The Weekly Wire: “Snot Boogie”

It’s that time, again. Class bell’s ringing. Take your seat, cats and kittens, boots and mittens. I didn’t know what to do for this installment of The Weekly Wire. I figured I’d pluck something from one of the episodes after the last one I used — after all, I’m moving in a progression, right? (Finished the first season, holy crap awesome, why dear God why is Disc 1 of Season 2 listed as a ‘Long Wait’ on Netflix?). If I’m moving in a progression, why not go along with me? Except, a lot of the really killer scenes of dialogue are somewhat… mm, “spoiler unfriendly.” This makes me wonder how long I can keep this up, but for now, let’s stow that pessimistic bullshit. I decided, hey, fuck it. I don’t need to go forward. I can go backward. And so I give to you the opening scene of the entire series. Scene one, episode one. Watch it. Read it. Think about it. Talk about it. Consider: this is an opening scene. The opening scene of anything has to be it, baby. It’s hook or book, suck it or fuck it. It has to do more than that, too — it has to establish. I’d say that the best opening scenes establish and encapsulate the entire project in some way — thematically, visually, morally, whatever. So, when you look at this, when you talk about this, first ask, is it a good scene of dialogue? But second, how’s it as an opening scene to an entire series? Focus on the writing above all else.


Det. James ‘Jimmy’ McNulty: So your boy’s name was what?

Kid: Snot.

McNulty: You called the guy “Snot”?

Kid: Snot Boogie. Yah.

McNulty: God. Snot Boogie. He like the name?

Kid: What?

McNulty: Snot Boogie?

[beat]

McNulty: This kid, whose mama went to the trouble to christen him Omar Isaiah Betts… You know, he forgets his jacket, so his nose starts running and some asshole, instead of giving him a Kleenex, he calls him “Snot.” So he’s Snot forever. Doesn’t seem fair.

Kid: Life just be that way, I guess.

McNulty: So, who shot Snot?

Kid: I ain’t goin’ to no court… motherfucker didn’t have to put no cap in him though.

McNulty: Definitely not.

Kid: He coulda just whooped his ass like we always whoop his ass.

McNulty: I agree with you.

Kid: Kill Snot. Snot been doing the same shit since I don’t know how long. Kill a man over some bullshit. I’m sayin’, every Friday night in an alley behind the Cut Rate, we rollin’ bones, you know? I mean all them boys around the way, we roll till late.

McNulty: Alley crap game, right?

Kid: Like every time, Snot, he’d fade a few shooters, play it out till the pot’s deep. Snatch and run.

McNulty: What, every time?

Kid: Couldn’t help hisself.

McNulty: Let me understand you. Every Friday night, you and your boys are shoot crap, right? And every Friday night, your pal Snot Boogie… he’d wait till there’s cash on the ground and he’d grab it and run away? You let him do that?

Kid: We’d catch him and beat his ass but ain’t nobody never go past that.

McNulty: I gotta ask you: if every time Snot Boogie would grab the money and run away… why’d you even let him in the game?

Kid: What?

McNulty: If Snot Boogie stole the money, why’d you let him play?

Kid: Got to. It’s America, man.

8 comments

  • Goddamit, Chuck. Why you have to go show me a series I ain’t got the time, but have the want to to watch?

    Why you doing it man?

  • I’m tellin’ ya, bro. You’re screwing yerself. People from the internet are now watching the Wire because of just this kinda hype. Bravo for the self-sacrifice of the endeavor. Next try old Barney episodes, see if it holds true.

    (Incidentally, it’s an old show, can you live-stream it on NetfliXbox to get you through?)

    In terms of the dialogue: It rings true in a fashion that I go through everyday; snitching.

    Who shot snot? Kid knows but “I ain’t goin’ to no court…”

    This tension wasn’t conveyed with those words, it was confirmed with them. The tension was in the silence. The moment of resistance. I feel it every week at least with my job. I felt it then, in the vid. That’s the mark of good acting, directing and writing. Conveying the perfect something with the perfect nothing.

    Sometimes what you DON’T write is even more impactual than what you DO. Like the full details of the boogieman (sticking with theme) in the closet. Leave some of that to the reader’s imagination. Let them fill in the blanks. It’ll be more frightening if it’s left open.

    Good writing, here. I think I’ll Netflix this show.

    K

    • Old show, but it was on pay cable. HBO doesn’t have a Netflix deal in place — makes sense, I suppose, as they might feel it detracts from the point of subscribing to their channel.

      Netflix still has that disc on Long Wait, and they won’t even send me the later discs.

      I wouldn’t mind buying the Complete Series (it can be had on eBay for like, $70-80), but I’m not really up for spending that money right now. (Esp since I’m already paying for Netflix.)

      Anyway — in this dialogue, you’re right, we don’t have direct tension. The witness isn’t being bullheaded — he’s just cautious. But the indirect tension — trying to suss out the truth as a body cools only feet away — is delicious stuff.

      As a sidenote, I love a lot of the nicknames in the show, among the cops and the criminals. McNulty (McNutty). Bunk. Prez. Herc. Dee. Poot. Wee-Bay. Little Man. Stringer Bell.

      – c.

    • Paul:

      If you don’t dig on the scene, that’s okay. I could even play Devil’s Advocate and say why I *don’t* like this as an opening scene. (And I will, when I’m done with this script. Like, done-done it. Dooooone. Soon. SOON.)

      Disagreement is all good — no need to respectfully abstain. Opinions and disagreements are good, long as they’re respectful.

      – c.

      • So. Devil’s Advocate:

        I like this dialogue in retrospect. I like it more having seen the whole season.

        At first, it didn’t quite grab me. It compelled me, yes. Grab me, no. A scene of violence: that would’ve grabbed me. Some gets shot. A foot chase. A drug deal gone bad. Whatever. Something to throttle me by the collar and make my head look at the shit they’re trying to show me. Bang. Boom. Holy shit.

        So, would that scene have driven me to watch the rest of the show? Maybe, maybe not. The writing is rock solid. The scene itself maybe a little… measured, a little too-even.

        But. But! Here’s here I come back around.

        Having scene the entire first season, I love it. Why do I love it? Because this is the season (maybe the series) in a nutshell. The show is a slow burn. No easy resolutions. No fast payoffs. The show is very low-action: it’s a lot of moving, roving, talking — but “24,” this show ain’t. A violent opening scene might’ve actually given the *wrong* impression. Because this scene encapsulates the show nicely.

        The criminal? The witness dude? Sympathetic. Snot Boogie? Sympathetic. The situation? Doesn’t really make sense to him or the McNulty. That’s the show. The criminals are sympathetic. The cops are stuck in the shit, just trying to shovel through it. The situations? They don’t always make sense. Bad shit happens. Bad shit goes down. And everybody’s left holding the bag.

        It also shows that these guys feel *bad* about shit like this. That’s critical to the season. A handful of characters get fucked up just by being in proximity to all this awfulness that goes down. It’s fucked up, even for them. They have consciences. They have heart. Even when it fails them, it’s there.

        This scene rocks that pretty well.

        And that end line: “It’s America, man.”

        A nice close to that scene.

        – c.

  • It’s a great scene. Here you have the the dream of America outlined in one line at the end, even as the entire rest of the scene tears that dream apart. This is America, man, where everybody gets to play the game (remember that chess scene? and how Omar says “it’s all in the game, yo”? Simon’s always comparing life to a game, one that’s rigged.), even if you’re named Snot Boogie.

    Sure, you get to play. But then you get shot just for being who you are and die young. So much for the dream of America.

    And what Chuck said.

  • BTW, this scene is a direct transplant from David Simon’s terrific non-fiction book Homicide – a convenient life metaphor that really happened -

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