Free-Floating Hostility

Monday, December 13, 2004


Requiem for Stringer Bell

You probably don't watch HBO's "The Wire" because, apparently, no one does. But on last night's episode Stringer Bell, one of the great characters in the history of television, died in an ambush while meeting with a contractor in one of the buildings he is erecting with laundered drug money.

Stringer was the No. 2 man in Avon Barksdale's drug organization. But he was a far deeper character than your average slinger. In fact, he was virtually unrecognizable if all you've been exposed to is the crop of American gangsta movies. In Bell you had a drug dealer who fancied himself a businessman. Not Mafioso/samurai sort of guy, who savored the violent side of the lifestyle, but a man who saw drugs as a means to an end. Bell died in a building that the legitimate side of his enterprise was trying to build. This was a man who took economics classes at the local community college and tried to apply those principles to the Baltimore drug trade. All that said, Stringer Bell was also a scumbag drug dealer who employed high school dropouts and pushed product to the people of West Baltimore.

It is a hard character to pull off. But there was a great actor, Idris Elba, behind the character. He found the center of Stringer Bell, the fact that this man straddled the streets and high-rolling world of business. He looked at home in a neatly tailored suit, yet a bad temper and violence still welled within him. Early in Sunday's episode, Bell wants to order the murder of a consultant he's been working with. That consultant has taken a quarter of a million dollars of drug money and not delivered any building projects. In this moment the contradiction in Stringer is laid bare. The rules of street violence are too ingrained in Bell to allow him to truly enter the executive suite. Elba understates this in his portrayal of Bell, and it's a mixture of embarrassment and rage works perfectly.

As a show, "The Wire" does the same thing. The mayor of Baltimore is a regular character but so is Bodie, a mid-level dealer in the Barksdale organization who has no power of his own. The show depicts the cops, politicians and criminals with equal depth and detail. Written by a former Baltimore Sun cops writer, "The Wire" presents a full picture of the implications of America's obsession with the drug war and how it effects all sides.

Hopefully HBO wises up and renews the show for a fourth season.

13 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger MPH at December 14, 2004 8:43 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Well it looks like you and I are the only ones that watch the show. I wasn't sure if they would do anything too shocking this year especially after the way Prez went out, but they did. It took a lot of guts to take down such a dynamic character, but it is those guts that make The Wire the best damn show on television.

  •   Posted by Blogger thicksista at September 07, 2006 2:23 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Why kill Stringer BELL, take me instead. I actually loved the show. I really appreciated Stringer Bell's depth.With Avon back behind bars,the only legitimate character left is Bodie...Big mistake HBO. First the death of OZ now this...

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at October 06, 2006 2:34 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I was sad to see Stringer go. He's claerly supposed to be on of the "bad" guys, but you had to like him anyway. Even though he did some horrible things, you identify with because, however amoral he might be, he is not vicious. He's cerebral--wise, even. And you end up rooting for him.

    In many ways he was the counter part to Major Colvin. They both changed the game, they both did their best to keep the bodies from piling up, and they were both assasinated for it. Colvin worked for the "good" guys who don't actually kill you, just your career.

    Did you notice how they both said almost exactly the same thing at their time of death? Stringer faces his killers and says "get on with it then motherf$%-" and is interrupted by gunfire. Colvin, upon being asked to verbally acknowledge the death of his career, says (I think) "let's get this over with motherf*&#-" and is interrputed by a staccato "Excuse Me!" from Rawls.

    Together, Bell and Colvin might have made a better world, now we'll never know.

  •   Posted by Blogger damon at December 04, 2007 8:54 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • i'm about three years late to this party. just finished watching season 3 on demand as a buildup to the much anticipated season 5. the somewhat embarrassing thing is that i can make no astute observations that would color in any of the subject matter at hand. i can only gush. best damn television show ever and yes, stringer was one of the greatest characters ever portrayed. a larger personification of all our internal contradictions. least we can say that the show was able to stack up well in season 4 without him. and i'm willing to put wagers that the final season and its concomitant season finale will leave the sopranos and their artsy answer no questions fartsy lame excuse for an ending in the dust. after these final 10 episodes, it will remain to be seen if television can ever be relevant again.

  •   Posted by Anonymous fickle_corinn at February 23, 2009 4:33 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Boy am I behind! - I just finished season 3 (Hallelujah for Netflix!!) and still am not 100% sure that I believe Stringer is actually DEAD. He has such an important character and I just can't imagine it being over. Hope I'm right! Plus I've already finished the 1st episode of season 4 - no mention of Stringer AT ALL?! He MUST still be alive.. Hey, a girl can dream, right? ;-)

  •   Posted by Blogger edizzle at July 15, 2010 12:22 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • i just watched this episode... FUCK THIS GODDAMN SHOW FOR KILLING STRINGER. I almost don't want to watch it anymore after this, and I've watched 3 seasons in 2 weeks. SHeeeeiiiittttt

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at June 30, 2011 8:48 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • can't believe they killed stringer. crazy to see how people are typing the exact same wording into google and finding this post.

    It saddens me that The Wire is the best damn tv show ever filmed because when I finally finish season 5, what will I be left with but sub-standard (by comparison) tv shows.

    I felt so deflated after that last episode in season 3. so much goin on. so much change. but then, that's how life is. The only constant in life is change.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at February 02, 2012 6:34 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Looks like I'm not so much behind :)
    I just can't believe that he is actually DEAD !
    I even thought of stopping the show at the end of season 3 but I got to know the end of it right ?
    Just make sure that this show is still watched even it is done years behind because it deserves it !

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at February 08, 2012 2:21 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Started on 'The Wire' box set at Christmas when I knew there would be crap on TV.....what a treat. Now on Series 3...sad episode...death of Stringer Bell....No way man....taken a deep character. lets see what series 4 & 5 hold.....

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at July 22, 2013 5:36 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • stringer bell was the best character on the wire. he is just too damn good. this is by far the most saddening character death I have ever experienced in TV, and I've watched Dexter, Game of Thrones, Prison Break and The Walking Dead, all of which have plenty of dead characters...

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at March 13, 2014 9:24 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I've been watching The Wire for about a two weeks and finished up season 3. I was surprised and bummed out Stringer died even though he had it coming.

    What a great show! I like that I'm 10 years late on this show because I can fly through all the episodes but I also feel like I shoulda heard more about it sooner.

    This thread is so old I had to comment and keep it alive! I'll have to check in awhile if anyone else comes here after they first find out Stringer is dead!

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at August 12, 2014 2:18 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Well I'm re-watching the entire series again 10 years later, and I knew Stringer got shot at some point, but couldn't quite remember when. Well bloody hell!! I was heartbroken Again just as much as the first time.

    As everyone else states, the depth of Stringer and his portrayal of such a complicated character, well I just didn't ever want it to end! Idris made it look so easy to play this character, and he seems to have been the most successful actor after the Wire, however, many others are still very successful too. I will watch anything with Idris Elba in it because the man is talented beyond belief. Period.

    Omar and Avon are very impressive as well. Loved the show the first time and I'm enjoying it ever bit as much nearly 10 years later!

    It really was cutting edge and unique and has so much going on with Each And Every Character, it's truly fascinating to watch. I love getting lost in it. And I am truly saddened to not have Stringer in any future episodes. They let him go too soon.

  •   Posted by Blogger Wharvey at March 13, 2016 12:14 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Talk about late to the party! Just finished the third season. Sad to see Stringer go down. I had hoped he'd get through it in the end. Such a great character and played so well by Elba. I am going to miss, but not forget, Stringer Bell.

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