There are quite a few of these moments in the HBO show The Wire
In the first season:
- Detectives Jimmy McNulty and Bunk Moreland investigate a crime scene that's about a year old, and find a key piece of evidence within minutes. All while saying nothing but the word "fuck" and variations thereof. It also forces the audience to pay attention to what they're doing since there's no Expospeak to help them out. Pretty much David Simon saying to the viewers: "If you can't follow this scene, this really isn't the show for you."
- Omar Little's immortal line: "Lesson here, 'Bey. You come at the king, you best not miss." Later in the season, he calmly walks through Baltimore housing projects, knowing that Avon Barksdale has taken a hit out on him. While everyone runs away screaming "Omar coming!", he goes up to a stash house, calmly dismisses the threats of the dealers inside (who claim they have machine guns), and likens himself to the Big Bad Wolf, threatening to come every day to blow their door down unless they give up their drug shipment. They throw the shipment down without a single word.
- Avon Barksdale outwitting three armed units chasing after him in vehicles, then driving past the unit commander's car while wagging his finger at them.
- Kima, Daniels, and Landsman beat Barksdale enforcer Bird Hilton into a pulp. Aside from the fact that this is the only time in the series when Daniels, of all people, beats a criminal up, it teaches viewers one very important lesson: you do not talk to Kima Greggs like that.
- The audience is led to believe that Lester Freamon (introduced in the second episode of the series) is a useless detective who spends all his time painting miniature furniture. Then, with little provocation, he goes and manages to find the only surviving picture of Avon Barksdale, the drug kingpin so elusive that none of the other team members can find out what he looks like. Then, a few episodes later, he smashes a drug runner's face in with a full bottle of alcohol. He almost singlehandedly cracks three out of the five big cases in the series. By the end of the final episode, he's walked away with a fat pension, cleared at least twenty murders during his final investigation, and has a former stripper for a girlfriend. Lester Freamon is the man.
- D'Angelo Barksdale teaches the rules of chess to Bodie Broadus and Wallace. That's it.
- Another moment for D'Angelo is at the end, when after Wallace's murder at the hands of Bodie and Poot on the orders of his uncle and Bell, he is visited by Stringer Bell and Levy. The moment comes because, for once, one of the most sympathetic drug dealers finally talks back to his vicious superiors: "WHERE THE FUCK IS WALLACE?!"
- Prez, having previously screwed up spectacularly almost every time he appeared on screen, breaks the Barksdale phone code...using his word find prowess.
- Rawls of all people gets several after Kima is shot. The man is capable of actual police work:
- He shows his leadership and clears the overcrowded crime scene in seconds, giving the primary investigators room to work. He also deducts quickly what happened (the first policeman who does it, in fact)
- He tells a grief-stricken McNulty that it wasn't his fault, stressing that they hate each other and he would be leading the charge if he thought McNulty actually was responsible.
- Lester remembering the squad that they do have a wire running, so they must be at their post to catch any information related to Kima's shooting. At first they tell him to go fuck himself, but they finally see Lester's wisdom.
- Bodie wakes up after a beating to find himself in jail. Within a few seconds, he's disguised himself as a janitor and walks right out the front door.
- Daniels standing tall before Burrell and Clay Davis, dodging Davis slime attempts to downplay the drug money intercepted to his driver, ignoring the insults and rant of the Senator and just adressing his actual boss : "Anything else, Deputy Burrell?"
- Daniels standing tall before Burrell
Burrell: FBI field reports... You came into a lot of money quick. You can go to jail just as quick if I start asking the right questions. This case ends, or you are done. Hell, I don't even need you to lock up Barksdale. I can have your major debrief the detectives and type the warrants himself. This case is done.
Daniels: You do what you feel. You wanna pull Avon in on half a case, you go ahead. You wanna put my shit in the street, feel free. But the Eastern had a lot of stories - mine ain't the only one. A lot of people came through that district. If you were gonna do me, I'd already be done. But there ain't nothin' you fear more than a bad headline, is there? You'd rather live in shit than let the world see you work a shovel. You can order warrants, and I'll serve 'em. But as long as I have days left on those dead wires, this case goes on.
- Judge Phelan, on hearing that his wiretaps are getting undone by Burrell's obstruction, just calls him up and yells at him, pointing out that the Circuit Court of Baltimore ordered 60 days of wiretaps, and, dammit, they want their 60 days, or he'll charge Burrell with contempt of court. His quiet fury is brilliant.
Yeah, and all the best to Arlene and the kids. (*to McNulty) Who's your daddy now?
- McNulty finally calling Levy out in "The Hunt", forcing him to let the police talk to Savino under threat of investigating Levy's shady business practices.
- The arrest of Avon Barksdale, brains beat brawn, The Wire in a nutshell.
Look at these Delta Force motherfuckers man McNulty:
Do they think there's Tony Montana up there? These guys probably haven't touch a gun in years... Ah fuck this shit, you and me lieutenant
(Jimmy and Daniels take over the SWAT operation, enter the compound just walking and arrest Avon peacefully) McNulty:
(to Stringer): Catch you later
In the second season:
In the third season:
- Omar Little and his gang sneak into and rob a Barksdale stash house. When one of the outraged dealers mentions that it is, in fact, a Barksdale stash, Omar gives his best slick look and says, "Do tell."
- Avon Barksdale walks across the recreation yard at the Jessup prison, and a baseball game in progress stops so that he can pass. There's dead silence as he walks across the field, and not a single person moves.
- The gambit Tommy Carcetti pulls on Burrell. Establishes the character as someone not to be taken lightly.
- Kimmy, one of Omar's associates, gets her crowning moment after the death of her girlfriend Tosha in a shootout between Omar's crew and a group of Barksdale soldiers who had gotten the drop on them in the middle of a stickup job. After Tosha is shot, Kimmy goes to check on her and a Barksdale soldier attempts to fire at her while she's distracted. In response, Kimmy simply turns around with absolutely no concern for having been shot at, and kills him with one shot. And she probably would have gone after the other Barksdale crew members had Omar not dragged her away from the fight.
- On the flipside one for the Barksdales - this is the only time in the series we see Omar abandon his take and run for it. The shot of the outside of the stash house as all the wood covering the windows is knocked away to reveal armed men is quite awesome
- The Bunk's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Omar Little after Omar claimed that there were no victims in the shoot out that got Tosha killed. And Omar listens.
- When Brother Mouzone and Omar Little (a Badass Bookworm and Badass Longcoat, respectively) team up in the last two episodes of the season. They have a Mexican Standoff and then team up to kill Stringer Bell, who was responsible for killing Omar's boyfriend in the first season and then, in the second season, duping Omar into thinking that it was Brother Mouzone who had done it as a means of attempting to get rid of both men. To his credit, Stringer himself almost has his own crowning moment when finally forced to face his own imminent demise, eventually resigning himself to his fate and yelling at the two to get on with it before he's shot to death.
- McNulty informs D'Angelo's mother, who had insisted D take twenty years in jail rather than turn evidence for the cops and cost McNulty the whole case in season one, of his investigation into D'Angelo's death... long after he informed D's girlfriend about it. She asks why he didn't come to her first: "Honestly? I wanted to talk to someone who cared about the kid."
- Bunny Colvin's "Paper bag" Speech, or his telling Rawls "Get on with it, motherfucker" when Rawls is firing him. Pretty much anything with Bunny Colvin.
- Clay Davis making heretofore untouchable-seeming Stringer look like a complete chump with his "rainmaking" scam.
- Burrell blackmailing Royce into not firing him, laying out all the stuff he can lay at Royce's feet to make sure he takes the blame for Hamsterdam.
- B&B strategic conflict. The businessman vs the gangster. A terrific example of Merton's Strain Theory
Stringer: We past that run and gun shit, man. We could run more than corners, B. Period. We could do like Little Willie, man, back in the day, with all that number money. And run this got-damn city.
Avon: Like businessmen, huh? I'm just a gangster I suppose, and I want my corners.
- The final interaction between Avon and Stringer in a rooftop, reminiscing about past days and so full of subtext. Just two friends who happened to grow up into the criminal world of West Baltimore. They can't barely hide that they have betrayed each other but they still genuinely love each other. One of the finest examples of just business and End Of An Era in the whole show.
In the fourth season:
- Detective Sydnor serving a subpoena to Baltimore Senator Clay Davis to give up information and phone records for the past year. Davis' response? "SHHHHEEEEEEEEIIIITTTTTT."
- Lester timing the subpoenas with the primaries, about the only time politicians and bigwigs need to feign some rectitude.
Rhonda: Very clever, Lester. You got it all figured, huh?
Lester: Me? I'm just the police.
- Michael defending Randy
- Omar stealing Marlo's stash from Old Face Andre's corner store, then buying a pack of cigarettes. And insisting on his change.
- Omar proceeded to top that by robbing a poker game and its players, including Marlo Stanfield himself. When Omar opts to steal Marlo's ring and Marlo offers the clearly ominous-sounding advice that he should "wear it in health," Omar simply smirks, gives his signature wink, and replies "no doubt" before heading out. I know we've been over this a few times by now, but Omar? Is the man.
- "At least those books are good for something"
- Bodie Broadus' final moments deserve mention for the simple fact that unlike every other corner boy faced with the prospect of the specters of death that are Chris Partlow and Snoop descending down upon him, Bodie refused to run away or simply let them kill him, instead opening fire and refusing to leave his corner. Sure, he didn't make it out of the firefight alive, but at least he went out like a true soldier. "You ain't puttin' me up in one of them empty-ass houses, neither!"
- Tommy Carcetti making the rounds of the local public works offices: "Sir, we need a location!"
- Carcetti's aide - Norman playing the politics and spin in a way that would impress even Malcolm Tucker - I'm a devious motherfucker when I get going
- Delegate Watkins finally gets fed up with Mayor Royce's hypocrisy and lets him have it in a lengthy rant about the corruption he's displayed while in office. He then quits Royce's re-election campaign and storms right out of the building, which looks all the more impressive as he's paraplegic.
- Omar Little, upon being released from prison, manages to figure out the whole Baltimore city drug trade hierarchy in only a few days. He then, along with his partner Renaldo, march into Prop Joe's shop, asks for his clock to be fixed ("What's the problem?" "Ran out of time" pulls out desert eagle), and demands at gunpoint that Prop Joe serve up Marlo for him. He then tracks the New Day Co-op's resupply, and robs it along with some others, with no one getting killed. He then goes back to Joe, sells the heroin for 20 cents on a dollar (400k), and pays for his repaired clock. Omar Little is the man.
- Cris delivering a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to Michael's pedophile step-dad.
- Omar proves that he's so awesome even jail can't stop him in season four. After making a phone call to Butchie when he's wrongly arrested, two enforcers meet up with the vigilante inside a Baltimore prison. They provide him with a weapon (a glass shank), rudimentary armor (thick history books taped tightly around his midsection) and a cell phone. Omar finds out that Marlo Stanfield took a bounty out on him, and takes out an inmate looking to collect on the reward. By shanking him in a very private part. As the inmate lies writhing in pain on the floor and riot cops rush in, Omar asks for the cell phone to dial the police. When his contact asks why, Omar responds, "Man owe me a favor."
- When Marlo steals two lolipops to taunt the security guard on the store, the security guard chooses to follow and piss off the most feared druglord in the city, rather than put up with his shit and lose his self-respect. Sadly, it doesn't end well for the honest man.
Marlo: You want it to be one way... but it's the other way.
In the fifth season: