Awesome: The Wire
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.
Avon: 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:
- McNulty mapping a tide flow chart at the Baltimore Marine Unit office to prove that a floater found in a local bay is tied to the murders of thirteen dead prostitutes in a container at a shipping depot. Awesome only because McNulty is not doing this for his moral conscience. He does this to screw over his former commanding officer and the Baltimore Police Department. Win.
- Not exactly her crowning moment of awesome, but certainly a deeply satisfying one: Shakima Greggs walks up to a frat boy dancing on some bimbo's car and holding up traffic and tells him to get his ass down. When he responds with, "Fuck you, lady!" she takes him out at the knees, slams him on the ground, and says, "Ain't no lady." And to the bimbo, "Bitch, move it or lose it."
- McNulty goes to a bar, gets totally smashed, and attempts to drive home, while blasting The Pogues' "Transmetropolitan." He crashes his car into a highway beam, gets out, re-calculates his trajectory, and redoes his own car crash. Later in the same night, he manages to pick up a waitress, despite being heavily drunk and with bandages on his hand. He's that good.
- Omar Little perjures himself for fun and profit at Bird Hilton's trial. Bird is on trial for the murder of a state's witness, and Omar is taking him down for his role in the torture and murder of Brandon, Omar's boyfriend. In the process, Omar explains what he does for a living in no uncertain terms ("I robs drug dealers"), takes evil lawyer Levy down several pegs, and makes silly faces at Bird. Omar is the man.
- Roland Prezbylewski punching his father-in-law (Major Valchek) in the face when he threatens to shut down the Baltimore Major Crime Unit's case. It gets all the more rewarding during rewatches, once the viewer has had the chance to discover the full extent of Valchek's charming personality.
- The way Daniels gets Prez off the hook is pretty neat, first he makes everyone present write on it, including the FBI and the word "shitbird", then he goes to Valchek and tells that he could probably make the BPD guys lie and ignore the insult, but he can't do nothing about the Feds. Valchek forgets about a harsh punishment and ends the matter with with a childish one. The smile on Cedric's face says it all. Daniels has become quite the smooth operator.
- McNulty of all people is sent in undercover to confirm that a hotel suite is actually a high-class brothel owned by a smuggling ring ("Takes a whore to catch a whore"- Kima). He's told to give the signal for the police to start raiding the suite only after he's been set up with a hooker. McNulty elects to wait until two hookers have already started a threesome with him before giving the signal. Later, in the official paperwork, he actually writes down in what happened half-honestly, claiming "There was two of them, I was outnumbered!" Three Seasons later, other cops who've never even met McNulty are still talking about it.
- There's a subtle one for Carver - he volunteers to go to the brothel, but gets dismissed by Rhonda on the basis of being too good looking to be believable. He looks pleased.
- Judge Phalen gets one in this season during Bird's trial. Bird's slimeball lawyer requests bail for Bird until sentencing, even though he has just been found guilty of killing a state witness in cold blood. The judge announces that unless Bird is the second coming of the Messiah, he is getting life without parole. After asking Bird if he is indeed "Jesus Christ come again," Phalen denies bail.
- Brother Mouzone being a complete and utter professional, even when shooting Cheese in the shoulder as a warning. As Cheese and his gang bail, he says with a completely chipper demeanour, "Good day to you, sir."
- When Ziggy gets in debt to Cheese, Cheese steals his Camaro and burns it. Nick uses his connections with the Greek to not only settle the debt, but gets Prop Joe to pay him the difference from the Blue Book value. Not even Prop Joe can believe he has the balls:
Fool, if it wasn't for Sergei here, you and your cuz both would be cadaverous motherfuckers.
- The montage at the beginning of the tenth episode, which shows off just how much information the team has gathered on their targets, and how they go about gathering it. Set to Johnny Cash's I Walk the Line, and ends with Prez contentedly admiring the by now packed corkboard and going "Fucking-A!" Roll credits.
- Omar could've done a lot of damage in the military. This is no more evident when he layed down a trap for Bubbles using a scrapped radiator.
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.
- Prez defending Randy from the lethal side effects of Bunk and Lester's investigation.
Bunk: If you go at it like that, then you end up siding with the motherfuckers doing the dirt.
Prez: No. I'm siding with my kids.
- 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:
- Underboss Slim Charles shooting fellow gangster Cheese Wagstaff point-blank in head in the final episode, after finding out that Cheese had Slim's boss (Proposition Joe) murdered by Marlo Stanfield. "That was for Joe."
- All the more impressive for being a wordless Shut Up, Hannibal! as Cheese rants about the unequal share he thinks he deserves.
- McNulty revealing to Templeton that he was behind the whole serial killer fabrication, and that they're both stuck with the lie now. Combined with a Hannibal Lecture. "The only difference is, I know why I did it. Fuck if I can figure out what it gets you in the end."
- The FBI profilers deserve one for their one scene in the series: after McNulty fakes the existence of a serial killer to increase the police department's budget, he initially laughs the profilers off. Then he has to listen with increasing awe and terror as they lay out a perfect analysis of his entire psyche.
- Snoop missing her targets on a drive-by (that O-Dog insisted on doing, instead of the usual way of killing on foot), then getting out of the car, irritated, taking aim and firing one single shot that hits her fleeing target in the head from at least 30 feet away, was pretty awesome to this troper.
Fuck them west coast niggas, 'cause in B-more, we aim to hit a nigga you heard?
- Marlo, having gotten out of the game, leaves an up-scale party to mess with dealers on a street corner. They don't recognize him, and one of them puts a gun to his head while the other slashes him with a knife... at which point the unarmed Marlo owns both of them in the space of several seconds and sends them running. He checks some blood on his arm and then stands there smiling to himself. Made even more impressive because it had been preceded by a season's worth of accusations from Omar that Marlo was afraid to get his hands dirty, and this is the first and only time we've ever actually seen him have to use physical force instead of a subordinate.
- There's a hidden CMOA in there too. If you listen to the drug dealers as Marlo approaches, they're retelling the story of Omar's death. Except now it's a Bolivian Army Ending where Omar fought to the last bullet against a mob of gangsters with AK-47s, proving that his name will ring out much louder and longer than Marlo's.
- The moment Butchie, Omar's blind friend and confidant, absolutely refuses to talk when Chris Partlow and Snoop torture him to find out Omar's whereabouts. Chris and Snoop offer to let him go without harm if he gives up Omar. He says no, even when Chris explicitly tells him that it will get messy if he doesn't talk. Snoop shoots him in the kneecap, and even screaming in pain, he refuses still. Then they shoot him in the groin and he still refuses. Chris and Snoop kill him, but they didn't get one shred of information out of him before they did.
- Omar walking with Renaldo in tropical outfits in Puerto Rico in season five. Now, instead of everyone fleeing in his presence, all the local kids run up to Omar, while he gives them candy.
- Omar jumping out of a fifth-story window during a botched break-in and trap sprung by Marlo Stanfield, also in season five. Not only does the scene feature one of the guys who inspired the character of Omar Little (he plays Donnie), but the scene was inspired by the actor's real-life experience.
Marlo: "Don't seem possible"
- The best part is that the gangsters immediately run to the ledge and look down to see...nothing. Omar is straight. goddamn. Batman.
- According to Marlo Stanfield this CMOA doesn't make Omar the goddamn Batman but:
Marlo: "Some Spiderman shit there."
- The look Marlo gives to Chris after Chris points at the floor Omar jumped from makes it even more awesome.
- Avon's brief appearance in prison, where he proves he's more respected in there than Marlo ever is on the streets.
- Lester dominating Clay Davis and driving him into a corner with some major but now moot evidence... moot since the Attorney General has given up after the local court fiasco made Davis a hero. Davis doesn't know that he's off the hook, and for once, the "good" Senator gets outconned.