What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Four

Sudhir Venkatesh, who’s got a dialog with Alex Kotlowitz over at “Slate” about his new book “Gang Leader for a Day,” is back now with his fourth installment of watching “The Wire” with a group of New York-area gang personnel. His previous entries can be found here.

“Pay up fools!” Shine cried as Marlo entered Prop Joe’s kitchen. After the first episode, Shine predicted that the upstart “street nigga” would kill the “schoolhouse Negro.” He was predictably gleeful after pocketing several thousand dollars in rolled-up bills. “Chicken wings and mac and cheese on me,” he offered the losers.

This was not the only thing the self-described thugs got right about the final season of The Wire. They correctly surmised that Bunk and McNulty would split up and that our Irish detective would start down the corrupt path of a bad cop.

Much to my surprise, there was little empathy shown for Prop Joe. “It’s no one’s fault if you’re that stupid,” Orlando explained. “You can’t let that young buck [Marlo] run around like that without responding. Prop Joe screwed up, got sloppy. You never, I mean you never believe in co-ops. You got to be out for yourself … But, hey, I screwed up too. I put up $5,000 that Prop Joe would come back and kill Marlo. Just goes to show: never bet with your heart.”

Flavor, the youngest in the room at 29, felt a strong tie to Marlo. “I can’t tell you the number of these old fools, like Prop Joe, that stand in the way when we try to make things happen. They always talk about the old days. F-ck the old days. I got kids, I got bills, I don’t need no old crumpled up, fat fool telling me to give my money up to n***ers who don’t do nothing for themselves.”

Flavor’s comments started a heated discussion about generational change in the urban drug economy. Shine, representing the 40-year-olds who came up in the 1980s, alluded to the tradition of “family” that once united urban gang members; Flavor said that kinship was outmoded and that the free market was the only way that the gangs should operate.

This debate, literally flavored with beer as it flew around the room, brought me back to the salad days of the late 1980s, when I watched the major street gangs in Chicago figure out the best way to deal crack. The older members wanted to create a socialist model, in which all members of a gang pay their drug revenues to a general fund and the profits are distributed equally among the group. The younger ones wanted to embrace individualism. In the words of one leader I knew: “All for one, and one for himself.” Each person would be paid according to what he earned slinging.

Free marketers have won the day, as we know, on the streets of the ghetto and in boardrooms downtown. But folks like Shine (and Prop Joe) ended up forming co-ops because supply routes were unpredictable, cops needed to be bribed, and money needed to be laundered. So the fight between Marlo and Prop Joe carried a lot of significance. And as Orlando explained, Prop Joe mistook the co-op’s power to stabilize distribution for a capacity to function as a regulated monopoly — like Major League Baseball, in which teams agree to general rules of commerce. The only real thing co-ops can do is help you get your product on time.

I was pleasantly surprised that the thugs (finally) took some interest in the media soap opera. They were drawn to the affairs of our young, white hero, Scott Templeton, a rogue reporter who may be making up quotes to get ahead in the newsroom. They contrasted his hubris with Marlo.

“He’s got that look,” Tony-T said, “like he’s ready to climb. But you know the saying, ‘the higher you climb, the harder you fall.'”

Tony-T offered a prediction: the reporter would start making up stories, find his way to the pipe, get addicted, and join McNulty and Marlo in a great fall. That’s a lot of drama for the few episodes in front of us, but the others felt the hero was also in for a spill. (They also remained insistent that the lovely Alma, the other junior reporter, would sleep with McNulty in the next two weeks).

At one point, there was a lull in the conversation. Shine turned to me and asked, “Who reads these reports you write?”

“You mean the blogs?”

“Yeah, who reads them? I mean, what are the people like? They’re white, right?”

“Well, actually,” I said, “I have no idea. They comment, you know; they react to what I write, but I’ve never met any of them.”

“They’re white,” Flavor said, dismissively. “But I’m with Shine, I’d like to know what they think.”

I told them to read the blog, but they offered up an altogether different proposal. “I want them to tell us whether Marlo will kill Omar, or the other way around,” said Orlando, picking at his teeth, like a Southern gentleman on his front porch. “I want to see how smart they are.”

“Yeah,” Flavor pushed on. “And I want them to say exactly how it’s going to go down. Because you know what this whole thing is leading up to … Good versus Evil — if you can tell the difference around here.”

“See, Omar has a choice to make,” Tony-T explained, “and I’m not sure if everyone would get it, unless they worked in the ghetto. Omar can kill Marlo. That’s easy enough. But he has to think about his own future. Getting back for Butchie is one thing, but he’s got to be smart about how he goes after Marlo — see, you got the Greeks now and that makes things different.”

Tony-T stopped talking. The others nodded. I felt confused.

“How?” I said. “How do the Greeks make things different? Because they’ll protect Marlo? Because Omar will befriend them? Does Omar even know them?”

No one answered. They just grinned slyly.

So, readers: what say you?


The Greeks are all about business and will not get involved in the street regardless of how things play out amongst the co-op members. Regardless, here's my prediction: Omar will take out Snoop and Chris but Michael will do Omar thus becoming Marlo's de facto lieutenant. Once Marlo gets caught up in Lester's wiretap, Michael (with Dukie perhaps in a sort of Stringer/Avon redux?) will be positioned as the future kingpin in west bmore and the cycle begins anew.

As much as I'd like to see Omar make it through, I think it will be his code itself and his determination for revenge that will cause his demise. Omar already walked away once. I don't think it's going to happen a second time.

Maui Yankee

I think the critical moment this season has been Freeman's buying into McNutty's serial killer scheme. With so much "ends justify the means" running through the various characters,

compromising what is "right" to achieve a "noble" end,

Freeman remained the basic "untouched" righteous man.

Now he has bought into the end being more important than the journey.

It's interesting that a thief and killer, Omar, is the noble street character compared to the cold blooded Marlo, Snoop, and Chris.

Does Marlo go down? Omar will need to peel away some of the layers around him yet remain invisible.

Bravo to the writers and actors who make us care about these characters. I've enjoyed the ride.


Who speaks for the dead? Simon has, so far. Stringer paid for DeAngelo and Omar's lover. Wallace was spoken for, too. With that in mind, Omar should kill Marlo or at least Chris, Snoop or Michael. I bet Michael doesn't finish the series even though he was not part of the Butchie torture. What the street does to its people requires at least one of the four bys to die (Niamon's off the street, so...) However, I believe that Marlo survives as does Omar.

A man must have code. Those with codes are Carver, Freeman. Bunk, Omar, Avon and Marlo.

What's more interesting to me is who is left to be the ray of hope for the future--even if it is a slightly tarnished ray of hope: Carver? Freeman? Bunk? No longer Daniels who has been bought.


ok I'm indian. I think omar will kill marlo and omar will end up getting killed himself.. i also think mcnulty is seriously going down for all this sh** he is making up


i know that our resident thugs requested it, and on a weekly basis i'm profoundly grateful for their presence on this excellent blog, but i feel that this wire outcomes guessing game is redundant and a waste of this space when we could be engaging far more fruitfully in discourse regarding the shows many more immediately apparent qualities (and even its flaws) instead.


I'm a Black woman, born and raised on the South-Side of Chicago, college-educated and now residing in Nashville. I love The Wire, reminds of the area where I grew up.

It's messed up Prop Joe was killed, but he's a smart man, he had Marlo's number. I beleive he put things in put some things in place incase he was killed. He was packing to leave when Marlo killed him, so he already knew what he was about.

The greeks will not protect Marlo, they're not going to get involved in that street stuff. The Co-op will know Marlo killed Prop Joe and they will probably all set it up for Omar to kill Marlo. Only thing about that, is they would lose their connect if Marlo is dead.

That reporter shady, he going down along with McNulty. That editor knows somethings up with the stories he writing.


omar will hit snoop... marlos will do something to michael, which will set chris off, and he will do marlow in revenge.

the greeks don't get involved because how will marlow look if he goes whining to the greeks for one solitary guy? he keeps them out of it.

the newspaper guy and mcnulty have created a monster. the fake story that they both have planted will backfire and spawn a copycat killer, which will become a real story and a real problem.


Marlo will kill Omar. David Simon is a realist.


I hail from toronto, canada. college educated and working professional,but grew up in a violent jamaican gang lifestyle.I guess you could call me an "omar bell". I have seen murder and money and bad police and irresponsible media coverage for many years and when i accidentally found the wire online I fell in love with the realism and truth involved in all the various predicaments faced by the characters.It is a great depiction of the world many people face and has some of the realest characters i have encountered on television. First of all the show does well on representing "the laws of institutions" and the "rule of system over morals or code". I have a cousin who is a marlo type and after being around him for a few years i felt the pot was getting too hot and the water would eventually boil over.Years have passed and After all the horrible things he has done he is still alive in the freeworld while many of his associates are either dead,incarcerated, or deported.The guy that wins is the most vicious one, the one who can rise above the system,destroy the old one and set a new one, will not only gain respect by installing fear, but he will run the system and the system is all that those "thugs" respect and understand.That said, marlo will probably not be touched by the co-op in retaliation to Joe's death.The only way i can see him going down is via the police. it's a food chain. Omar? I like the wu-tang element of his character but in the real world there are only opportunists. There are no robin hoods in the hood. Any hero i have ever seen or heard of got shot and killed or robbed the wrong person and ended up with a third party(ie.hells angels,italians,jewish mob, police protection) hot on their tail. trust me. there was a guy who used to try and rob me and my friends (black or white) when we were playing basketball on the innner city courts as kids. this guy would carry a machete and had a crazy trinidadian accent. day or night he wouldn't hesitate to pull it out on anyone.He had a little .22 as well. it was like you just got used to his antics and accepted him as "that guy". I remember he had 3-5 chinese guys (who I'm sure he met at an esl school) and everybody knew who they were even with their masks on!! if you had numbers, no matter your age or race, this guy and his crew knew that if they took out one they would have to take out all and trust me..we never lost our addidas or bus fare cause we knew we could tell older peers and they would go to his mommas house.word on the street was he ended up making big moves on the wrong people and got involved with an organized person's business.what happens to real life Omars'? I went to madapan (boston) for a summer. I get back from my stay and I hear on the news he ended up in a bathtub with no johnson.I felt for his fam but i understood the karma and the obvious backlash of his past recklessness.he did leave a legend though as this guy had balls(no pun intended). That said omar will go down via the greeks aka russians. Chris and snoop. well, if they are professional and have good judgement then they may survive, actually, chris may survive and snoop dies. I say this because chris has something outside his daily world to live for and seems to understand the importance of that. guys like that are precise and usually can use the other world/lifestyle as a motivator to be precise. snoop is wild and too emotional and will probably get taken out by omar or michael.who knows. from true experience the people who survive are the ones who can look past their emotions and focus on the "other side". Mike and Chris have those elements where marlo and omar do not. they have the option of leaving their institutional prisons. it will be up to them. I can't wait for 8,9,10.


Mike Johnson

Omar's got to get got.

Only one person can bring down Omar, and that's Michael. That's Omar's blind spot -- Michael will just be a kid to him.

Michael doesn't get killed. Either he goes to prison, while Marlo remains a free man, or Marlo dies and in the power vacuum Michael carves out a space for his own crew.


Omar kills Marlow. Chris gets arrested. Michael kills Omar and becomes a new power for the series ending, to prove that nothing is resolved in the end.


The greeks have too much invested in the co-op to watch omar blast holes in who is now their biggest customer since putting prop joe to sleep. However, the greeks could find marlo's ambition dangerous for business- he needs them, not the other way round. So- omar makes a deal with the greeks(or blasts them too- omar does not dick around, as we have seen), and chris, snoop, michael, marlo all end up with a greek hitmans bullet in their head.

Bubbles will have some large role in the finale-bet on it.


1. Omar will die.
2. Chris will kill Marlo.
3. Keep your eyes on Avon.


I think #105 is wrong, the Greeks did not protect Prop Joe because they are businessmen at heart (refer back to episode when they asked Marlo for
"clean" money). The Greeks are being purely capitalistic at this point. Marlo is setting himself apart from the Co-Op, and in the Co-Op,Prop Joe was not wrong for keeping the connect a secret. He has to because if he did not everyone would run to the Greeks and the Greeks would not like this and would cut the entire Co-Op off. Prop Joe killed himself when he started showing Marlo how to move his money and not backing his nephew at the table during the Co-Op meeting. Marlo took Prop Joe's advice about working with people and turned it against him.

Everyone knows that Omar is a man of discipline, no matter how warped and the killing of Butchie is about to cause a lot of deaths. Omar will come back and start taking out men around Marlo because Marlo is only as good as his lieutenants, if they are alive. Another thing about Marlo, if he has ties with Davis, Davis will point the cops his way because Davis is already a snake that is going to be looking for a deal with the feds.



Michael wants out as seen when he, bug and dookie went to the amusement park as well as when he let the little boy live. Chris and Snoop will realize Michael let the boy live, thus giving police a witness in the killings. Chris and Snoop will go after Michael, but Michael is already contemplating his way out so he'll be prepared to sabotage the hit.

Omar rules the streets and will continue to rule in absentia as it is not his want to rule the drug trade. However, with Omar as the figurehead, peace and stability come back because as everybody knows, you don't cross Omar.

McNulty gets to Marlo before Omar does.
BTW...35 yr. old White male from Chicago. This is the best show on tv, hands down.


Here is the way it will go down.

Everyone in the co-op knows Marlo is a threat to them all now that he took out Prop Joe. Marlo just made more enemies, and there is strength in numbers. This increases Omar's network of people willing to help him to take out Marlo, Chris and Snoop. Also, the rest of the co-op will see a potential power vacuum and will want to use Omar to take out Marlo while insulating themselves from doing the job. It also increases the number of people who will know where Marlo will be at some point in time and could give him up to Omar. As in a co-op meeting. Marlo can't take over as the link to the supply without exposing himself more. He is now the connect which means he can't go into hiding. Chris and Snoop go first by Omar's hand. Michael ultimately sells out Marlo to Omar and Marlo falls. The reason prop joe lasted so long was that he worked to make friends with as many people in the game in Baltimore as possible, but he just got snuck by one overly ambitious player.

The rest of the co-op will see Marlo as a dictator and these are not men who want to be ruled, especially not by Marlo.

Omar takes out Chris and Snoop, Marlo is then weak and the co-op helps take him down.



Avon is going to be involved somehow. He knew that putting Marlo in touch with the Greeks meant that Marlo would go after Prop Joe and one of them would end up dead, leaving him plenty of strings to pull either way. He's got no love for Omar, but they both know that they can help each other here. (Unless Marlo somehow ends up in prison, which would mean Avon could get him directly.)


Don't forget that Omar not only stole from Marlo, but from the Greeks as well. They even tortured their guy that was escorting the shipment ("I looked into his soul", said Vondas).

I'm quite sure the Greeks aren't entirely in the dark on the street dealings. Maybe when Marlo tells them his motivation for getting Omar, they'll offer their support.

Right now I'm most intrigued by Daniels' past...something about the east side...


I'm an avid viewer of the show but have lost track of one thing: chronology. Can someone lay out how many years in "Wire Time" have elapsed since the death of Boogiesnot to the demise of Prop Joe?

Yoruba Cinque

The comments from the gangstas are infantile. Don't they know the its all about supply and demand. Demand continues to grow, distribution takes place at the corners and supplies will be in the hands of those who can distribuete the product quickly. Marlo is nothing more than a peon for the greeks and replaceable just like Joe. If Omar kills him, so what, 100 Marlos will be ready to continue the flow. Omar will carry out his avenging angel role and Marlo will either be killed by him or will be arrested by Mcnulty and Co.
Ask your "street wise boys" if they can identify the real power in the trade and why they will never be arrested.