Anti-Hero: A very complex case: His methods are deplorable, to the point where he burns almost every bridge he's ever crossed throughout the show. And his motivations are murky; while he passionately speaks about the injustice of allowing murderers to remain at large simply because investigation of them would be time consuming and difficult, it's hard not to think he's primarily motivated by the vain desire to show off his own intelligence.
Badass: Though he is not presented as such in a positive way either. Being a cop doesn't make you in the right.
Clueless Detective: A complete inversion and one of the few aversions. He exploits it in his season 5 scheme.
Who is gonna catch me? Most of the guys up here couldn't catch the clap in a Mexican whorehouse!
Commuting On A Bus: in season 4, when he resigns from MCU, works as a patrolman and gets his personal life back together.
Cowboy Cop: Deconstructed. McNulty plays by his own rules and goes against his superiors, and while he backs it up by being a brilliant detective, his antics end up destroying both his career and his family life.
Also, on multiple occasions Jimmy bends and breaks rules to get information because he doesn't have the patience for doing things according to the rules... and gets exactly the same information that other good detectives like Bunk and Lester got by following procedure.
He may also be seen as a Reconstruction of the trope. He has the traits, but he's smart enough to gather evidence through surveillance and isn't one for hotheaded violence.
Fallen Hero: By the end of the show, any signs of heroism he had left in him is all but gone. And despite his fake serial killer plan being somewhat successful, he is fired for it in the end.
To be fair to him, the ending does suggest that he's on a path to becoming a better person: he rekindles his relationship with Beadie and brings the homeless man he stashed in Virginia back to Baltimore.
Good Is Not Nice: Unlike many in the Baltimore Police Department, he has a deep emotional investment in bringing the bad guys to justice. He's also, as Rawls puts it, a gaping asshole. At times, he frankly abandons 'good' as well as 'nice'.
Handsome Lech: A drunken womanizer prone to banging floozies in bar parking lots.
Heel Realization: It took him five seasons, but he does eventually come to see that ignoring good police procedural work and just doing his own thing without regard to the consequences ultimately causes more problems than it solves. Too bad he'll never work as a policeman again after the end. See He Who Fights Monsters below.
Heroic BSOD: Briefly goes into one in the first season after Kima gets shot including acting out the Vomiting Cop trope. Rawls of all people snaps him out of it.
Hired To Hunt Yourself: In Season 5, he is the lead investigator on the Serial Killer case. He's so overwhelmed with resources that he quite capably diverts them to actual police work. Eventually he's given a right-on-the money FBI profile about himself.
He Who Fights Monsters: In his quest against Marlo, McNulty becomes a prosecutable criminal by inventing a fake case, technically embezzling money and being indirectly responsible for the death of two vagrants. A mild version of the trope in that he keeps his morals after all it's said and done in the Stanfield case, as illustrated by his last scenes.
Comes a day you're gonna have to decide whether it's about you or about the work.
Lieutenant in charge of the Narcotics Unit of the western district who spends most of the series in charge of the special details that would become the model for the Major Case Unit. He is fiercely loyal to those under his command and demands similar loyalty in turn. He works to rein in the excesses of McNulty, Herc, Carver, and Pryzbylewski, while resisting the bureaucratic rot that has corrupted the district command. There is only so much he can do, given his superiors' impatience for in-depth police work, and the existence of a dossier implicating him in past corruption that Ervin Burrell holds over his head.He begins the series as a career-minded officer who is pliant to the demands of his superiors, but when he's confronted with the deeds and scale of the Barksdale drug crew, realizes the inefficacy of the limited investigative measures that his bosses will allow, and is pressured by McNulty, Greggs and Freamon to commit to the case, ultimately he jumps in with both feet. Daniels's renewed commitment to quality police work costs him much throughout the series (including his marriage), but in seasons 4 and 5, he receives a series of rapid promotions that ends with a gig as Police Commissioner. Daniels soon resigns after earning this top spot, since keeping the job would entail manipulating the crime statistics for the mayor, or a fight to keep the job which would put the lives and careers of his friends in jeopardy. At the end of the show he's become a prosecutor, finally making use of the law degree he'd earned before his police career.
The Beard: A non-sexual-orientation version; after he and his wife split up in the third season he keeps up the act of them still being married so as not to damage her public image while she's running for office. This includes pretending to come home when she has company over, and he explains that after all she gave up to help his career it's the least he can do.
Chekhov's Gun: His law degree. This is Truth in Television, as one of the detectives David Simon shadowed when writing Homicide, Terry McLarney, was a law school graduate. Another gun of a much higher caliber is the corruption investigation in his past.
Not so Above It All: At work, he cracks fewer jokes than the rest of the team. At home, he's one of the few guys who can skewer Lester. And even he joins in on the asskicking when Bird refers to Kima as a cunt.
Noodle Incident: The precise nature of the corruption allegation he faced earlier in his career is never revealed, though it is implied to have been something along the lines of skimming drug money.
I mean, I know you don’t like it. But shit, I was proud.
Detective in Narcotics. One of the more competent cops on the team, she does much work in surveillance and recruiting informants, particularly Bubbles. She is shot in the first season, but recovers and returns to duty in a desk job (under pressure from her girlfriend, who doesn't like Kima's dangerous job). Ultimately, Daniels lures her back into the fray and she eventually earns an assignment to Homicide. Beholden to her conscience and strong sense of ethics (which doesn't make her nice; while she'd never look the other way at a crime or lie to her superiors, she doesn't think twice about beating the crap out of a suspect), in the fifth season, she is the one who reports McNulty and Freamon's fake serial killer to Daniels.
By-the-Book Cop: The closest thing to one on this show, as evidenced by her refusal to testify that she saw that Wee-Bey was the second gunman when she gets shot in Season 1 and her blowing the whistle on Freamon and McNulty in season 5; however, she still gets in on a little extracurricular brutality and other inappropriate conduct at times.
Cliff Hanger: Whether she'll survive after her shooting in season 1 is in doubt for awhile.
Twofer Token Minority: As a mixed black/Korean lesbian, she ought to count as a threefer, but in this case it's an aversion since the show realistically portrays the demographic makeup of Baltimore and she's not the only black, the only lesbian, or the only female detective around.
Played by: Wendell Pierce
You happy now, bitch?
A man must have a code.
Highly competent detective in Homicide. Bunk has a dry sense of humor, is almost always dressed in pinstripes, and enjoys his cigars. Bunk and McNulty often partner up to drink and cruise for women — in spite of the fact that they are both married. As a detective, Bunk is generally perfectly happy to work within the confines of the system in Homicide. In the fifth season, his tolerance for McNulty's cowboy antics is put to the test when McNulty fakes several serial murders, which puts a deep strain on their friendship.
You've lost your fucking mind, Jimmy. Look at you. Half-lit every third night, dead drunk every second. Nut deep in random pussy. What little time you are sober and limp-dicked, you're working murders that don't even exist!
I say we go down to the terrace and fuck some people up.
One of Those Two Guys in Narcotics. Herc is probably the dumbest working detective on the show. To him, the job is all about the "rip and run" and banging heads on the corners (often literally). What little active detective work he does do often involves cutting corners (such as placing bugs and pulling a surveillance camera without proper authorization) or bumbling his way through ineffective interrogations. He's also not above stealing confiscated drug money. He is forced to resign in Season 4 after acting on bad information and wrongfully arresting an influential black minister. He kicks around various private security agencies before settling into Maurice Levy's firm as a private investigator, where his friendships within the department and dumb luck earn him a bright future.
Aesop Amnesia: at the end of season 1 he's seen lecturing a couple of rookies on the importance of "smart" detective work as opposed to haphazard violent busts. This lesson is all but forgotten in the next seasons.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: For all his failings, when Internal Affairs descends on his department, he takes the fall himself, without implicating Sydnor or Dozerman.
The Load: At the beginning of the show he and Carver are far and away the least competent detectives among the major characters; Daniels only trusts them to do surveillance work and half the time they can't even manage that. Carver eventually gets better, Herc doesn't.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: More than once, but his interrogation of Little Kevin, in which he lets slip that Randy talked to the police and thereby ruins his life, is the worst.
Police Are Useless: You could fill several pages detailing his many screw-ups over the course of the show.
Police Brutality: Most of the cops on the show engage in at one point or another, but Herc deserves special mention - brutality complaints are one of the main reasons he's not promoted to sergeant despite scoring well on the exam.
I don't need to chase these fucking knuckleheads. I know half of 'em. Shit, I know where they hang.
The other of Those Two Guys in Narcotics. He starts out almost as stupid and corrupt as Herc, but begins to mature under the tutelage of Daniels, and later, Bunny Colvin. He is instrumental in keeping Hamsterdam running in Season 3. He tries to help out Randy Wagstaff, but makes the mistake of trusting Herc, out of guilt for maturing past his ex-partner. In one of the series' biggest Tear Jerkers, he cannot save Randy from the group home. Later, he is shown to regret the cavalier attitude towards policework that he and Herc had taken earlier in his career, and proves himself a competent commander with a strong sense of ethics. He is promoted to lieutenant in the finale, showing a strong resemblance to his early mentor, Daniels.
Badass Boast: When he procures Marlo's number (courtesy of Herc actually), to an impressed Lester.
Police work detective, police work.
The Chains of Commanding: After he's promoted to sergeant, most notably when he's forced to write up Officer Colicchio for police brutality in season 5.
Detective transferred in to Daniels' unit from the Pawnshop Unit. At first he keeps to himself, spending much of his time applying his meticulous nature to making miniature furniture instead of doing police work, causing McNulty and others to write him off as a worthless hump. After watching the other detectives fail to secure so much as a photograph of the detail's intended target, Freamon comes off the bench and shows himself to be true "natural police" (in fact, he is a former Homicide detective), proving himself knowledgeable and adept at many of aspects of running a wiretap investigation (including an understanding of the legal and political nuances that even the other competent detectives lack), and serves as a mentor to Kima, Prez and Sydnor.He is almost as insistent as (and at times, MORE insistent than) McNulty when it comes to pressing an investigation beyond what the department brass has tolerance for, but has more wisdom about how and when to fight for a case. While he's not above crossing his superiors and manipulating his coworkers, and goes along with Jimmy's 5th season serial killer scheme, he still lacks Jimmy's more self-destructive tendencies.
Cowboy Cop: Though he's much smarter and more careful about it than McNulty or Herc.
Do Wrong, Right: When he learns of McNulty's scheme, he apparently reacts with a What the Hell, Hero?, but what Lester means is the plot is weak and needs to be sensationalized.
Forensic Accounting: One of his specialities, usually met with a stern opposition from the higher-ups, since drug money funds political campaigns. The few times he can use it, he compares it to a Boom, Headshot.
You follow drugs and you find drug addicts and drug dealers, you follow the money and you don't know where the fuck it's gonna take you.
Daniels: He stares at you over the top of his reading glasses, with that look that says I'm the father you never had, and I don't want to be disappointed in you ever again.
Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski
Played by: Jim True-Frost
You juke the stats, and majors become colonels. I've been here before.
Roland begins the series as dead weight that's dumped on the Barksdale detail from Auto, who only still has a career in the department thanks to the aid of his father-in-law, Major Stanislaus Valcheck. Prez is unhappy in his job and has a hard time keeping his head while in the street. Early in the series he accompanies Herc and Carver on an ill-conceived recon mission in the high-rise projects, where he pistol-whips a youth (which results in permanent blindness in one eye for the kid). Daniels coaches Prez on how to answer IID's questions, and he is removed from street duty.While indoors, he takes to Freamon's wiretapping, showing a real knack for codebreaking, deciphering the street talk through the tinny audio of the wiretap, following the paper trail and organizing the accumulated info on their targets. In the third season, when responding to a distress call while out making a food run, he accidentally shoots a plainclothes officer, and resigns. He becomes a middle school teacher in season four, helping out Randy and Dukie as best he can.
Leeroy Jenkins: One of the reasons he's a poor street cop is his tendency to panic and rush in without a plan in dangerous situations. This flaw ultimately ends his police career when he accidentally shoots a fellow police officer to death during a firefight.
Reassignment Backfire: twice in the series - first when he becomes a Desk Jockey instead of a beat cop, which allows him to bring his decoding skills to the table and aid the Barksdale investigation; then when he's kicked off the police force and becomes a teacher, a profession he turns out to be very well-suited for.
An intelligent, hardass police commander and bureaucrat, once described by a fellow police commander as being "as ruthless a fuck as we have in this department." He begins the series as a major in charge of the Homicide department, and over the course of the series enjoys promotions to colonel, deputy commissioner, commissioner and state police superintendent. Rawls achieves this by mainly by doing everything in his power to produce good stats (murder clearances, lower crime rates, etc) — though what looks good on paper doesn't necessarily shine so bright in reality. For example Rawls is not above making an arrest that has no real prayer of producing a conviction, even though it means severely compromising a major investigation — all to make the crime stats look better on paper. While serving as a colonel and deputy commissioner, he applies severe pressure on subordinate officers, much of which is quite deserved, that causes most of his colleagues to "juke the stats" by reclassifying crimes (felonies are downgraded to misdemeanors, etc) — a practice that he strongly encourages without actually being explicit about it.Rawls has no patience for insubordination, or anything that might threaten his stats. As a result, McNulty makes himself an enemy of Rawls, who orders another cop to spy on him (in an attempt to get him fired), kicks him out of homicide and blocks his transfer to another, more desirable unit that could put McNulty's skill as a detective to work. Still, there are limits to Rawls' animosity towards McNulty; when McNulty feels responsible for another cop getting shot, Rawls steps in to assure him that his guilt is misplaced.
Straight Gay: If he's in the closet, then it's a pretty rare case of being neither armored nor transparent - no obviously-false-front of homophobia or anything remotely camp. Truth in Television, since there are a lot of gay cops in real life whose sexuality is basically a non-issue in their professional lives.
Word of Gay: His sexual orientation is strongly hinted at in the show, but David Simon has confirmed it in interviews.
Played by: Frankie Faison
It's Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save you.
Deputy commissioner (later, commissioner). Burrell is a career-minded officer, more skilled at playing politics than actual police administration. He proves to be a major roadblock time and again for Daniels' unit, which has a tendency to run investigations that could implicate Burrell's politically connected friends. Eventually, when Carcetti is elected mayor, his fixing of crime statistics gets him forced to retire, though he is savvy enough to make sure he gets a golden parachute.
Book Dumb: Described as "stone stupid" by fellow Dunbar High School alumnus Prop Joe. Still smart enough to play the connections game.
It's all about self-preservation, Jimmy. Something you never learned.
Sergeant in Homicide who enjoys his pornography and food. Like Rawls, he has little patience for anything that threatens his squad's clearance rate, and spends much of his time belittling McNulty. While he appears aloof, he truly does care about his subordinates, and he demonstrates when he lobbies Rawls on McNulty's behalf (although this partially comes from Jay's desire to keep the clearances that Jimmy brings in) and when he gives wakes to fallen officers.
Dirty Old Man: Not particularly old, but middle-aged and definitely unattractive.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Though he is often overbearing and obnoxious to his subordinates, he genuinely does care about them and attempt to protect them whenever the homicide unit comes under attack.
Name's the Same: He's emphatically not based upon the real-life Jay Landsman, who plays Lt. Mello.
The Nicknamer: He calls McNulty "The Prince of Tides" and "Clarice", and Lester "Madam Curie" when he is pestered and burdened by their overdiligent police work.
Porn Stash: More often than not seen reading a girlie mag.
Torn cammies by Versace, stained sweatshirt by Ralph Lauren. Haven't showered in two days, haven't shaved in four. I am one ripe, nasty son-of-a-bitch.
Young detective assigned to Daniels' unit early on. Does surveillance and undercover work alongside Greggs and Bubbles. He agrees to help Freamon work his illegal wiretap in season 5, and in the finale, is shown going to Judge Phelan to get a case worked on, demonstrating his willingness to disregard the rules and chain-of-command to bring in a good case.
The Generic Guy: Probably the least distinctive and well-developed among the police of the cast.
History Repeats: In the finale, he asks Judge Phelan to help him circumvent the rules to advance a case in a way that closely echoes a similar scene featuring McNulty in season 1.
Only Sane Man: More or less becomes one by default in Season 4 when the MCU is made up of only himself, Herc, and Dozerman.
Out of Focus: Even when he is around, he gets less screen time and character development than most of the other cops.
Put on a Bus: For pretty much all of season 2. Lampshaded when Sydnor reminds the other detectives that he doesn't remember the details of the port case because he didn't work it with them.
The Reliable One: Stays in the background, but is always doing decent work, and aside from Season 2, he is part of the MCU for its entire existence. This makes his Character Development into the next McNulty very unexpected.
Played by: Al Brown
You want to do it your way, fine. But you ain't gonna use my people to fuck me.
Commander of the Southeastern district. Father-in-law of Pryzbylewski, he uses his connections to get him out of trouble several times. Gets into a feud with Frank Sobotka over a stained glass window, leading to the theft of a security van by dockworkers, and an investigation into the stevedore's union's finances that brings them down. Later, he becomes a supporter of Carcetti. In the series finale, after Burrell has left, Rawls has been bribed into a state position and Daniels quits rather than juke the stats, he is promoted to Commissioner by virtue of being the last man standing.
Karma Houdini: No matter what he does or how much of a jerkass he is, he always gets away with it and winds up rising in the ranks.
Kicked Upstairs: Carcetti has to reward him with a promotion, so he makes sure it's one that strips Valchek of any real influence.
The Mole: Is Carcetti's mole inside the police force for much of Carcetti's primary run against Royce.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: Quite possibly the worst example of this in the entire show, which is saying something.
Police Are Useless: He's far more concerned with furthering his own career and pursuing petty personal vendettas than he is with doing a good job policing the city.
You Have Failed Me: He views the police officers under his command as tools, and won't hesitate to fire them when they didn't follow exactly what he's telling them to do.
Howard "Bunny" Colvin
Played by: Robert Wisdom
There's never been a paper bag for drugs. Until now.
Major in command of the Western District. He is respectful towards his subordinates. Sick of seeing so much death related to the drug game, he comes up with the "Hamsterdam" free-zone experiment in Season 3. Forced into retirement because of it, he goes on to try to rehabilitate delinquent middle school children and keep them from joining gangs. He find success in Namond Brice, whom he adopts.
Fallen on Hard Times Job: His hotel security job after his more confortable post-retirement plans are made to go awry. His teacher role is also poorly compensated, but at least he is comforted by the chance to make a positive impact on peoples' lives.
Mentor: In addition to his stint as a teacher and his tutelage of Namond, he kindly gives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Carver regarding his policing style which makes a deep, positive impact on Carver's career and helps him to become a caring public servant. Watch
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: His reward for cutting the felony crime rate in his district by 14% and improving the general quality of life for its citizens is to be busted down to lieutenant, fired in disgrace, blacklisted and vilified to the media as an "amoral" and "incompetent" man who "buckled under the pressure" of his command.
Save Our Students: Makes this his goal once he takes a job doing research work with the troubled "corner kids" at the school in season 4. He has some success.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: In season 3, he goes against police department policy and essentially legalizes drugs in his district because he believes it will reduce the amount of violent crime and make it easier for social services to reach out to addicts, and thus accomplish what he views as the ultimate goal of policework - making people safer. It works, but only for awhile.
The Barksdale Organization
Played by: Wood Harris
..and I want my corners
I'm just a gangster, I suppose...
West-side drug kingpin, head of the eponymous Barksdale Organization. A vengeful but calculating gangster, he is very much concerned with his reputation for toughness. He starts the show at the peak of his influence, outwitting police surveillance until he is eventually caught by a hidden camera. Influential even in prison, he attempts to run his criminal empire while behind bars, but Stringer ends up making a couple major decisions behind Avon's back. He manages to orchestrate a scheme that gets him early parole (serving only a couple years of his seven year sentence), but when he's released, he finds that much of his best territory is in the hands of a rival drug crew. Against Stringer's advice, he starts a war with the rival Stanfield gang, which leads to Stringer betraying him by giving a tip to the cops. When the police catch him in a safehouse full of weapons, he is arrested and forced to serve out the remainder of his previous sentence with no hope of parole. Afterward, the Barksdale Organization is gone, but he manages to retain some of his influence in prison.
Batman Gambit: In season 2, he ensures his early release from prison by orchestrating a mass poisoning at the prison, then offering to testify against the "culprit".
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: After going to prison, Avon sees Wee Bey being constantly harassed by a guard. Turns out Wee Bey killed the guard's cousin on Avon's orders, but when Wee Bey tries to remind Avon and tell him about the details, Avon doesn't remember a thing about it. "Need a scorecard to keep up with your lethal ass."
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: He's not very fond of Stringer's quest for legitimacy. Avon is just a gangster, and he wants his corners.
Even Evil Has Standards: He may be a bloodthirsty kingpin with no compunctions about killing people who threaten his profits, but even so he's appalled by Stringer's decision to order a hit on Omar while the latter is escorting his elderly grandmother to church on Sunday morning.
Et Tu, Brute?: Betrays and is betrayed by Stringer Bell, for the sake of the business.
Genius Bruiser: A former golden gloves boxer who is wise and reflective. Sanguine as he is, he knows his trade better than Stringer.
Genre Savvy: He is related to legendary criminal Butch Stamford and his family taught him well the ways of the game. Avon knows the likes of Stanfield can't be negotiated with.
There's always gonna be a Marlo man, no Marlo, no game.
Kingpin in His Gym: In one scene in the first season, he and Stringer are seen playing basketball in a gym.
The thing is, you only got to fuck up once. Be a little slow, be a little late, just once...
Might As Well Not Be In Prison At All: He's sent away to prison in season 2, but manages to maintain control of his business, take over the supply of drugs flowing into the prison, and spend his free time playing video games and eating KFC.
Sympathetic P.O.V.: Despite him being a criminal, the show itself tries to portrays him in a humanizing way. But then again, we are stretching the term "sympathetic", since the characters themselves were flawed and complex.
Nigga, is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy?
Second in command to Avon Barksdale. Seeing himself as analytical and precise, he takes economics and business classes in hope of legitimizing the Barksdale Organization through real estate, a stance that eventually alienates him from Avon. He is not arrested when Avon and D'Angelo get hauled off at the end of Season 1, and becomes effective head of the organization. Immediately, he must deal with encroachment from Proposition Joe's crew, and becomes suspicious of D'Angelo and has him assassinated. When his redevelopment plans take longer than expected, he bribes state senator Clay Davis to get the proper permits, but is rainmade by him instead. Soon afterwards, he is assassinated by Omar Little and Brother Mouzone.
Ambition Is Evil: Inverted, as his ambition to rise above the gangster life implies a pragmatic approach to crime and a reduction of violence.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: He plans to apply his shrewd knowledge of economics to become "the bank", winning the game through real estate, legitimate business and untraceable laundered money, shifting away from the risky street trafficking.
Hidden Depths: When McNulty and Bunk look in his apartment after his death and find it immaculate and very tastefully decorated (complete with a copy of Adam Smith's On the Wealth of Nations, McNulty remarks that he had no idea who he was chasing all this time.
Idiot Ball: His usual shrewdness leaves the building when he tips his hand to Brother Mouzone by asking, in a surprised tone, about the existence of more than one assailant
Internal Reformist: Founder of the "New Day Co-op". Sets the focus on quality product as opposed to controlling territory since turf wars draw police attention.
Nigga you ain't got the floor, chair don't recognize your ass [...] Adjourn your asses
Surrounded by Idiots: Through most of season 3 you can tell this is going through his head as he tries to use his business smarts to reform the Barksdale gang. Comically agravatted by his use of advanced economics terms with barely literate underlings whose intelligence is like a 40 degree day.
Villainous Breakdown: Basically almost all of his scenes in "Middle Ground", leading up to his death.
Wrong Genre Savvy: He ends up treating the game like a gentlemen's or clinical world where market rules ultimately dictate everything, but the reality is more complex than what it's taught in college.
Played by: Larry Gilliard Jr.
It ain't like that. See, the king stay the king, a'ight? Everything stay who he is. Except for the pawns. Now, if the pawn make it all the way down to the other dude's side, he get to be queen. And like I said, the queen ain't no bitch. She got all the moves.
Lieutenant in the Barksdale Organization, and nephew of Avon. He is acquitted for murder in the premiere episode, by means of witness tampering. In charge of the low rise projects, and the dealers Poot, Bodie, and Wallace, he becomes increasingly disillusioned with the drug game. When Wallace wants to leave the game, he is supportive, which places him under the suspicion of Stringer Bell. The news of Wallace's murder turns him against the organization, and he begins the process of becoming a witness against the Barksdale organization, but is convinced by his mother to keep quiet and serve the years for the sake of his family.In prison, D'Angelo is distances himself from his family and seems to want little more than to be left alone so he can do his time in peace. Avon tries to insert himself into D'Angelo's life, offering to make him a part of the scheme which results in Avon's early release, but D'Angelo doesn't bite, not wanting to be party to the harm his family does, nor wishing to be beholden to them. Meanwhile, Stringer still fears that D'Angelo may turn on the organization, and has an additional motive for wanting D'Angelo out of the picture in the form of his romance with D'Angelo's girlfriend, Donette. Stringer arranges to have D'Angelo murdered (without Avon's knowledge), which is made to look like a suicide.
Anti-Villain: On the darker side of a type IV, but still a type IV.
Chess Motifs: In a memorable early scene he explains the game to Bodie and Wallace; this scene receives a Call Back much later in the series when Bodie realizes that street-level dealers like him are nothing more than pawns in the drug game and are expendable to the higher-ups.
Decoy Protagonist: Seems like the main character during the street settings. Then he surprisingly gets killed off in prison.
Deuteragonist: In season 1 the workings of the Barksdale gang are seen mostly through his eyes.
Fish out of Water: Shown as an unrefined patron during a dinner with his baby mama in a fancy restaurant. In a broader sense he's out of his element in the criminal world, despite being born into it. The cops/attorneys exploit this when he's under custody.
Lying to the Perp: In the 2nd episode Bunk and McNulty trick him into writing a letter of apology to the non-existent family of a Barksdale clan murder victim; this later causes him to refuse to believe it initially when he's told that Wallace has been murdered.
Nepotism: his rank in the Organization is only due to him being Avon's nephew.
The Reveal: Early on D'Angelo claims to have been the killer in the murder of a former girlfriend of Avon's who had agreed to cooperate with the police; it is revealed that while D'Angelo did take part in the murder by providing a distraction, it was Wee-Bey who actually pulled the trigger.
Sympathetic Adulterer: Cheats on his girlfriend Donette with Shardene in season 1, but Donette being revealed to be a rather unpleasant person who in turn cheats on him with Stringer while D'Angelo is in prison in season 2 it is portrayed sympathetically.
Sympathetic Criminal: Most of the criminals on the show receive at least some sympathy, but D'Angelo in particular stands out.
Villainous BSOD: Wallace's death, which shakes his belief in the whole system of "family" that he's been taught to rely on. In the following season, his general apathy and the fact that he's actively avoiding associating with Avon makes it that much easier to pass off his murder as a suicide.
White Sheep: Played with. While he's not exactly an angel, D'Angelo does not share the ruthless, cold-blooded nature of his uncle and his mother, which causes friction among them since the family business often requires cold-blooded ruthlessness.
Played by: Michael Hyatt
To do with what?
He came to the edge, but he turned around and walked away.
Avon's sister, and a quiet partner in the family's drug operation. She is the mother of D'Angelo and attempts to protect and promote his interests within the organization though ultimately she fails to save him when Stringer begins to doubt his loyalty. Later, after Avon is sent to prison and Stringer killed, she takes over as the leader of the organization.
Calling the Old Man Out: Subverted, after a persistent interrogation she realizes the truth about D'Angelo and seems to be about to explode on Avon, but she quietly understands the situation and just weeps.
Evil Matriarch: Fulfills the "matriarch" part better than De'Londa, though she's arguably not as evil.
Mama Bear: Say what you will about her, she does care about her son.
Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice
Played by: Hassan Johnson
Look at me up in here. Who the fuck would wanna be that if they can be anything else, De'Londa?
The Barksdale Organization's most trusted soldier. We see him assassinate a state's witness and murder Omar Little's boyfriend Brandon, as well as several untrustworthy members of the organization, and let a stripper die from an overdose. He is caught, sentenced to life in prison, and takes the fall for many of the organization's murders. While on the inside, he remains a trusted friend and confidant to Avon. He does not wish his son, Namond, to go the same route, and lets Howard Colvin adopt him in Season 4.
Affably Evil: Wee-Bey is very friendly and quite personable. But he's STILL a ruthless killer and the best soldier the Barksdale Organization ever had.
We like them bald-headed bitches on the chessboard.
Drug dealer in the low rises. Bodie fully buys into the mystique and glamor of gangsta lifestyle, believing that as a loyal, competent, ambitious soldier, he can eventually rise up through the ranks of his world and become a kingpin like Stringer and Avon. He does indeed catch Stringer's eye and is promoted to a mid-level position, but is also meets with a fair amount of rebuke due to his gangster mentality and his propensity to deal with problems through violence — qualities that Stringer sees little value in. Once the Barksdale organization disbands, he struggles as an independent dealer, and manages to build up a quiet corner into a decent piece of real estate (at least, if you're a drug dealer) but is muscled off the corner by the Stanfield crew, and is ultimately forced to become a part of that organization. Ultimately, Bodie is disillusioned by the casual, often excessive violence perpetrated by the Stanfield gang and looks to turn informant when one of his friends is murdered by the organization. However, he is spotted with McNulty, and is killed, though he goes out fighting on his corner.
Book Dumb: He's not very literate and his vocabulary is poor, but he's one of smartest pushers and has a deep insight of the game.
Dumbass Has a Point: Much to Rhonda's surprise, he successfully alleges "contrapment" in the aftermath of Hamsterdam. McNulty is amused by it and later hails him as "Mr. Entrapment".
Even Evil Has Standards: He's an unrepentant drug dealer willing to kill as part of his job, but even so he's disgusted by Marlo's callousness and brutality. When he sees the bodies of Marlo's victims being pulled out of the vacant houses, he just loses it.
"FUCK Marlo, man, FUCK him! And anybody that thinks it's alright to do people this way!"
A drug dealer in the low rises who is obsessed with women — an obsession that results in many trips down to the clinic for treatments for various venereal diseases. He serves Bodie well when the latter is promoted, and stays loyal to him even after the disintegration of the Barksdale organization, up until the attack on their corner, when he flees for his life. We see him in the fifth season, having left the game, working in a shoe store.
Drug dealer in the low rises. He takes care of the younger members of the drug crew he's not dealing. Leads Stringer Bell to Brandon, but feels guilty afterwards and starts snorting heroin. He is arrested and agrees to inform; he is sent to his grandmother's for protection, but returns to Baltimore and is slain by Bodie and Poot.
Free-Range Children: He takes care of several younger children who live in the Towers with him. This makes his death even more heartbreaking.
Idiot Ball: It's really pretty stupid of him to return to the Towers after talking to the police about Brandon's murder, but it's justified given that he's very naive about the true nature of "the game".
My God, What Have I Done?: When he informs Stringer Bell about Brandon's location he wasn't aware that he'd be tortured to death. He feels so guilty about it that he must resort to taking drugs in order to cope.
Too Dumb to Live: Had a chance to get out of the streets and live a normal life with his Grandparents in another state after talking to the police. However, he goes back to the "corners" because he missed his two friends. They end up killing him.
Wide-Eyed Idealist: He has a very naive view of both friendship and the nature of the drug trade. He pays for it.
Played by: Anwan Glover
If it's a lie, then we fight on that lie.
Soldier for the Barksdale Organization who rose through the ranks when the group was disintegrating. A friend of Cutty, and respectful of his decision to leave the game. He manages to evade capture when the rest of the Barksdale Organization is raided at the end of Season 3, and goes on to join the New Day Co-Op, becoming a trusted member. When Marlo Stanfield takes over the Co-Op, he is a dissenting voice, eventually murdering Cheese and becoming effective head of the Co-Op at the end of the series.
Genius Bruiser: Downplayed but clearly more intelligent than the average muscle and sometimes on par with the smartest druglords; he finds valid holes in Stringer's market strategy, points out killing a Senator is a whole new game and inmediately recognizes "Marlo's up to some shit" and warns Prop Joe about it.
Honor Among Thieves: His outrage is more than palpable when he confronts two of his subordinates for violating the traditional Sunday Truce when they try to kill Omar. Later on when Omar ambushes him, Slim mentions he would have helped Omar if Prop. Joe were involved in Butchie's fate. Omar implicitly acknowledges and spares him.
Honor Before Reason: Killing Cheese can be argued to be this, especially since it cost the Co-op the $900,000 he was going to pitch in.
Mook Promotion: In line with the chess analogy of the show, he is the rare pawn who eventually becomes a queen.
Don't matter who did what to who at this point. Fact is, we went to war, and now there ain't no going back. I mean, shit, it's what war is, you know? Once you in it, you in it. If it's a lie, then we fight on that lie. But we gotta fight.
Number Two: First to Avon and Stringer, then to Prop Joe.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: Shoots Cheese right in the middle of a speech and takes control of the Co-op.
Murder ain't no thing, but this here is some assassination shit.
Dennis "Cutty" Wise
Played by: Chad Coleman
The game done changed
The game ain't in me no more. None of it.
Soldier who has come to the end of his prison sentence. He is enlisted in the Barksdale Organization, but doesn't have it in him any more, and leaves. With funding from Avon, he opens up a boxing gym to keep youth away from drug dealing. He cannot keep Michael Lee from the streets, and takes a bullet to the leg trying, but keeps doing what he can for others.
Demoted to Extra: He's a fairly major character in the third and fourth seasons but his role in the final season is reduced to one short scene in which he gives Dukie some advice.
Slim Charles : Game's the same - just got more fierce.
Handsome Lech/Chick Magnet: For a while. Eventually he grows into more of a Chivalrous Pervert because his dalliances (usually with their single mothers) are hurting his reputation with the boys he teaches; after being called out on it by Michael, he soon settles down with a real girlfriend.
This has more to do with Michael than with Cutty. It's very strongly implied he was molested by his stepfather, and since Cutty serves as a father figure to him, he doesn't know what else to think about his kindness.
Pragmatic Villainy: Objects to Shamrock beating a guy to death... because then he won't be able to pay them the money he owes.
Reformed, But Rejected: Subverted. Initially it looks like his efforts to go straight will be thwarted by bureaucracy and lack of means, but with the aid of the Deacon and Avon he manages to start up a successful boxing gym.
You Can't Go Home Again: A large part of his story arc after being released from prison is about this. He's ambivalent about going back into the Game, but can't find much outside of it. His old friends and girlfriend have all moved on, are dead, or destroyed their lives. When he goes back to the Game, he finds he doesn't fit in there, as there's no longer even a semblance of good faith in transactions, and the ranks are staffed either with guy like Bodie (who Cutty can literally remember in diapers) or incompetents. Even when he decides to leave the Game for good, his old girlfriend makes it clear that while she wishes him the best, she's not interested in him anymore. He literally has to start a new life from square one.
Would Hit a Girl: If that's the only way to get her to talk about her dealer boyfriend who's stealing money from the Barksdales.
Don't get it twisted, I do some dirt, too, but I ain't never put my gun on nobody who wasn't in the game.
Robber who targets drug dealers. Omar is successful in this dangerous trade because he not only has the fearlessness that the job requires, but is also a meticulous planner, an effective leader, and is willing to devote long hours of surveillance work that even many cops would balk at, and by cultivating a reputation that discourages most of his victims from even thinking about putting up a fight.He starts a war with the Barksdale Organization when his boyfriend, Brandon, is tortured and killed. Occasionally he is manipulated into taking up jobs that serve the interests of Proposition Joe, but Omar eventually earns a payday at Joe's expense. Even still, Joe is willing to let sleeping dogs lie (and even buys some of his stolen product back from Omar at a discount price) out of respect for Omar's lethality. While Omar adheres to a strict code (he refuses to ever pull his gun on a "civilian" — someone not involved in the drug trade), unlike most criminals, he is willing to act as an informant for the police if it serves his interests (such as getting revenge on the drug crew that savagely murdered his boyfriend). His luck finally runs out in Season 5; after his contact, Butchie, is killed, he wars with the Stanfield Organization and is murdered by Kenard.Omar's exploits never fail to entertain.
Affably Evil: He's as friendly and polite as a thief and murderer can be.
Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain: Straddles the line. Ultimately, it's left up to the viewer to decide if he's a case of Good Is Not Nice and is a modern day Robin Hood, or just a thug with a few more standards than most.
Breakout Character: Initially slated to appear in only seven episodes before being killed off, Omar proved so popular with fans and critics alike that the writers changed his arc to make him a major character throughout the show's run.
Although David Simon denies that there was ever any plan to kill him off in season 1
The Dreaded: Hearing his whistling makes dealers run in fear.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Done deliberately. He's such an epic Bad Ass that other hardened criminals are terrified of him, so of course he'll go down in a blaze of glory, right? Wrong. Shot from behind by an eleven year old while trying to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Just Like Robin Hood: Partially, he robs for himself but shows generosity to those around him, including random junkies and their kids. His friendly-neighbourhood policy also works against any bounty put on his head.
Not So Different: His Shut Up, Hannibal! to Levy. They are both players of the game, they just use different tools. He also shares an alma mater with Bunk and approves of the detective's "a man must have a code" line.
Revenge Before Reason: Comes out of retirement to avenge Butchie, which gets him killed in a random incident unrelated to Marlo.
Sir Swears-a-Lot: Inverted. On a show where almost everyone drops f-bombs at the slightest provocation, he's the only one who refuses to swear and complains when others do. If anything, this only enhances his "force of nature in a duster" status.
Would Not Shoot a Civilian: His personal code forbids him from targeting anyone who is not in the game (also referred as a civilian or taxpayer).
Played by: Michael Kevin Darnall
I'm the king of this shit.
Omar's boyfriend and fellow thief. Drives the white van that their crew use for recon in season one. After the crew robs a Barksdale stash house, he is spotted by Wallace and captured, tortured and killed by Stringer Bell's crew, but he does not give Omar up.
Forgotten Fallen Friend: Notably averted. Omar is still actively thinking about him, mourning him and trying to get his revenge for his torture and demise until at least the end of season 3.
Idiot Ball: First, he uses Omar's name in front of people he's robbing. Then, he goes out to play pinball alone despite there being a bounty on his head, and one of his crewmates having just been killed.
A bar owner and quiet drug dealer who serves as a bank and go-between for Omar Little. Legally blind. He is tortured and killed by Chris Partlow and Snoop in Season 5, to draw Omar out of hiding. It works.
Retired Badass: Proposition Joe reveals that he was once a feared enforcer who got (mostly) out of the drug game after losing his sight due to a gunshot wound.
Undying Loyalty: Refuses to give any information about Omar under torture. (Torture that includes being shot multiple times.) Chris eventually gives up getting the information and kills Butchie, since Butchie's death will be sure to lure Omar back to Baltimore.
Played by: Ernest Waddell
Just you and me, then. Like we was.
Omar's new boyfriend, whom he meets sometime in the year after Brandon's murder. He joins his stick-up operation, but is shown to have a problem with jealousy, and there is a noticeable rift between him and Omar's other associates, which worsens when he accidentally shoots Tosha during a failed raid. Kidnapped and beaten in season three, he sells Omar out to Brother Mouzone (unlike Brandon, who endured much more without caving). It is heavily implied that this is why he and Omar part ways, as he is not seen again after this.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Vanishes between seasons three and four without explanation. It is probable that Omar dropped him after he sold him out to Mouzone, but this is never made explicit.
Club Kid/The Twink: seems like a rather manipulative form of The Twink at first, but after he and Omar split, he's seen drinking a Cosmopolitan in one of the most extravagant gay bars in town.
I'm in it for the money. There's easier out there than that.
The other two members of Omar's crew, whom he picks up in season two. There is a substantial rift between these two and Dante, as Dante is openly jealous of their relationship with Omar; made worse when Dante accidentally shoots Tosha during a failed raid. Kimmy blames Omar for putting them in the situation in the first place, eventually leaving the crew because his obsession with the Barksdale gang has become too risky. Kimmy apparently later forgives Omar — or at least, tolerates him well enough to participate in the theft of Prop Joe's heroin resupply at the end of season 4.
Omar's boyfriend after Dante. The first major Hispanic character on the show, he seems fairly new to the stick-up game, as he is unused to the amount of time Omar spends in reconnaissance. His being an unknown to the drug dealers means he can go places Omar can't in order to pick up information. He owns a taxi, which the two use for surveillance.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Renaldo fills a very similar story role to his predecessor Dante (and though it is implied, the reason for this replacement is never explicitly stated), despite having a rather different personality.
"Proposition" Joe Stewart
Played by: Robert F. Chew
Got a proposition for ya.
East-side drug kingpin. Has a mellow temperament. Dislikes common squabbling and turf wars (and the ensuing police attention), preferring instead to arrange alliances and cut deals between rival gangs. His group is the first to fill the vacuum left by the disruption of the Barksdale Organization in Season 2, chipping away at their territory and influence. An alliance between the two groups, the New Day Co-Op, is eventually formed. He keeps Stringer Bell powerless and under his control, but he can't contain the ascendant Marlo Stanfield, nor his mercenary-in-all-but-name, Omar Little. He is murdered by Chris Partlow as he is packing his bags to flee Baltimore.
Batman Gambit: To try and persuade Marlo of the security benefits of the Co-Op, he gets Omar to rob the poker game Marlo attends to show Marlo how he needs the extra security. This backfires by setting in motion a chain of events leading to Joe's downfall and death.
Brief Accent Imitation: He uses three different accents during the course of one phone call to the BPD while trying to gather information on Herc.
Nepotism: He suffers from it, Cheese being the worst example. His organization is not depicted in much detail but it is suggested he suffers from being Surrounded by Idiots.
I got motherfucking nephews and in-laws fucking all my shit up all the time, and it ain't like I can pop a cap in their ass and not hear about it Thanksgiving day. For real, I'm livin' life with some burdensome niggas.
Pragmatic Villainy: He prefers to avoid violence and confrontation when he can, as it's bad for business. Unfortunately for him, he's not able to convert his protege Marlo Stanfield to this viewpoint.
The Svengali: For Marlo Stanfield, with unexpected results for Joe... "It ain't easy, civilizin' this motherfucker."
Calvin "Cheese" Wagstaff
Played by: Method Man
There ain't no back in the day, nigga. Ain't no nostalgia to this shit here. There's just the street, and the game, and what happen here, today.
Co-op lieutenant. Has gotten to where he is by virtue of being Proposition Joe's nephew, though Cheese's mercenary nature overrides any blood loyalty he might have to Joe. He defects to Stanfield's crew after selling out both Omar Little and Proposition Joe, and is later murdered by Slim Charles.Word Of God is that he is Randy Wagstaff's biological father, though the two never come in contact with each other.
Officer for the Port Authority and single mother of two. She discovers thirteen dead women in a shipping container, kicking off the events of Season 2. While at first she treats the job as little more than a paycheck, as the investigation progresses she develops a knack for policework and becomes invested in the case. She reappears late in season 3, when she and McNulty begin a romance, though his behavior in season 5 tests Beadie's patience.
Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: She initially views working as a port cop as a good gig because the pay is decent and it doesn't involve much actual policework, though she proves pretty good at the latter when major criminal activity does start happening at the port.
Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She gets together with McNulty after he stops drinking and gets his act together, but their relationship is strained when he falls off the wagon in season 5.
Took a Level in Badass: When she's introduced at the beginning of season 2, she doesn't take her job very seriously. By the end of the season she's developed into "real police".
Played by: Chris Bauer
You know what the trouble is, Brucey? We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket.
Treasurer for the stevedore's union in Baltimore. Needing to keep his workers paid in the face of declining port traffic and the juggernaut of gentrification, he arranges to lobby and bribe local politicians in exchange for projects to keep the docks alive. He gets the money by an arrangement with The Greek, who uses the port for smuggling. He runs afoul of Major Valchek, who starts investigating into his finances. Things start unraveling when thirteen dead prostitutes are found in a shipping container, and he has to deal with both the police and The Greek. When his son, Ziggy, murders the Greek's fence, and the plans for expanding the docks collapse, he agrees to inform on The Greek to the police. The Greek gets word of this, and has him killed.
Ambition Is Evil: One prominent unionist insists they should settle for the more modest goal of the grain pier, but Sobotka aims higher with the dredging of the canal (not for personal gains but for the well-being of the workers). This implies a closer criminal collaboration with The Greek.
Job Stealing Robot: He is horrified by the upcoming trend of mechanical automatization rendering stevedore manual labor obsolete.
Parental Neglect: consistently shows little affection or consideration towards his (admittedly irritating) son Ziggy.
Sibling Yin-Yang: He's crooked and active while his brother Louis is straight and retired.
Slave to PR: His well-paid political backers run for cover as soon as Frank's shady deals get exposed.
Suspicious Spending: While he repeatedly warns Ziggy and Nick about this and seems to generally avoid it (until you look closely at it, his union seems to have constant financial issues, he generally pays his personal bills late, etc.) he initially attracts Valchek's suspicion by making an extravagant donation for a church window which he shouldn't be able to afford.
Ziggy: You were always too busy dredging up the canal, making sure the right bum got elected, buying another round for the house. I always used to think you were working, all them hours you spent away.
Frank: It was all work, Zig. Even when it wasn't.
Working Class Hero: He has a discussion with his fancy lobbyist about this, but the lobbyist points out his once humble family just climbed the social ladder. Sobotka also delivers a poignant analysis on America's industrial decay.
We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket.
Played by: Pablo Schreiber
I don't know how to tell you this without hurting you deeply, but first of all, you happen to be white.
Nephew of Frank Sobotka and cousin of Ziggy. He acts as a go-between for his uncle towards Vondas, often bringing Ziggy along. Seeking a steady income so he can support his girlfriend, he makes an arrangement with The Greek to obtain chemicals used for drug processing. He is paid in heroin, which he sells to local dealers in lieu of Ziggy. The police catch on and send out a warrant for his arrest, and he turns himself in after Frank's murder. In exchange for identifying The Greek, he is sent into the witness protection program.He is seen briefly in Season 5, jeering the opening of the Granary condominiums.
Foil: to D'Angelo Barksdale. Both come into life of crime thanks to their uncles, both try to break away from it, both are young fathers. The differences in class and race form the contrast between them.
Trauma Conga Line: Finds out his cousin has killed a guy and turned himself in. Goes drinking with cousin's old girlfriend. Wakes up in bed with her. Does the walk of shame to his own place and finds out the cops raided it and are running him up on drug charges, to his family's surprise. Oh, and his uncle's murdered the next day.
Unable to Support a Wife: his desire to afford a place for himself and his girlfriend/baby mama Aimee is one of the reasons he becomes entrenched in a life of crime.
Let me show you old gents some bulk cargo that none of you could ever handle. Who says they don't make 'em like they used to?
Son of Frank Sobotka. He is stupid and impulsive, failing at both legitimate work in the docks, as well as drug dealing. He convinces his cousin Nick to make a deal with The Greek to sell drugs. Nick's success where he failed sends him into a depression, which drives him to kill one of The Greeks' frontmen when a deal goes sour. He is apprehended and sent to prison. Both the police and the Greek try to use Ziggy's situation to apply leverage to Frank and Nick.
Boisterous Weakling: Talks quite a lot about taking down Cheese, Maui, and anyone else he thinks has wronged him, but generally gets punked whenever he actually tries anything.
Head of a smuggling operation running out of the Port of Baltimore, specializing in drugs, prostitues, and stolen goods. Tends to hide in plain sight, sitting at the bar while his Number Two ostensibly takes care of business. He is the main supplier for Proposition Joe, and later, Marlo Stanfield. The port investigation almost manages to arrest him, but a tip from an agent within the Department of Homeland Security (which the Greek is an informant for) gives him the time needed to shut down operations and flee the country, along with Vondas. No relationship, as far as we know, to "The Greek's", the restaurant in season one, where Brandon Wright played pinball.The police just know him as "The Greek", and he's not even Greek.
Devil in Plain Sight: Everyone who meets with Spiros wonders who his mysterious boss is, with relatively few people ever figuring out that he's the quiet elderly gentleman who sits at the counter drinking coffee while Spiros does the talking.
Fake Nationality: He's not actually Greek, but he's clearly foreign; the actor who plays him, Bill Raymond, is American.
Karma Houdini: Thanks to a tip from his FBI connection, he and his Number Two manage to flee just before the police arrive to arrest them, and while the remaining members of his organization are arrested or killed and his smuggling, drug-running, and prostitution activities are shut down temporarily, he's able to resume business as usual in season 5.
Know When to Fold 'Em: He makes a pragmatic exit as soon as he learns he is under scrutiny, forsaking a valuable last container.
Nothing Personal: One of the connotations of his philosophy "Business, always business".
Outside Context Villain: The Greek's empire is a serious international crime syndicate very different from the petty kingdoms of the local drug gangs. Even the most competent police officers have to learn how this new threat operates.
The Greek's soft-spoken right hand man who oversees his operations in Baltimore, which most notably includes acting as the wholesaler who supplies Prop Joe with drugs. He takes a liking to Nick Sobotka, facilitating the young man's descent into a life of crime.
Pragmatic Villainy: He prefers to avoid violence if he can, not out of moral conviction but because it tends to make a mess and draw attention from the police. When it becomes necessary, he is perfectly willing to cut a throat or two, as Frank Sobotka learns.
Played by: Chris Ashworth
Did he have hands? Did he have a face? Yes? Then it wasn't us.
A Ukrainian (not Russian) who serves as a driver and enforcer for the Greek's organization. He's first seen waiting in a truck for the shipping container in which the dead girls are later found, and after committing several brutal crimes becomes a primary target of the police's investigation as season two goes on. When the combined police/FBI operation moves on the Greek's operation, he is arrested. He later agrees to inform on the Greek, but by this time his former boss has already escaped. In season 5, he makes a brief reappearance in prison, in which he facilitates a connection between the Stanfield gang and the Greek's organization.
Twenty percent was last week. Today the quote is ten.
The Greek's fence, also in charge of smuggling stolen goods. His retail shop and warehouses are the front, storage facility, and transit line for stolen goods. He works with Nick and Ziggy Sobotka on several deals but rips Ziggy off on the last one. After an altercation where he beats and verbally abuses Ziggy, Ziggy comes back with a gun and kills him, causing a major breakdown in the relationship between the Greek's organization and the Sobotkas.
The Evil Genius: He's the man with the plan in the Greek's organization for moving stolen goods, smuggling, etc.
For Want of a Nail: The docks investigation might have ended completely differently if he hadn't felt the need to rip Ziggy off and get into a fight about it.
Moving the Goalposts: Which gets him killed when Ziggy doesn't like it and it turns into a physical confrontation.
Let me be emphatic: You need to take your black ass across Charles Street where it belongs.
Gunman hired by Avon Barksdale to intimidate rival dealers working for Proposition Joe. Set up by Stringer Bell to preserve his alliance with Prop Joe, he is attacked by Omar Little, who believes him to be the one who tortured Brandon. After proving his innocence, he leaves for New York and returns in the next season to find Omar, and they team up to take down Stringer Bell.While not stated outright, his manner and dress suggests that he is a member of the Nation Of Islam.
Affably Evil: Very much, saying "Good day to you sir" after kicking Mister Cheese's ass is a must.
Put on a Bus: He disappears after helping Omar murder Stringer and is never seen again; presumably he returns to New York.
Shrouded in Myth: Has a reputation that makes even drug kingpins fearful of crossing him. When Cheese demands they try to kill him, Prop Joe launches into a tale of a whole group of hardened heavy hitters that failed to kill him.
Up-and-coming west-side drug kingpin, head of the eponymous Stanfield Organization. He starts out small-time, operating in the vacuum left by the Barksdale Organization, and fights his way to supplant them and merge with Proposition Joe's New Day Co-Op. He works to eliminate his enemies and anyone who would betray him. A repeated theme in Marlo's characterization is his demand for respect, which trumps all other concerns. He frequently kills those who show him disrespect, or undermine his name on the streets however unwittingly. Marlo's obsession with respect ultimately proves to be his downfall.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: Viewed by many as a glorified punk wannabe. He quickly identifies Stringer's peaceful strategy as a sign of weakness and proves his detractors very wrong. Meanwhile, the cops almost universally view him as a two-bit nuisance, until the bodies start showing up.
Pet the Dog: Keeps a roof coop for pigeons. Even hires a guy to take care of them.
Soldier under Marlo Stanfield. Under orders, murders many, many people. Tutors Michael Lee in the ways of the game, and is the one who slays his abusive stepfather. He is eventually sentenced to life without parole, and quickly makes friends with Wee-Bey Brice in prison.
Affably Evil: Chris isn't particularly outgoing or charming, but he's always quite polite and pleasant when he isn't murdering people in abandoned buildings. Ironically for someone who's killed as much as he has, Chris is probably the most reluctant to commit violence of the higher-ups in Marlo's crew, and takes little pleasure in his work. When Marlo decides to have Bodie and later Michael killed, Chris is the only one to speak against it, albeit only briefly.
We will be brief with all you motherfuckers. I think you know.
Soldier under Marlo Stanfield. She devises a plan along with Chris Partlow to have people killed inside vacant houses, pour quicklime on their bodies, and seal them back up. When Marlo suspects Michael may be an informant, she is dispatched to assassinate him. Instead, Michael kills her.
How do you get from here to the rest of the world?
Eighth-grade student. Living in dire poverty, he is bullied by everyone, including his friends Randy, Namond, and Michael. The clothes he is given by the school get stolen by his parents to feed their drug addictions. He is the one who shows Randy and Michael the bodies in the vacants.He comes to depend on his teacher. Mr. Pryzbylewski. He is compelled to graduate, even though he is not ready, so he drops out and starts dealing alongside Michael. When this falls through, he tries to find work, only to end up with a junkie scrap metal thief. We last see him asking Pryzbylewski for money, and then shooting up in the final montage, with heavy implications that he's set down the road that Bubbles is escaping.
A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: His relation with Mr. Prez, his kind mentor, gets terminated when the teacher realizes all too well that Duquan has been deceiving and swindling him for money. A genuine tear jerker both in and out-universe.
History Repeats: A likeable guy victimized by others on the street who winds up a junkie and working by selling aluminum scraps? Sure does sound like Bubbles.
Wise Beyond Their Years: Due to a hard life. While Namond, Randy and others come up with elaborate stories of how Chris Partlow is a voodoo master who bewitches people and controls them, Dukie knows the cold truth.
Eighth-grade student. Friend to Namond, Michael, and Dukie. He becomes known to the Stanfield organization when he sells them pigeons, and he is used to lure a disobedient dealer to his death. This, combined with the revelation by Dukie that the slain are sealed in abandoned rowhouses, eventually lead to him talking to the police. Rumors spread of his being a snitch, which causes him to be ostracized by his peers and makes him a target. Carver gives him police protection, which isn't enough to stop his house from being firebombed, hospitalizing his foster mother for the foreseeable future. Carver fights to find him another foster parent, even offering to adopt him himself, but nothing can be done to keep him from a group home. As we see in Season 5, the bullying and abuse break him until he is just another thug.
History Repeats: A kid who loses his mother figure early in life, whose talents go mostly overlooked and unappreciated, is repeatedly screwed over by the system, and winds up adopting a thug attitude. Sounds like Bodie, although we don't see if he ends up the same way.
I love the first day, everyone all friendly and shit.
Eighth-grade student. Friends with Randy, Michael, and Dukie. The money given by the Barksdale Organization as a reward for Wee-Bey taking the fall means he is (relatively) well off. He starts out as a drug runner. When placed in Bunny Colvin's experimental classroom, he is the most disruptive student, but is recognized to be smarter than he looks. When his family forces him into dealing, it is understood by all that the game will take his life. He is given permission by Wee-Bey to be adopted by Colvin, and becomes an excellent student.
Abusive Parents: His mother forces him to play the mortal game to maintain her lifestyle.
Demoted to Extra: Is a central character in season 4 but only appears briefly in one episode of season 5.
Freudian Excuse: The only kid able to escape the doomed background of a troubled childhood, a dysfunctional family -at best- and the notion that crime is the only way to earn a living. Sadly, it only happens thanks to a remarkable, extremely unusual or non repeateable White Knight named Howard Colvin.
Heel Face Turn: When we see him in season 5 Namond has turned his life around and become a good student, winning an urban debate championship.
Hidden Depths: Colvin notices an intellectual potential below his obnoxiousnesses and weakness.
History Repeats: He comes from a family noted for their connection with the drug trade and it's assumed that he will take up that mantle as well despite having no heart for the game. Sounds like D'Angelo, but he gets a rare happy ending because Wee-Bey realizes the drug trade isn't right for him and allows Namond to be adopted by Colvin instead.
Jerkass Façade: He acts tough due to feeling pressured to live up to the reputation of his father Wee-Bey.
The Scrappy: Arguably he is this In-Universe. He's kind of The Load of the Barksdale organization; he's not a very good dealer, but Wee-Bey's influence is still strong enough to see him taken care of by Bodie, and his friends put up with him partly (if not entirely) because he seems well off in comparison.
Played by: Tristan Wilds
Yo look, I'm not tryin' stand around and let some chump ass niggas think I'm shook, I aint.
Eighth-grade student. Friends with Dukie, Randy, and Namond. An introvert, he lives with his junkie mother and abusive stepfather. It is strongly implied that he was sexually abused when younger. Starts boxing in Cutty's gym, but feels put off and starts dealing. He is taken under the wings of Chris and Snoop, and is trained to be a soldier. He works to take care of his brother and Dukie. His frequent questions of the necessity of murder place him under suspicion, and Snoop is sent to assassinate him. He recognizes what's going on and kills her first. He is last seen on the run from Marlo's people, having split from Dukie and his brother permanently, and become a stick-up boy like Omar.
Badass: A middle school student who stares down Marlo Stanfield. Marlo is suitably impressed and starts looking to recruit Michael afterward.
History Repeats: Becomes a stick up man like Omar. In fact, the last thing we see him do is shoot someone in the knee during a robbery, just like we saw Omar do in Season 1.
I Just Want My Brother To Be Happy: After the Stanfield Organization turns on him, he sends his brother Bug off to their aunt along with all the money he has, (with the promise of more to come) so that Bug will be safe and away from the game.
Very young "friend" of Namond Brice. Torments Dukie every chance he gets. He joins the Stanfield Organization as a dealer in Season 5, and goes on to assassinate Omar Little. Last seen in the final montage of the series being arrested by the police, presumably for Omar's murder.
Boisterous Weakling: Talks a lot of shit and has a lot of attitude, but whenever the show sets him up for a fistfight, he either gets his ass kicked or needs someone else to step in for him. Of course, size doesn't matter if he has a gun in his hand...
Your client walks away now, or the both of you don't walk at all.
Assistant State's Attorney. She handles the cases brought in by Daniels' department. Rhonda tries to walk a fine line between bringing in quality casework and protecting/advancing her own career, and a few times gets blindsided by Lester (and his tendency to issue subpoenas against politically connected individuals, like her boss) and Jimmy (who browbeats Maurice Levy in defiance of the professional deference that Rhonda wishes to show him). She had an affair with McNulty, which is what caused his marriage to end, though by the start of the series, the romance has cooled off. Later in the series, she starts a relationship with Cedric Daniels after he and his wife separate; the romance is still ongoing as of the series finale, in which Rhonda avoids being scapegoated for Mc Nulty's plot and becomes a judge.
Where Da White Women At?: She and Daniels must initially keep their relationship a secret because it becoming known that Daniels was divorcing his wife Marla and dating a white woman instead would harm Marla's political career.
Working With The Ex: She and McNulty on an affair prior to the events of the show, which causes some awkwardness in their professional relationship.
Played by: Peter Gerety
Mr. Hilton, are you the second coming of our savior?.
The judge who presides over D'Angelo Barksdale murder case. After a witness changes her statement, leading to a non-guilty verdict, Phelan summons McNulty to enquire about it, only to discover the Barksdales are not being investigated at all. The judge takes this very seriously and makes it a priority, opening a can of worms as the police chiefs are clueless. Grudgingly, the Major Crimes detail ensues to appease him and the media.
Big Good: He kickstarts the Barksdale case (flying under the radar until then) and by extension the Major Crimes detail (the series itself). Despite he is not above political maneuvering, he is the man to go when the chain of command is locked or obstructive and takes personal offense when criminals get away.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Almost always willing to help the police and to prosecute the drug dealers, shaming the obstructive chiefs if necessary.
Slave to PR/Not so Above It All: He invokes the PR angle by leaking murder details to the media in order to put pressure on the police. In turn, his big good crusader status takes a dent when he panicks after being excluded from the electoral ticket, coming across as another self-serving bigwig to McNulty. The judge continues to be a very possitive character after his re-election, however.
Toxic Friend Influence: He's a supportive old friend of Jimmy's, but his demands for actual police work and leaks of insider information to the press practically kill McNulty's career, if it existed. The support wanes in the middle of his re-election bid, but they eventually reconcile.
Played by: Michael Kostroff
Maurice Levy:You are amoral, are you not? You are feeding off the violence and the despair of the drug trade. You are stealing from those who themselves are stealing the lifeblood from our city. You are a parasite who leeches off... Omar Little:Just like you, man. Maurice Levy:...the culture of drugs. Excuse me? What? Omar Little:I've got the shotgun, you've got the briefcase. It's all in the game though.
Drug lawyer for the Barksdale organization, and later, Marlo Stanfield. Very good at his job, getting cases scuttled and sentences reduced for his clients. Based on several real life Baltimore drug lawyers who happen to be jewish. David Simon, jew himself, remarked he was not willing to pull a punch just to avoid a stereotype.
Fool, what do you think? That we know anything about who gives money? That we give a damn about who they are or what they want? We have no way of running down them or their stories. We don't care. We just cash the damn cheques, count the votes and move on.
Maryland state senator. Corrupt doesn't begin to describe him. He takes bribes from many sources, including the Barksdale organization under Stringer Bell, and does patronage and fundraising in return, when he doesn't simply fleece them. Two simultaneous investigations, one by the Major Crimes department of the Baltimore Police, the other by the FBI, are focused on him. Neither succeeds in bringing him down.
City Councilman. He dreams of supplanting the current mayor, Royce, and cleaning up Baltimore. He gets his chance with the rise in violent crime, and when a key witness is killed due to the lack of proper witness protection. When Hamsterdam is exposed, he starts campaigning in earnest, pulling off an upset and becoming mayor. Once in office, with his advisors Norman and Steintorf, he seeks out people he can trust within city government, particularly the police force. Promising a reduction in crime, he is undermined by the revelation that financial legerdemain had been used to to hide a massive deficit in the school budget. Deciding not to seek the Maryland governor's help in bailing out the schools, he takes the money from the police force instead. He is unable to fulfill most of the promises he made to his allies and constituents, but manages to get elected governor by attacking his Republican opponent's positions on homeless and the poor, which works as a high-profile issue due to McNulty's fake serial killer.
Ambition Is Evil: Played with. When forced to choose between helping the city he was elected to save and his own political ambitions, he chooses the latter, by deciding not to take money to cover the city's budget deficit from the state because doing so will hurt his chances of being elected governor. However, the series makes the argument that it is the political system which corrupts politicians rather than the other way around.
Beleaguered Bureaucrat: For a while and also a consequence of his own ambition; he has good intentions but not the political clout or the funds to implement them.
Big Good: At first he's set up as possibly being this, but it's ultimately subverted.
Corrupt the Cutie: Starts out as something of an idealist, but is fast sucked into the dirty world of politics.
Establishing Character Moment: In the end of the third episode in which he appears Carcetti committs adultery with an unnamed woman he meets at a political event, staring at himself in the mirror as he does so. Though it seems at the time to be a throwaway scene, it actually serves to highlight Carcetti's narcissism and willingness to break promises for personal gain, both character traits which play a role in his later tenure as mayor. The scene actually receives a Call Back in season five, when Carcetti watches news coverage of himself making a grandstanding political speech with a similarly rapturous expression on his face.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: He bears some resemblances to real-life former Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley, though Simon has said the character was based on a number of Baltimore politicians, most of whom are too obscure to be recognizable to viewers.
Pet the Dog: On an epic scale during his Baltimore cleaning spree.
Next year? For some things, that's a long time to wait.
Deeply corrupt mayor of Baltimore. His administration has seen a dramatic rise in violent crime, which he seeks to patch over as best he can. Major Colvin's experiment in establishing drug-free zones causes crime to drop, and he makes the mistake of delaying action in bringing them to an end. When exposed, Carcetti campaigns against him for allowing them, and beats him in the mayoral election.
Cultural Posturing: During the Democratic primary campaign against the white Carcetti his staff prints up posters using African colors in an effort to appeal to racial solidarity.
Mayor Pain: Subverted; at first he's presented as too venal and incompetent to do anything about Baltimore's problems but Carcetti's arc reveals that it's the system rather than the person at the top of it that's most responsible for the city's plight.
Slave to PR: His reaction to Hamsterdam comes off as self-serving but somewhat redeeming, but once it is exposed on television and becomes a major PR disaster he quickly shuts it down.
President of the Baltimore City Council. When Carcetti is elected mayor, she is immediately hostile to him because she was understood to be next in line after Royce. He proves to be pliable, and she comes around to pulling strings for him, though she scuttles many of his planned projects. She is elected mayor after Carcetti.
Mayor Carcetti's chief of staff. A realist, he lets Carcetti know that many of his plans are infeasible. Later, he pressures Daniels to alter crime statistics.
The Consigliere: A less principled and more Machiavellian version of Normal Wilson.
Genre Savvy: Immediately recognizes that Rawls has political leverage, and consequently cuts a deal with him to protect the mayor.
Reginald "Bubbles" Cousins
Played by: Andre Royo
How y'all do what y'all do every day and not wanna get high?
A homeless heroin addict. He mentors Johnny Weeks from seasons 1-3, and Sherrod in season 4, teaching them the life of scheming and scrounging that's necessary to support a life on the streets. When Weeks is attacked by members of the Barksdale crew, Bubbles renews his duties a police informant, providing critical information to Greggs and McNulty. In season 4, Bubbs is repeatedly beaten and robbed by another drug addict, but as :Kima and McNulty are no longer working drugs, Bubbs must settle for snitching for the considerably less reliable Herc, who twice fails to come to Bubbles's aid. Bubbles pays Herc back for his incompetence by feeding him bad information that gets him in some trouble with his superiors, but his plan for dealing with the robber backfires, resulting in Sherrod's death. He attempts to turn himself in, and attempts suicide, but is the recipient of an uncharacteristic bit of mercy from Jay Landsman.By the fifth season, he has moved into his sister's basement, weaned himself off drugs, gotten a job selling papers, and begun attending Narcotics Anonymous. In the final montage of the series, he is finally allowed up into the house to have dinner with his family.
Blue Oni: To Johnny Weeks', and later Sherrod's, Red Oni. It keeps him alive while both of them end up dead.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Over the course of the series he endures as much hardship as any other character, and he's one of only a few "street" characters who doesn't die, go to prison, or appear to be headed for one of those two fates in the end.
Guile Hero: He manages to inform on various drug dealers for the better part of five seasons without ever being suspected of being a snitch, mostly because he's very clever in his information-gathering.
The Informant: Partially earns his living working as one for the BPD.
Tropaholics Anonymous: Bubbles drifts in and out of various recovery programs and addiction support groups until he finally sobers up for good in season 5.
Played by: Leo Fitzpatrick
A homeless addict, taken under the wing of Bubbles. A counterfeiting operation brings down the wrath of Bodie and Poot, leaving him in the hospital, where he learns he has HIV. Bubbles' informing the police produces a rift between the two, and Weeks leaves and goes to Hamsterdam. He is found dead by overdose some time later.
A young dealer who is taken in by Bubbles. Bubbles tries to get him to go back to school, but Sherrod does not, and starts using. When they are attacked by another junkie, Bubbles puts poison in a dose of heroin, in the hopes that the junkie would rob them, use, and die. Sherrod takes the dose by accident.
Karma Houdini: Arguably the worst in the series, as his unethical practices win him a Pulitzer Prize.
No Celebrities Were Harmed/Composite Character: Based on Jim Haner, David Simon's co-worker in the Sun who invented quotes and events without punishment from his editors. Templeton shares traits with other fabulists such as Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley, who are all name-checked by Haynes when he's trying to convince the editors of Templeton's guilt. His status as a Pulitzer winner who fabricated his story has shades of Janet Cooke too, although she was caught.
Protection From Editors: In-universe, his stories are too flashy and profitable to be hampered by the guardians of the truth.
Start of Darkness: Frustrated by the mounting pressure from the paper for big stories and his own incompetence, he starts fabricating and eventually hits it big by pretending to witness a kidnapping attempt by McNulty's nonexistent serial killer.
Changing of the Guard: his piece on Bubbles is topical and true-to-life, and he might well be the next Haynes.
Earn Your Happy Ending: his promotion at the end. This plot development is significant in the larger context of the series: the point of season 5 was to demonstrate that the newspapers miss the important stories of the city, but the quality and depth of Fletcher's article (and its warm reception) shows that the situation with the press isn't hopeless.