Smacketology Finals: Omar Little, Your (Presidentially Approved) ChampionDavid T. Cole/Grantland Illustration
Well, obviously. It’s Omar. It was probably always going to be Omar, even if we hadn’t juked the stats and put our thumb on the coke scale last week by framing this whole bracket experiment as an Omar-vs.-everybody tournament; in retrospect, asking if there was anyone who could beat him rendered that question essentially rhetorical.
But maybe it would have been rhetorical anyway. David Simon’s always denied that Omar’s role in the show was expanded based on audience response to the character and/or Michael K. Williams’s performance in the role, because paying attention to audience response and acting accordingly is what TV hacks do. But Omar’s still a rare example of Simon & Co. giving audiences the kind of thing audiences always want — a wish-fulfilling, shotgun-toting, Robin Hood/Man With No Name; a badass-with-a-code that you could root for. He’s the closest thing to a mythic figure on this prudently myth-averse show. Even — spoiler alert, I guess, although, seriously, if you haven’t watched The Wire yet, it’s weird that you’d feel invested enough in the outcome of this poll to click on this post — his death is less of a thus-always-to-murderers moral judgment and more of a forget-it-Jake-it’s-Bawl’mer freak occurrence; he’s denied a blaze of glory, but the suddenness of his murder means we don’t see him brought low, either.
There were plenty of Wire characters you could root for, of course — Bubbles, totally, and most of the kids, except Kenard, that little cat-torturing Omar-killing bastard, and maybe Gus Haynes, and Cutty (open that gym! Sleep with those moms!) and Pryzbylewski (Prezbo is for the children!) and so on. But in terms of the Final Four in this particular tournament, everybody but Omar is sort of problematic. Avon and Stringer are likable but ultimately they’re purveyors of poison, and they’re responsible for the deaths of a lot of other likable and/or innocent characters. A vote for McNulty, even though he’s a rogue element within the police force, is still ultimately a vote for traditional authority, for law and order. It’s a vote for the Man. By voting any way except for Omar, in other words, you’re effectively casting a vote for one side or another of a binary good/evil axis and against nuance. Omar, as someone who illustrates The Wire’s moral universe by transcending it, is all nuance. (In between writing the preceding sentence and the one after this parenthetical, I spent about 45 minutes digging through message-board discussions about what the D&D alignments of various Wire characters would be. Nobody can come to a consensus about Omar — there’s a strong case for Lawful Neutral and a strongish one for Chaotic Good, and a decent one for “It’s impossible to lump modern people into categories that were designed for fairly strict fantasy archetypes.” Nuance!)
Anyway: Nobody would argue that Omar is the most important character on The Wire, but maybe he won this poll because he’s the most electable. And if that’s boring, or in any other way disappointing, don’t blame me. I voted for Fuzzy Dunlop.