There are quite a few of these moments in the HBO show The Wire.
- 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 saying "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.
"The cheese stands alone".
- Hell, his Establishing Character Moment - he and his crew casually staking out a Barksdale stash house and noting how sloppy they are. Then, later on they rob it with precision and efficiency (Brandon accidentally giving away Omar's name notwithstanding). This is the first time we see Omar in action and he doesn't disappoint.
- Omar driving two dealers to flee in an alley where Brandon and John ambush them.
- Avon Barksdale outwitting three armed units chasing after him in vehicles, then driving past Daniels while wagging his finger at him.
- 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, engages in police brutality, 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 a 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 Bird'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.
- Wee Bey deserves a mention in Game Day. The only Wire character to ever get the best of Omar Little in a 1 to 1 gun fight. This was AFTER getting shot in the leg in the first encounter, bonus points for responding to an ambush.
- 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 cop 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 reminding 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 addressing his actual boss: "Anything else, Deputy Burrell?"
- Daniels standing tall before BurrellBurrell: 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.
- Rawls taking McNulty aside in "The Hunt" to tell him that Kima's shooting wasn't his fault. After a season of Bad Boss, Rawls finally shows why he belongs where he is.
- 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.
- 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 Rawls. Win.
- Not exactly her crowning moment of awesome, but certainly a deeply satisfying one: Kima 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's trial, as Bird is charged with the Gant killing and Omar is taking him down for his role in Brandon's death. 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.Levy: You are a parasite who leeches off the culture of drugs...
Omar: Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. It's all in the game though, right?.
- Roland Pryzbylewski punching his father-in-law (Major Valchek) in the face when he threatens to shut down the MCU 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, the part where Valchek said "Move, shitbird!", then he goes to Valchek and tells that he could probably make his 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!" Bunk warns McNulty that his perverted act will make him a BPD legend. In season 5, cops like Dozerman 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 Phelan gets one in this season during Bird's trial. Levy wants bail for Bird until sentencing, even though he has just been found guilty of killing a state witness in cold blood.Judge Phelan: An appeal bond on a conviction of first degree murder? Mr. Levy, get a grip of yourself.Maurice Levy: Your Honor-Judge Phelan: Not only will there be no bond pending sentencing, but as far as I'm concerned, the pre-sentencing report is a mere formality. Mr. Hilton has been found guilty of killing a state's witness who testified in this very courtroom. He did so in cold blood, and for pay. Unless the pre-sentence report indicates that he is, in fact, the Messiah come again, he will very likely be sentenced to life, no parole, by a Baltimore judge who, for once in his life, gets to leave his office feeling that his job actually matters. Mr. Hilton, are you the second coming of our savior?Bird: Excuse me?Judge Phelan: Are you Jesus Christ come back to earth?Bird: (confused) Um...Judge Phelan: (slams gavel) See you at sentencing.
- Brother Mouzone being a complete and utter professional, even when shooting Mr. Cheese in the shoulder as a warning. As Cheese and his gang bail, he says with a completely chipper demeanor, "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 laid down a trap for Bubbles using a scrapped radiator. Complete with a casual-as-hell one-liner.Omar: Snitchin' Bubs. You be askin' for me?
- The Greek's complete evasion of the Major Crimes Unit at the end of the season deserves a mention. He is always a step ahead of them, and escapes Baltimore on a plane just as they seem to be closing in on him and his operation. The best part? No one, not even criminal associates (outside of his own organization), know what he looks like or his real name. Magnificent Bastard, indeed.Spiros: ...and you? To them you're only The Greek.The Greek: But of course, I'm not even Greek. (laughs)
- 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 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 that Tommy Carcetti pulls on Burrell. Establishes this city councilman 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.
- Even after all of their violent interactions, Mouzone gives Omar his beloved Walther PPK in a demonstration of respect and trust. Mutual respect, to a tee.Brother Mouzone: It being your town, I trust you will do it proper.
- Made double awesome by how Omar bids Mouzone farewell, even after the latter tortured his partner and lover. Think of how he treats Brandon's torturers/murderers in S1. This time? He WINKS at Mouzone.
- Even after all of their violent interactions, Mouzone gives Omar his beloved Walther PPK in a demonstration of respect and trust. Mutual respect, to a tee.
- 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'Angelo'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."
- Pretty much anything with Major Colvin, the one honest top cop. Specially his telling Rawls "Get on with it, motherfucker" when Rawls and Burrell are forcibly retiring him, or his "paper bag" speech and his vivid defense of the humble corner as the poor's man castle.Somewhere back in the beginning of time, this district had itself a civic dilemma of epic proportions. The city council had just passed a law that forbade alcoholic consumption in public areas; on the streets and on the corners. But the corner is, it was and it always will be the poorman's lounge. It's where a man wants to be on a hot summer's night. It's cheaper than a bar. Catch a nice breeze and watch the girls go on by. But the law is the law so what are the western cops gonna do? They arrest every dude for tipping back a High Life, there'd be no time for any other kind of police work. And if they look the other way, they open themselves up to all kinds of flaunting, all kinds of disrespect. Now, this is before my time but somewhere back in the 50's or the 60's, there was a moment of goddamn genius by some nameless smokehound who comes out the Cut-Rate one day and on his way to the corner he slips that just bought pint of elderberry into a paper bag. A great moment of civic compromise. That small wrinkled ass paper bag allowed the corner boys to have their drink in peace and gave us permission to go and do police work. The kind of police work that's actually worth the effort, that's actually worth taking a bullet for. Dozerman got shot last night buying three vials. Three. There has never been a paper bag for drugs. Until now.
- 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 TheoryStringer: 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.
- Detective Sydnor serving a subpoena to Baltimore Senator Clay Davis to give up information and phone records for the past year. "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.
- Right after Donut's finished bragging that the police will never catch him for stealing that car earlier, Carver casually strolls into the kids' hangout spot, addresses them by name, and warns them to never so much as look at someone else's car again. Awesome not just for effortlessly intimidating a bunch of normally defiant hoodlums, but for showcasing Carver's growth from the Dumb Muscle he began the show as.
- 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.
- The moment he pulls out the clock is so ridiculously over-the-top note that some viewers think he brought the clock with him ''just to make that pun.''
- 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. 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.
- More of a Moment of Heartwarming, but damn if this troper didn't pump their fist when Wee-Bey allows Colvin to adopt his son Naymond as a way of sparing his son of his own fate in prison (or worse).
- Slim Charles shoots Cheese point-blank in the 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?
- Lester, finally having caught his nemesis Marlo by cracking the organization's supply code. Made all the more awesome by how Lester walks by all of the other mooks arrested next to Marlo and stands right in front of him, letting him know that he knows exactly who Marlo is and that he's been watching for awhile. The both of them simply trade cold stares, as befits both characters to a tee.
- The best part? After said stare-down, Lester waves the clock Marlo and his gang had been using as code for distribution, letting him know exactly how he caught him. "Cool Lester Smooth" strikes again.
- 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 (which, here, was not a bad thing).
- 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.
- After major fan of the show Barack Obama was elected president, he jokingly asked if there was any way for it to come back. David Simon's response? "Do something about all the problems the show talked about, and you've got a deal."
- Also, regarding Obama being a fan of the show, as President a few years later he went down to the shooting of a film called Red Tails, about an all black squad of fighter pilots in WWII. While on the set he spotted Andre Royo, who played the relatively minor role of a mechanic for the squad. Upon seeing Royo, Obama's face lit up and he immediately asked "Is that my man Bubs?" Also turned into something of a heartwarming moment, as Royo related that he never got to take his mother down the red carpet, but because of Obama's fandom, Royo did get to take her to the White House.
- The fact that Michael Kenneth Williams got the part of Omar after one audition.