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Relax? Never again

Prop Joe's killing on 'The Wire' is hard to take because of how intimate it all was.

January 29, 2008|Chris Barton | Times Staff Writer

Say it ain't so, Prop Joe.

In the annals of unexpected deaths on HBO's "The Wire," Prop Joe's execution Sunday night ranks somewhere behind Stringer Bell being done in by Omar and somewhere above Stringer Bell ordering a jailhouse hit on his and Avon Barksdale's nephew. Still, Prop Joe's single-shot killing at the hands of Chris while an eerily reptilian Marlo talked Prop Joe through it ranks as among the series' most memorable deaths, if for no other reason than how unpleasantly intimate it seemed. "Relax, breathe easy," Marlo said, and Joe shut his eyes as Chris raised a muzzle behind him. Brrrr. Never one to play the son role, indeed.

But for those out there feeling a little misty-eyed about Prop Joe's betrayal at the hands of his nephew (what is it with nephews in this show?), I'd argue the professorial crime boss was dead long before the trigger was pulled. Joe built the New Day Co-Op with his bare hands, uniting Baltimore's disparate equivalent of the Five Families in hopes of minimizing casualties and maximizing profit, all noble goals consistent with the character's pragmatic nature. But Marlo had been tearing it down since he reluctantly came on board, and the most Prop Joe could say was some mumbled, soft-pedaled advice to learn how to work with people? Really, that's as stern as the guy with his hand on the tap for Baltimore's drug supply can get?

But I'll miss Prop Joe's kind criminal heart the rest of the way, the sort of heart that had the presence to write "Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil" on Butchie's funeral wreath -- a neat summation of much of the season. Marlo, Cheese and the surviving figures on Baltimore's streets won't be nearly as thoughtful -- but perhaps that's why they're still alive.

At least for now because, after all, Hurricane Omar has touched down, and there's no Prop Joe around anymore to keep things from spiraling completely out of control. Marlo may have sucked all the knowledge and legal advice out of Joe's head before taking him out, but whether it's made him smart enough to hold off Omar and his sawed-off friend remains to be seen. Let's hope not.

Meanwhile, McNulty and Lester began the ghoulish business of hunting for a new victim for McNulty's serial killer (and it's going to remain McNulty's until Lester starts choking a dead man). I have to say, Jimmy's mercurial accomplice may just get him through this ridiculous stunt without being garroted in the public square by Episode 10. OK, not likely, but at least he's keeping McNulty honest by convincing him to put in the fake-legwork along a madness-ridden underpass straight out of "The Fisher King." Plus you have to admit, working a pair of falsies for some bite marks on the latest victim is going to grab some headlines, but for all of Lester's help isn't it a little sad to see McNulty giddily citing his serial killer to get him out of a confrontation with Beadie? Listerine's not covering up the scent of this one, Jimmy.

Elsewhere in Baltimore, Daniels has settled into his new role as police commissioner heir apparent, but not before dodging the bullet from Burrell revealing the secrets from his past -- something about drug money and the Eastern District -- and all it took was a six-figure pat-on-the-back gig in Washington from Carcetti's people to keep him quiet. Isn't politics magical? And at the Sun -- or rather, at the Post -- it seems noted fabulist-in-training Scott Templeton will be plying his wares in Baltimore for a little longer. Seems his clips weren't quite strong enough to play with the big boys in Washington. Keep your eyes on the papers, everyone.

chris.barton@latimes.com

Show Tracker follows the ups and downs of TV series. Find more at latimes.com/ entertainment.

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