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Characters / The Wire - Homicide Unit

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"We work murder cases here, as they come in, one at a fucking time. It's called a rotation. You're up till you catch one, then you step down, work it for a while someone else steps up. It's a simple but effective way to do business in a town that has 250 to 300 cases a year. But if someone gets it into his head to leave the rotation it puts an unfair burden on other detectives who have to pick up their casework. Overworked cops make mistakes. Mistakes lower the unit-wide clearance rate. And that can make someone who is otherwise as reasonable as me... [Unreasonable]"
Major Rawls

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    Jimmy McNulty 

    William "Bunk" Moreland 
Played by: Wendell Pierce
"You happy now, bitch?"

A man must have a code.

A highly competent detective in Homicide, Bunk has a dry sense of humor, is almost always dressed in pinstripes, and enjoys his cigars. He begins the series as McNulty's partner in the Homicide department, and even after McNulty is transferred elsewhere Bunk and McNulty often partner up to drink and cruise for women — in spite of the fact that Bunk is 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.

  • Antagonist in Mourning: When he's called to see the scene where Omar was killed, he's obviously shocked and disturbed, despite some of his less than friendly interactions with Omar.
  • Blue Oni: To McNulty's Red Oni.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Namecheked. He has some relative control, but Bunk vomits once in front of Daniels and several characters mention offscreen instances.
  • Catchphrase: You happy now, bitch?
  • Cigar Chomper: A cool, classy cigar aficionado.
  • Consummate Professional: Compared to McNulty anyway, as Bunk reminds him.
    I'm a murder police. I work murders. I don't fuck with no make-believe. I don't jerk shit around. I catch a murder, and I work it.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Death Glare: Prominent in Season 5, the non verbal part of his What the Hell, Hero? rebukes to McNulty.
  • Gay Bravado: Time for you to show the Bunk some love...
    Bunk: You're my real partner, Lester. My life partner.
    Lester: Don't tease, bitch.
    Bunk: Look at that bow-legged motherfucker. I made him walk like that.
    • Or how about:
      McNulty: You know why I respect you so much, Bunk? ... It's because when it came time for you to fuck me, you were very gentle.
      Bunk: You damn right.
      McNulty: Because you see, you could have just hauled me out to the garage and bent me over the hood of a radio car... but no, you were very gentle.
      Bunk: Well yeah. I knew it was your first time. I wanted to make that shit special.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Possibly only true friend our hero Jimmy McNulty can ever have in this world. As much as McNulty alienates everyone else, and as pissed as Bunk gets at him especially in Season 5, there's never any real danger of Bunk betraying him or casting him aside.
  • Nice Hat: a staple of his wardrobe.
  • One-Liner Echo: "Giving a fuck when ain't your turn to give a fuck", originally coined by McNulty.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Moreland is just called "Bunk" most of the time. His first name, William, is hardly used.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Women and booze, mild vices if compared to Jimmy, who has them by the metric ton.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gives an armor-piercing one to Omar and many to McNulty. Here's a representative example of the latter:
    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!
  • Secret Keeper: The serial killer's identity.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man. The man "was born in pinstripes". The one time he is in casual wear — in season 2, when he is briefly working outside Homicide -. it is to make a point about MCU not being his natural habitat.
    Bunk: The Bunk is strictly a suit-and-tie motherfucker.
  • Spell My Name with a "The"
  • Super Drowning Skills: "The Bunk can't swim, and ain't too good at floating either." When he has to do surveillance from the sea, he puts on a lifesaver that looks like armor, very early, before setting foot on the boat and is very nervous aboard. He relaxes quite a lot later.
  • Third-Person Person: "The Bunk."
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With McNulty.

    Jay Landsman 
Played by: Delaney Williams
"No red on the board!"

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.

  • Big Eater: Often seen eating in his workplace.
  • Characterization Marches On: His unabashed food and porn routine doesn't kick off until Season 3. It's not mentioned in the show, but it coincides with Rawls being promoted elsewhere away from Homicide, where he ran a tight ship.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most or the time, he's equal parts sardonic and overbearing.
  • Fat Bastard: Crass and lecherous. Oddly enough his poignant sense of humor also makes him a Big Fun.
  • A Father to His Men: The above mentioned wakes.
  • Hidden Depths: A good orator and apparently a caring father, judging by the photos of his children he keeps in his desk.
  • In-Series Nickname: Jaybird.
  • 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.
    • He could charge Bubbles with murder, or even attempted murder, and put him away for life but...…."fuck the clearance".
  • The Nicknamer: Among other names, he calls McNulty "The Prince of Tides" and "Clarice", and Lester "Madam Curie" when he is pestered and burdened by their overdiligent police work.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Plays down his true intelligence and puts on a subservient face for his commanders in order to get as little grief as possible from them.
    Major, sir? I've been thinkin'. It's a clear violation of the general orders, I know, but....
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: He knows how destructive the stats game is, but he plays by it and enforces the system to avoid any trouble with or payback from the police brass, particularly Rawls. The biggest case of this is when he attempts to keep Lester's discovery of Marlo's victims under wraps. As he says when Lester keeps digging up bodies:
    You know what he is? He is a Vandal. He is vandalizing the board. He is vandalizing this unit. He is a Hun, a Visigoth, a barbarian at the gate, clamoring for noble Roman blood and what's left of our clearance rate!
  • Porn Stash: More often than not seen reading a girlie mag.
  • Pet the Dog: Fuck the clearance.
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: His justification for letting Bubbles off the hook and "fuck the clearance".
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Downplayed, but considering that Rawls uses him as an attack dog to breathe down the necks of the detectives and watch over the clearance rate, he's sometimes more supportive and agreeable than expected.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Repeatedly calls bullshit on anything related to McNulty's murdered vagrants... not because it's all a lie (which it is from the beginning) but because Jay is annoyed by anyone who goes above and beyond to add new red names on the board, specially if they are forsaken "fiends" or "mopes".
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: He likes to use an ornate language, mostly for sardonic purposes. He turns talking down to people into an art.
  • Side Bet: In the pilot, he casually bets that Jimmy will be riding the boat in no time. He boasts about being right in the Season 2 premiere. He also tries to place other predictive bets over the course of the story.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Daniels chews him out after Jay drops the ball and fails to inform the Major Crimes detail about the murder of Glekas in the storehouse, allowing the Greeks to clean the crime scene. It's particularly jarring because it's a rare example of sheer incompetence for once, not his usual and planned obstructionism. Landsman apologizes, but the damage is already done.
    Daniels: Let me ask you, who exactly am I working all these dead girls for? The Homicide unit, right? The same Homicide unit that can't put two and two together and pick up a phone leaving me to read it a day-and-a-half later in The Baltimore Sun. [...] (Fuck. They cleaned everything else?) Even for a supremely fucked-up police department, this takes the prize.
  • Yes-Man: Openly and overly sycophantic towards Rawls for the sake of his detectives, though he argues that he does it so that there is no backlash against him; this is a very valuable attitude to have in the face of Bill Rawls.

    Michael Santangelo
"Jesus Christ..."

Played by: Michael Salconi

No disrespect to your appendix, but if them terrorists do fuck up the Western, could anybody even tell?

A bumbling detective of the Homicide Unit, he is technically assigned to the MCU in Season 1 but rarely actually shows up there, with McNulty often covering for his absences. He was expected to be a mole for Rawls within the unit, but was unable to go through with spying on a fellow detective, particularly when Rawls makes it clear that he intends to get McNulty kicked off the force. Eventually Rawls presents him with an ultimatum: to either solve one of the many cases he has open, go through with being a spy, or get demoted out of Homicide. When McNulty and Bunk unknowingly help him solve the case he needs, he outright refuses to be a mole for Rawls and accepts a demotion to patrol.

  • Actually Pretty Funny: He can be seen cracking up when Colicchio falls for Kennard's prank.
  • Clueless Detective: He's terrible at the job, having less than 40% clearance rate. His excuse for his performance is the lack of "dunker" (easy) cases. When Avon and Stringer pay a rare visit to the pit, he's pissing at the oppossite side of the roof where he was supposed to be and misses them.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sanny has the time of his life as a patrolman and he's constantly witty and relaxed there. One time he says "I hear WMD is the bomb" (WMD being a drug package) after driving a group of addicts into Hamsterdam and they're all dumbfounded and unsure of what to do, another time he points out the futility of counter-terrorism training in a crime-ridden city like Baltimore. When Jimmy provides Omar with a phone call , Santangelo quips if he's some kind of Democrat.
  • Demoted to Extra: Rawls demotes him to patrol officer, which gives him much less screen time. Santangelo actually prefers the less demanding job, however.
  • The Driver: Responsible for driving the arrest van in the Western District.
  • Everyone Has Standards: He doesn't like McNulty much at first, but still refuses to inform on him. When McNulty, innocent of all this, helps him out in his hour of need, Santangelo chooses to accept demotion and the wrath of Rawls instead of betraying Jimmy.
  • The Mole: Subverted. Rawls sends him to the detail because he's one of the unit's more inept detectives and thus Rawls believes that Santangelo can be presured to do whatever Rawls wants. But when Bunk and Jimmy unknowingly help him, he clues McNulty in to what Rawls is doing.
  • The Peter Principle: Discussed with McNulty and Greggs. He realizes after Rawls busts him back to patrol that he was always much happier and more competent there, which is ultimately what gives McNulty the idea of going back too.

    Ray Cole 
Played by: Robert F. Colesberry
"Nobody ever thinks they are stupid. It's part of the stupidity."

Landsman: He wasn't the greatest detective and he wasn't the worst. He put down some good cases and he dogged a few bad ones. But, the motherfucker had his moments.

A veteran homicide detective of middling quality, he is often seen plugging away on various cases, albeit usually pursuing bad hunches. He dies suddenly off screen and the first of the various police wakes led by Landsman is held for him.

  • Bluffing the Murderer: Cole attempted to do this to Bodie after the shootout between a Barksdale crew and another gang resulted in an innocent boy being killed by a stray bullet. Bodie calls his bluff and gets Cole to make a mistake that shows that the cops have no hard evidence.
  • Butt-Monkey: Many jokes are made at his expense and is always getting stone-cold whodunit hard cases.
    • When Omar is let off by the detectives, they owe Cole a clearance that they never expect to pay.
    • McNulty ended up in Homicide after solving a case that Cole closed badly after putting the wrong mope in bracelets.
  • Died Off Screen: McNulty relates that Cole collapsed and died while exercising on the stairmaster.
  • The Everyman: Landsman pointed out at his wake that Cole was no better nor worse than any other Baltimore cop.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: He accuses Bodie of this, only for Bodie to ironically turn it around and promptly show Cole that Cole isn't nearly as smart as he thinks.
  • In Memoriam: In-universe the first police wake is held for Cole. David Simon dedicated the digital HD remasterization to Colesberry, who was responsible for the cinematography of the show.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Cole dodges the hardball he was thrown when Landsman reassigns the case of the thirteen dead women to Bunk and Freamon because he needs his most competent detectives on it. Cole is delighted about not being one of them.

    Edward Norris 
Played by: Edward Norris
"Americans are a stupid people by and large. We pretty much believe everything we're told."

So our guy's dead because a bullet misses a bleach bottle and this fuck Carcetti gets to be the mayor behind the stupidity. I fucking love this town.

A long-time homicide detective, (Season 4 mentions he has 15 years on the force) he has a tendency to make pointed barbs and to bemoan the sorry state of Baltimore in general and the BPD in particular.

  • Bald of Awesome: Has a short haircut when the story begins, he eventually shaves it all. It fits rather well with his rounded head and factions.
  • The Cynic
  • Deadpan Snarker: Always making ironic remarks or facial gestures about the sorry state of Baltimore and its police department.
  • Demoted to Extra: A recurring character during most of the series, he only appears during one episode in Season 2 (produced while the actor was the new Superintendent of the MSP). He investigates the shooting of a child by a stray bullet and interrogates Bodie with Cole.
  • Knight in Sour Armor
  • Meta Casting: Det. Ed Norris is played by Edward Norris, former Baltimore Police Commissioner who had a somewhat... controversial career that ended in indictment and a felony conviction. His lack of respect for the current Commissioner is a running gag. As the first season was shot while he was still in office, some of his lines fall into Self-Deprecation humor.
    I kid you not. I swear, you show me the son of a bitch who can fix this police department I'd give back half my overtime.

    Vernon Holley 
Played by: Brian Anthony Wilson

A seasoned, physically imposing, and short tempered homicide detective.

  • Bald of Awesome
  • The Big Guy: Of the Homicide Unit. He's built like a truck and is willing to use his physical appearance to intimidate suspects and witnesses.
  • Cassandra Truth: He's the first one on either side of the law who knows how dangerous and lethal Marlo is. Part of Marlo's backstory includes murdering a witness that Holley had convinced to cooperate with police, and when Kima asks about it Holley gives her an earful about Marlo. (Well, an earful by his standards at least.) Everyone else continues Underestimating Badassery for awhile afterward, however.
  • The Eeyore: Seems to be convinced that he is jinxed and doomed to always get difficult to solve cases. This is best seen in Season 4, when he argues with himself over whether to take a homicide call, essentially trying to debate whether it should count as Norris' call, (and thus be an easier case) but will become a hard case if he tries to take it instead.
  • Hot-Blooded
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Starts to dish one out on Bubbles after (wrongly) thinking the latter had something to do with Kima Griggs getting shot, but gets pulled away before he can damage him too much.
  • Pet the Dog: While Crutchfield vigorously refused to entertain the idea of reopening Omar's case to see if Omar had been framed, Holley agreed to do so with Bunk, albeit somewhat reluctantly. When he saw Old Face Andre's story fall apart Holley intimidated Andre into admitting the truth despite the fact that it would mean taking a hit to his stats.
  • Police Brutality: Nothing too bad, but he is willing to rough up Bubbles in season 1 and to intimidate Old Faced Andre into admitting that Andre participated in framing Omar.
  • Scary Black Man: Holley's body build and skin color make him capable of using this trope to intimidate uncooperative people.

    Frank Barlow
Played by: Michael Stone Forrest

Think I give a fuck? I'll be chalkin' you off one night.

A homicide detective. Primary investigator in the case of D'Angelo Barksdale, who beats the charges in the trial.

  • Bad Liar: At first, he tries to disguise his trip to South Carolina as work-related, but Jimmy easily sees right through it. Another hint of Barlow's lack of competence.
  • History Repeats: A year prior to the start of the story, the Barksdales beat McNulty in the Gerard Bogue case, which is why Jimmy is present in D'Angelo's trial and acquittal in the first place.
  • Long Bus Trip: After D'Angelo's trial in the first episode, he's not seen again until the final season.
  • Police Are Useless: Appears to be an average to mediocre detective not very dedicated to the job, almost always talking about private and domestic issues over the phone while on duty.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Blackmails McNulty -who on paper is investigating a serial killer but is diverting the resources to real police work- into providing funds so Barlow can take a long weekend to play golf in South Carolina.
    I don't know exactly what you're up to, but I know this: If someone picked up a phone around here, your shit is critically fucked.

    Michael Crutchfield
"Did he fuck you?"
Played by: Gregory L. Williams

You should've let me give him the years, he would've been better off.

A veteran homicide detective.

  • Antagonist in Mourning: He had no love lost for Omar, but despite joking and laughing that Omar would have been better off if Crutchfield had put him in jail, he seems somewhat affected by Omar's death and goes to great lengths to catch Kenard.
  • Deadpan Snarker: On a few occasions, most notably when he lets Bunk and McNulty out of an interrogation room they locked themselves in. When he opens the door he immediately sniffs around and asks Bunk if Jimmy tried to proposition Bunk in the locked room.
  • The Ghost: Mentioned a handful of times in the first two seasons, he doesn't appear on-screen until the middle of season 3. Then he becomes a recurring character.
  • Malaproper: He's not very good with grammar.
    Landsman: The victim was prostate on the floor. That's a victim alright, that hurts bad.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In revenge for Bunk fucking with his clearance rate by exonerating Omar, Crutchfield doesn't pass on news that Randy has information on Bunk's case, which means poor Randy is left in Herc's less than capable hands - the cause of life-changing troubles.


Jimmy, where you been?

A recurring background character who maintains "The Board."

  • Female Gaze: She can be seen checking out McNulty's ass when he walks by if you're looking closely.
  • Living Prop: Always on the background mantaining the board, and that's pretty much all there is to know about her.
  • The Voiceless: Doesn't say a thing aside from greeting McNulty when the sailor boy pays a visit to Homicide after being reassigned to the boat.

Played by: Dennis Hill

What? He left and he came back?

A rookie homicide detective who comes aboard in Season 5. He is repeatedly frustrated by the havoc that Carcetti's budget cuts wreak on the department.

  • Butt-Monkey: A minor case, being a rookie, he hasn't earned any respect and is still treated like the runt of the litter. When McNulty returns to homicide, Christeson has to abandon his desk and leave it to Jimmy. His joining during a time of cutbacks means that his job is continually hampered from the get-go.
  • By-the-Book Cop: While new to the job and frustrated by the sorry state of the BPD in Season 5 as Carcetti cuts the police budget to the bone to make up for the school budget shortfall, he's genuinely dedicated and tries his best to get results.
  • New Meat: The newest detective of the unit. Introduced in Season 5, he's the only policeman in the building who is not familiar with the photocopier/lie detector scheme.


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