Revenge is the only unambiguous motive for justice we are shown. Revenge moves Omar & Bubbles to help the police catch Avon. Freamon uses revenge to get the cops to do their job after Greggs is shot. They would rather have been depressed, grieving her prematurely. Freamon gets them to stop asking why God hates them & do what McNulty does naturally. – Ask: What the fuck did I do? He understands the world revolves around him. Otherwise, why would he bother? He might make love to the bottle & show softness.
McNulty’s superiors are always out for revenge against him. Avon must seek revenge against Omar & anyone else who tarnishes his reputation. These considerations are already more sophisticated, but always & everywhere one common passion appears: Love of one’s own & the angry defense thereof. McNulty threatens a way of life he neither understands nor can replace. He is a revolutionary because he is a man of justice. But nobody wants to be McNulty, except perhaps McNulty, so he is no hero…
The laws include those habits & customs which make life possible for men who are not merely imperfect, but wise enough to not make too much of a show of that imperfection. The laws must make men courageous in defense of justice who really do not have the stuff for that in them. We work with whatever we have at hand. But this very flexibility requires that the appearance of justice be the essence of justice: It would be impossible to make clever compromises, therefore to change much & often, as necessity dictates, & not lose all sense of perspective & direction, except if certain things stayed untouchable, unmovable.
The first principles of American politics are those things which are unmovable. For Avon, it is family, which justifies any horror necessary. Family love requires murder. But family does not include the principles which allow family to thrive as a part of the city. This other principle is what we must find by putting together the man without a family, McNulty, with the law of the family, as shown by the gangs: Revenge.
Daniels explains to McNulty that the case will go on with or without him. That is questionable. But let’s think along with him. McNulty is the best of men, but others can understand the case as well. He made a problem of Avon & the drug operations, but he does not own that problem. He is a champion, not a master, so to speak. The case surpasses McNulty also because it is a cause: The bloodshed & the hatred incurred move men down a path they need not like or even understand. Necessity rules then.