how. These are two different ways of life. There is no thought but that they must come to war. Now we may return to the dialogue between snitch & cop: both sides make a claim to being American.
There is no thought but that the criminals control their streets. People who annoy them are quickly murdered. Now we may return to the second scene. Lawsuits fail because they assume too much about civilians & lawmen alike. Justice is most needed when the laws are threatened most, but it is least likely to prevail then. This story teaches the price we pay for justice, including how to make people act with justice.
The toughest show about the war on drugs