Once Upon a Time, Baltimore was a thriving port-city, and served as one of the main hubs for commerce on the Eastern Seaboard. Sadly, those days are over. Amid the wreckage of old industrial America, the local stevedores union under their Treasurer, Frank Sobotka, tries to eke out a living protecting what's left of Baltimore's docks from "urban renewal", for which we can read "ending poor peoples' jobs to build condos for rich people", and fighting a rearguard action against the encroaching death of America's industrial working class. Desperate, Frank and the union turn to smuggling to try and drum up the money to lobby for a new grain pier and for their canal to be dredged. It all goes to hell in a handbasket, kicking off the events of season 2.
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.
- Action Mom: Eventually.
- Demoted to Extra: After season 2.
- Heroes Want Redheads: She's a redhead and the primary love interest for McNulty (the nominal protagonist) in Seasons 2-5.
- Love Interest: She's McNulty's main love interest throughout the series.
- Morality Pet: To Frank Sobotka, Maui, and later McNulty.
- 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. The finale heavily implies that they patch things up and get back together.
- 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."
Frank Sobotka is the Polish-American 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: Some other prominent union members insist 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 requires a closer criminal collaboration with The Greek.
- Anti-Villain: A smuggler out of necessity, and with probably one of the most Sympathetic P.O.V. in the whole story. It's easy for the corruption of his family to come off as a greater sin than his involvement in criminal activities.Help my union? For 25 years, we've been dying slow down there. Dry docks rusting, piers standing empty. My friends and their kids, like we got the cancer. No lifeline got thrown all that time. Nothing from nobody. And now you wanna help us?
- Armor-Piercing Response: He's on the wrong end of this when Nick brings him the news about Ziggy being arrested. A shocked and furious Frank begins demanding to know why Nicky wasn't there to protect Ziggy from himself, basically shouting "You're his cousin, how could you not know what was happening?" to which Nick responds "You're his father." All of Frank's defenses collapse in an instant.
- Dartboard of Hate: Has one on his wall with the face of Bob Irsay, the owner of the Colts who moved them from Baltimore to Indianapolis.
- Deal with the Devil: He's in league with The Greek to get the funds needed to lobby for the expansion of the ailing docks.
- Defiant to the End: His body is noted to show several signs that he Did Not Go Gentle, but fought vehemently against his assailants to the end.
- Fatal Flaw: Being too proud to compromise with Valchek. (Following that by telling Valchek off just makes it worse.)
- A Father to His Men: Takes good care of his workers and all of his schemes are for their benefit. Turns into a deconstruction, as it turns out he was so busy being a father to the union guys that he was never properly a dad to his own son. It also turns out that the union guys are willing to make a doomed moral gesture after his death and declare their loyalty to him despite the government warning that the union would be closed down unless they selected new leadership. The government follows through on the threat and shuts down the union.
- Honor Before Reason: He starts an Escalating War with Valchek, an influential police officer. A lot of drama could've been averted with a compromise over a stained-glass window.
- I Did What I Had to Do/Well-Intentioned Extremist: Frank does everything he can to save the docks, but essentially sells his soul to do so.
- The Informant: Decides to become one, and is killed for it.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jaded, rough, brash and gruff, but deep down a very decent man.
- Job-Stealing Robot: He is horrified by the upcoming trend of mechanical automatization rendering stevedore manual labor obsolete.
- Killed Offscreen: As he drives to meet the Greeks, the FBI mole informs them just when Frank arrives that Sobotka has a proffer scheduled with the authorities. The moment he exits the car, he's walking to his death. Fade to black, end of the episode. The next one opens with the discovery of his body.
- Parental Neglect: Consistently shows little affection or consideration towards his (admittedly irritating) son Ziggy, and Ziggy claims that his childhood was full of When You Coming Home, Dad?.
- Perp Walk: Invoked by Valchek, whose sole purpose in the case is to ruin Sobotka. While everyone else is arrested during the initial raid, the cops assigned to take Frank are told to wait until he's at the union office, and once they've gone in they wait until a suitably sizeable press gang has assembled before Valchek personally walks him out to the car.
- Raised Catholic: Frank is a regular churchgoer who pays more than lip service to the Church, but when Father Lewandoski suggests a confession, Sobotka scoffs at the idea.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: His story is a heavy-hitting tragedy. In the end he's killed by the Greeks, the work of his life goes down the drain, the union gets busted, the docks are mortally wounded and his family is damaged beyond repair. All for naught.I flushed my fucking family, for what?
- Sibling Yin-Yang: He's crooked and active in the union 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.
- Starter Villain: Valchek designates Sobotka as the primary target and wants a detail to dig up dirt on him specifically. But as the case progresses, real criminals who are guilty of much worse crimes are discovered and Frank's importance is diminished, even graphically, as his picture ends trimmed down and relegated to the corner of the corkboard. In the end his villainy is so mild that even the FBI (who were specifically brought into the case by Valchek to bust Sobotka and his union) thinks he's just a small fish and want to go after bigger targets.
- 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.
- Tragic Hero: In another time and place in American life, Frank Sobotka would've been a giant; a community figure with real power and influence instead of a worn out man desperately trying to hold on to what little place he and his kind still have in the world.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: His commitment to protecting the union came at the cost of time with his family.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.
Nephew of Frank Sobotka and cousin of Ziggy. He acts as a go-between for his uncle towards Vondas, often being forced to bring Ziggy along. Seeking a steady income so he can support his girlfriend and their daughter, 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.
- Better Living Through Evil: Begins turning to crime to make ends meet because he can't get enough honest work.
- Big Brother Mentor: Tries to be this to his cousin Ziggy, but Ziggy is too Chaotic Stupid to take his (or anyone's) advice.
- 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.
- He Knows Too Much: The Greeks end up deciding this about him, but are unable to do anything about it because of the police tail sitting outside his house around the clock, so they eventually let him just be a loose end.
- Heroic BSoD: He goes through a few of these most notably when he gets the news about Ziggy shooting Glekas and when Frank's body is found.
- Jerkass: He's generally well meaning, but he's very rough around the edges, kind of abrasive, doesn't have the greatest manners in the world, and is too blunt to try smoothing things over or softening the blow of his words.
- Let Me at Him!: When he snaps out of the BSOD following Frank's death, he abruptly decides to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Greeks. It takes a number of the union guys to hold him back and talk sense into him before he calms down.
- Put on a Bus: Despite supposedly being sent away from Baltimore for his own protection, he reappears in season 5 as a heckler at Carcetti's harborside photo-op.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gives one to Frog, a white drug dealer, as seen in his quote, where he pushes back against Frog's attempt to cheat him and completely rips apart Frog's attempt to act like a stereotypical ghetto criminal.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With his cousin Ziggy. (Despite being cousins, the two are more like brothers.)
- The Smart Guy: Of the Sobotka family.
- 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.
- Witness Protection: Where he ends up, but according to David Simon, he opted out of it after a while. This explains his reappearance as a heckler in a season 5 episode.
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.
- Actually Pretty Funny: After being the butt of several humiliating jokes, Ziggy comes into the bar with sunglasses and a white cane and "unable to see through the bullshit" in there, and introduces his recently-bought pet duck as his counselor to help him in this. This gets genuine laughs from all present, and Ziggy's customary attempt to get respect by buying rounds for everyone is rebuffed as they buy rounds for him and the duck. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to realise what he did differently this time, so it's not a learning experience for him. And the duck dies from drinking alcohol.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Ziggy's naivete and poor sense of judgement defy normal human behavior, to the point where mental illness would probably explain a lot of the gravely stupid decisions he makes.
- The Atoner: After killing Glekas in a fit of rage, he's immediately overcome with regret and willingly goes to the police to confess.
- 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.
- Bond One-Liner: "Malaka."
I got tired of being the punchline to every joke.
- Played for laughs at first, later not so much.
- A typical example is when his coworkers goad him into attacking the much larger and stronger Maui. Maui doesn't even bother to beat Ziggy up, but just humiliates him by lifting him onto the top of a stack of containers and leaving him there.
- Chaotic Stupid: Ziggy makes a mess out of absolutely everything he says and does; Lighting hundred dollar bills on fire in a pub full of poor working men, buying a pet duck and giving it whisky (causing it to die), repeatedly picking fights with bigger and tougher people, whipping out his member in a crowded barif it's stupid, and he thinks there's a laugh in it, he'll do it. He eventually realizes how foolish he's been acting and becomes much more somber and reserved, but it's come too late to avert tragedy.
- Conspicuous Consumption: $2000 on a new coat. After Nick advises him not to flash too much money around to avert Suspicious Spending.
- The Ditz: Very much so.
- The Dog Bites Back: Snaps and kills Glekas after being humiliated and ripped off one too many times.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: He very much resents his cousin helping him.
- Establishing Character Moment: Among the first things he does is flash his penis at a room full of bar patrons. Which, following the exclamation of the landlady, wasn't the first time.
- Fearless Fool: Makes decisions that any moron should see are really bad ideas because of a combination of shortsightedness, being too brave for his own good, and Small Name, Big Ego.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: His personality is centered around trying to look tougher and more important than he is in reality, probably to hide his low self-esteem.
- Irony: The only time he ever gets respect is when he doesn't seek it out by doing stupid shit. Unfortunately, he is nowhere near self-aware enough to realize this.
- Jerkass: Ziggy is obnoxiously annoying to virtually everyone around him. He's not completely unpleasant, but his good parts are few and far between. A Jerk with a Heart of Gold in the rare moments he is not acting up trying to prove something to the world.
- Leeroy Jenkins: He easily gets impatient and prefers to go charging in (literally or figuratively) when the prudent course of action would be to wait and prepare.
- The Load: Managing to get a better deal on some stolen cameras is about all he manages to help his father or cousin with.
- Male Frontal Nudity: On a couple of occasions.
- Money to Burn: In one scene, he demonstratively sets fire to hundred-dollar bill, just to show how little he cares for Nick's and his father's admonitions to avoid Suspicious Spending.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Has this reaction crossed with a Villainous BSoD after killing Glekas and shooting the kid working in the shop.
- No Competent Deed Goes Unpunished: With the car heist, Ziggy finally comes up with a scheme that works flawlessly. However, the guy he's selling the cars to, Double G, decides to only give him half the money they agreed upon for no discernible reason besides not liking him. This makes Ziggy snap and shoot Double G to death.
- Only Known By His Nickname: He has other nicknames too. Nick also calls him "Fucknuts" and the Greeks almost exclusively refer to him as "Malaka" (a word rich enough in meaning to have its own page on The Other Wiki).
- The Precious, Precious Car: His Camaro, Princess, which first gets stolen, then torched.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes
- Rage Breaking Point: His entire arc during the season is him inevitably moving to the breaking point at a bad place and time.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With his cousin Nick.
- Smart Ball: While he is an abject failure at everything else, when it comes to being a thief he has his moments. Interestingly, he seems to pick this up whenever he isn't trying to be the center of attention - the only time he gets anything close respect or affection is when he isn't acting up for them.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Ziggy's actions bring down his family and the whole stevedores union.
- What an Idiot!: In-Universe. Just about everyone who interacts with him comes to think this.
Frank Sobotka's elder brother and Nick's father. Forced to retire early many years ago.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Deconstructs his brother with one about how Frank is responsible for corrupting his son and his nephew.You knew? And once Nicky got used to boosting stuff and seeing a little money... what did you think he was gonna do? Turn straight all of a sudden and give it up? No, Frank. Once you gave him a taste on the house, just [...] Goddamn it, Frank! Don't let that excuse this. Not this. Uncle Frank, with the big shoulders. "If it's broke, give it to my uncle. He can fix it."
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Louis is straight and softspoken, has been retired for some time and spends his days calmly, while Frank is crooked and remains very active and agitated. When Frank tries to use the Not So Different angle, Louis dodges it easily.Frank: The only difference between me and you is you picked the wrong union...
Louis: That's not the only difference.
- White Sheep: The one Sobotka who is not into crime and who finds it inexcusable. When Frank confronts him and tries to appoint him for a no-show job, Louis refuses it and doesn't claim to be noble, only right.
One of the younger stevedores who can get regular work on the docks, (and one of the biggest drinkers and partiers) he routinely helps Ziggy and Nick when they steal from shipments to make ends meet. He is particularly hard hit when the union is closed down, and winds up homeless afterwards.
- The Alcoholic: He received his nickname for drinking over fifty beers on his 25th birthday and is often seen drinking in Delores' bar.
- The Cameo: He has a brief appearance in Season 5 as a member of the homeless. It briefly looks like Scott Templeton will talk with him during Scott's night living with the homeless, but Scott becomes distracted from doing so.
- Everyone Has Standards: He'll engage in the occasional bit of stealing from ships, but he's clearly freaked out when Spiros offers to pay Nick in drugs, (which Nick can turn around and resell for several times what he's supposed to be paid for the job) and tries to argue Nick out of accepting the offer.
- Fat Idiot: He's an overweight guy who's not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
- Hobo: By season 5, he has fallen on hard times and lives with other homeless men under a bridge.
- Malaproper: He does this on a few occasions, most notably when he says he plans to plead the Fifth Commandment instead of the Fifth Amendment.
A veteran checker on the docks and virtually the right hand man of Frank Sobotka. He's also a major part of helping Frank smuggle goods for the Greeks, as he makes shipping containers disappear from the electronic record, and when the MCU begins tracking the computer activity of the union, they find that a majority of the cans that mysteriously go missing are being checked by Horse. After Frank's death he angrily refuses to cooperate with the Greeks any further, but is arrested and charged for his role in the smuggling ring regardless. He is last seen on trial, although the result of his trial is never revealed.
- Fall Guy: He winds up being the main (perhaps only) man from the docks to stand trial for his part in the smuggling ring. Granted, aside from Frank he's the one who had by far the most involvement in it.
- Number Two: Frank's go to guy.
- Refuge in Audacity: He's the one who steals Valchek's surveillance van, which he does by walking onto police property, strolling up to the van as if nothing is wrong, jimmying the lock within a couple of seconds and then driving away with it without a second look.
- The Reliable One: For Sobotka, and when the Greeks worry about him cracking under questioning, Nick reassures them that "Horse is a rock. You don't need to worry about him, ever."
- Undying Loyalty: To Frank. When one of The Greek's cans comes into the dock after Frank's death, Horseface refuses to make it disappear for them.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: He is last seen at trial, but whether he was convicted or not is unsure. It's certain that the other union members won't testify against him, (and at one point Nick Sobotka tries to flat out claim that Horseface has nothing to do with the smuggling) but the cops had gathered a lot of evidence on him by then, so those testimonies or lack thereof may be irrelevant.
The union president of the stevedores, he's a hard working, honest foil to Frank Sobotka. He believes that Frank is being overly ambitious in trying to go for having the canal dredged and thinks they should focus on the more modest, but also more likely goal of revitalizing the disused grain pier. Although he disagrees with Frank's insistence on dredging the canal, he nonetheless forms a united front with him in front of the rank and file. Ultimately his worst fears are realized when in the wake of Frank's scandal and death the politicians turn firmly against the union and the real estate developers led by Andy Krawczyk do get ahold of the grain pier and transform it into condominiums.
- Cassandra Truth: Right from the start he fears that Frank is aiming too high by trying to get the canal dredged, and even before Frank's involvement with The Greek is made public it's fairly clear that the union isn't going to win that battle. And as he predicted, by trying to get too much they wind up losing everything.
- Deadpan Snarker: Has something of a tendency to trade deadpan remarks with Frank Sobotka.Sobotka: Black, white, what's the difference, Nat? Until we get that fuckin' canal dredged, we're all niggers, pardon my French.
Nat: Or Polacks, pardon mine.
- Foil: For Frank in almost every way. He's black instead of white, honest instead of corrupt, more cautious and conservative in his goals for the docks as opposed to Frank's grandiose dreams of saving the docks.
- Suspicious Spending: He catches on more and more throughout the season how Frank always seems to have more more money to give as compensation to injured union members, to bribe guys into not leaving the union, for ever increasing political donations, etc. and becomes quite suspicious of it.Help from the national office, huh? Timely donations from friends? Watch your ass, Frank.
- Working-Class Hero
Ott is a stevedore and set to take over from Frank as treasurer when the next election came around, per the Stevedores' arrangement that the position swap between a Polish and African-American after each term. He is supported by Nat Coxson.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Twice:
- He leaves Frank's office fuming after learning that Frank wants to remain treasurer when it's supposed to be his turn.
- He withdraws from his candidature as Treasurer against Frank when the latter is found stabbed and floating in the canal, allowing the Union to go down under federal control.
A huge, physically imposing checker with a fair amount of seniority in the union, despite not being one of the local grey beards. He particularly despises Ziggy (more than most people in the union, even) and once had a relationship with Beadie Russell. As a result of that when she comes looking for a way to catch the smuggling, he clues her into how the computers are used, which gives the MCU its first big break in the case.
- Amicable Exes: With Beadie. When she shows up at his house he hopes that she's looking to get back together, and while he won't turn informant on the union, he will give her a hint that clues her in about how everything has to go through the computers, and thus a way to track the smuggled cans.Maui: I ain't no snitch, Beadie. Not even for you am I a snitch.
Beadie: I'm not thinkin' about it like that. I'm thinkin' here's a guy, and we had some times together and even though, you know, it didn't get to where he mighta wanted it, he's still a good guy. Someone I can talk to about this.
- The Big Guy: He's tall and very strong, even by dock worker standards.
- Curbstomp Battle: When the stevedores manage to convince Ziggy that Ziggy can take Maui on. Maui doesn't even stop chewing his food while Ziggy punches him, then he casually ends the fight. Just like that.
- Escalating War: With Ziggy. He's responsible for the love child prank among other things.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: It's probably a good bet that Maui isn't his given name, but it's the only one we hear him called by.
- Real Men Wear Pink: A variation, instead of trying to do a macho man drink, he orders a frappuchino and doesn't care that his coworkers can see him. It's part of what convinces Ziggy that he can take Maui in a fight, as the other dock workers try using this to convince Ziggy that Maui's not as tough as he looks. Ziggy fails to think through that a man who will order a frappuchino in front of tough, blue collar dock workers might have a very good reason not to fear ridicule for it.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Without him giving Beadie the clue about the computers, it's likely that the MCU would have never closed the case.
- Tranquil Fury: Very nonchalantly hands Ziggy's ass to him and also says to the other workers chillingly calmly: "Anyone of you fucks try to help him down, you'll be up there with him".