|First appearance||"The Target" (episode 1.01)|
|Last appearance||"–30–" (episode 5.10)|
|Created by||David Simon|
|Portrayed by||Seth Gilliam|
|Occupation||Baltimore Police Sergeant
Baltimore Police Lieutenant
Ellis Carver is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor Seth Gilliam. Carver is an African American lieutenant and former commander of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District Drug Enforcement Unit. While initially matched to the simple-minded and brutish policing of his loyal partner and unfailing friend Thomas "Herc" Hauk, under the counsel of Major Colvin in the Western District, Carver incrementally matures into a reflective and generally upstanding officer, often drawing the ire of his Western District colleagues.
Carver was a narcotics detective under Major Foerster in season one; he joined the Barksdale detail along with his colleagues from narcotics, detectives Kima Greggs and Thomas "Herc" Hauk. Cedric Daniels, his shift lieutenant from narcotics, was assigned to command the detail. Carver tells Bodie Broadus in season one, episode five ('the pager'), that he was raised in the Flag House Courts housing project.
Herc and Carver typically worked as a pair. They were intimidated by Greggs' ability and annoyed at her superior attitude towards them. They got into trouble early on in the investigation when they drunkenly raided a Barksdale-controlled high rise tower and nearly incited a riot. They had convinced the erratic Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski to accompany them and he exacerbated the situation by pistol-whipping a teenager. Daniels was exasperated with his detectives' immaturity and lack of forethought, but protected them from serious punishment.
The narcotics detectives took part in raids on Barksdale's low-rise projects. When one of the young dealers, Bodie Broadus, punched Detective Patrick Mahon, Carver, Herc and Greggs punished him with a beating on the spot. Carver and Herc were later given the task of travelling to Bodie's juvenile detention centre to try to convince him to become an informant; Carver was optimistic about their chances. Finding that he had absconded, they raided his home, finding only his grandmother.
Herc later spotted Bodie in the low-rise projects while on surveillance with Carver, and they arrested him. Finding that he remained defiant the detectives gave him another beating. Later, waiting to hand him over their attitude softened the three shared a game of pool. Bodie was released from juvenile detention following the intervention of the Barksdale crew's lawyer. Unaware of this Carver and Herc angrily picked him up the next time they saw him, but after finding that he had been legitimately released they gave him a lift home.
When they intercepted the Barksdale crew's profits for a day by tailing Wee-Bey Brice, Herc considered keeping some of the money, but Carver realized that figures mentioned on the wiretap might leave them exposed. Some of the money went missing by accident, which led Carver to doubt Herc until he found the money in the spare-wheel well of their car. This also got both of them on the wrong side of Lt. Daniels. Otherwise, Carver and Herc were useful in performing tedious but essential surveillance work for the detail.
Carver took his sergeant's exam and passed while in the detail. Although Herc scored better on the exam, Carver was placed ahead of him on the promotion list because Carver had been relaying information about the detail's activities to Deputy Commissioner Ervin Burrell. Daniels eventually realized that Carver was acting as Burrell's spy in the detail, and cautioned Carver not to repeat the mistakes Daniels made earlier in his own career.
When the detail was disbanded Carver was moved to the South Eastern district where he worked as a traffic sergeant under Major Stanislaus Valchek. His dissatisfaction with the post was apparent when Valchek assigned him to ticket dock workers' vehicles and he openly voiced his opinions of his commander to Frank Sobotka.
Daniels brought Carver back into his detail when investigating Frank Sobotka, telling Carver that since he had been caught going outside the chain of command before, it was unlikely that he would try something similar again. Daniels' only condition was that Carver would not be treated as a sergeant in the detail, as he felt that Carver had not earned his promotion and would instead report to Detective Greggs. Carver was again partnered with Herc and the two investigated drug dealing around the docks area. They fabricated a confidential informant, actually using a listening device, and took payments meant for the informant to cover the cost. However, they did establish a link between Nick Sobotka and drug trade near the docks.
They were again relied upon to do the leg work for the detail and were instrumental in placing satellite tracking devices on vehicles involved in the dock smuggling ring. Their low status in the detail was brought home to them when they were asked to install an air conditioner in the home of a judge who was approving the detail's wiretaps. After being left out in the rain waiting for Nick Sobotka to return home, despite his having already turned himself in, Herc convinced Carver they would never be respected in Daniels' unit. Angered by the menial work given to him, Carver told Daniels that he wished to leave the unit. Daniels attempted to convince him to stay, pointing out that surveillance was part of the job. However, Carver left the unit and took a DEU (Drug Enforcement Unit) sergeant posting in the Western District for Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin, where his rank was recognized and he could engage in more "rip and run". Herc then followed Carver as he had no interest in doing menial surveillance work for Daniels.
Carver returned to narcotics with Herc and worked in the Western District under Major Colvin. Carver commanded the district's Drugs Enforcement Unit – a squad of dedicated narcotics police including Herc and Officers Kenneth Dozerman, Lloyd "Truck" Garris and Anthony Colicchio. He failed to learn a valuable lesson from his work with Det. Greggs – a police officer is only as good as their informants – as he failed to secure any CIs for his unit and had none to present to Major Colvin. Officer Dozerman was shot and injured while under Carver's command in a failed buy-bust sting operation.
Carver was responsible for policing "Hamsterdam", Colvin's unsanctioned free drug trade zone. He was distressed by the consequences of the new zone – putting young hoppers out of work. Carver's solution was to tax the drug dealers, providing an informal "welfare" system for the unemployed hoppers. With Dennis "Cutty" Wise, a (now reformed) former soldier in Avon Barksdale's crew, he helped divert the young hoppers into boxing and basketball programs that were having some success until the "Hamsterdam" project was shut down. After this Carver and Wise held a mutual respect for each other having worked together with these children.
Over the season, Carver's DEU team were shown to be making statistically motivated arrests rather than performing real police work and building serious cases. Early in the season, Carver is criticized by Major Crimes Unit detectives Kima Greggs and Jimmy McNulty for his lack of informants, and when asked by Colvin for descriptions of gang members and mid-level drug dealers, Carver is unable to provide any information. Before his forced retirement Colvin criticized Carver's work as an investigator and told him he was not doing his job properly. He urged Carver to get to know the area he was policing rather than treating it as hostile territory in a war zone. Colvin felt that this was one of the reasons behind Dozerman's shooting and then claimed that Carver's stat-based arrests were of little use to the district without adequate information about what was really going on in the neighborhood.
Carver maintained his position as DEU Sergeant but "turned over a new leaf" in light of Major Colvin's advice. He began cultivating street-level informants and amassing a working knowledge of the drug dealers in his district. When Prez asks that a police officer be sent to Randy's house confidentially, Daniels, Colvin's replacement as Western District commander, elects to send Carver, telling the surprised Prez that "Ellis has come a long way."
In particular, he targets Bodie Broadus as a potential informant because he is now working independently after the collapse of the Barksdale organization in Season 3. Carver is on relatively good terms with Bodie, as his first line in the season is "Where's the love, Bodie?" The two have a running joke of addressing each other formally. Officer Colichio, however, is entirely unable to see the funny side, although Carver points out he can't go round beating the entire world up "cause who are you gonna talk to when the shit happens?". Carver helps Herc when he has a problem that is political in nature by putting him in touch with the politically savvy Valchek. Carver also tries to help Bunk Moreland find a suspect in the murder of Fruit. The suspect is Bodie's second-in-command, Curtis "Lex" Anderson, and Carver knows which corner he works. However, Lex has not been seen for some time.
Carver spots a group of children from his district with a stolen car and rather than chasing them on foot – he is taking Herc, dressed in suit and tie for mayoral protection duty, to see Valchek – he calls in the theft and elects to find the children later, as he knows where they hang out. When he returns he gives them a warning, telling them that he knows their names and addresses and if he learns that they are involved with stolen cars again he will arrange alleyway beatings for each of them. Donut waits until Carver has left before commenting on his "nice wheels".
He had a plainclothes car put outside Randy Wagstaff's house when neighborhood kids start harassing him after he is labelled as a snitch. However, when the car leaves to respond to a call, his house is attacked with petrol bombs and Randy's foster mother is severely burned to the point of being unable to care for Randy. Carver is concerned for Randy, even offering to be Randy's foster parent when it becomes apparent that he will be sent to a group home. His offer is rejected due to the lengthy screening process involved, and after dropping Randy off at his group home, Carver angrily beats on his car horn, frustrated that he could not have done more. 
Carver is acting as Western District SIC (Sergeant in Charge) - he has the responsibilities of the district's deputy major for most shifts. The district's officers are outraged by the city's financial cutbacks and their morale is at rock bottom. Carver faces dissent and abuse in his roll-call briefing and is told there is no point breaking up a fight between officers that occurs in the parking lot. Carver meets up with his old partner Thomas "Herc" Hauk, Kenneth Dozerman and Anthony Colicchio for drinks. Herc has been discharged from the department and is now working as a Private Investigator for defense attorney Maurice Levy. Herc has the detectives get information from within the department for him.
Colicchio is later involved in an assault on a teacher. Carver, having witnessed the event and seeing that Colicchio acted irrationally, offers to help Colicchio prepare a statement for the subsequent Internal Investigations Division case but finds Colicchio completely unrepentant. He decides that he cannot allow Colicchio's behavior to continue and writes Colicchio up for charges of conduct unbecoming an officer. Colicchio calls Carver a "rat" but Carver is willing to accept the resentment of his subordinate officers. Later, over drinks, Herc tries to plead leniency for Colicchio. Carver explains his philosophy that all of their actions as police officers matter and reminds Herc of some of their mistakes. Carver specifically mentions Herc's actions with Randy Wagstaff. Herc accepts responsibility and tells Carver to do what he feels he has to. Carver is later seen assisting Jimmy McNulty in finding the "homeless killer." McNulty has Carver instead investigate Marlo Stanfield's drug organization under the overtime detail of the "homeless killer." Carver's officers are shown using new rental vehicles and following Lester Freamon's lead in finding the source of drug distribution amongst Stanfield crew members. When Kima Greggs questions Carver about the "homeless killer", he claims that he is happy to see his officers doing real police work and getting paid overtime for it. This is shared by his men, who are noticeably buoyed up by the news of some "rented wheels." At the end of the series, Commissioner Daniels, in one of his last acts as a police officer, promotes Carver to Lieutenant, saying "I'm glad I got to do this at least."
Carver's development in the series and his ending draws comparisons to Daniels; both men had skimmed drug money early in their career, both had matured from these experiences over time and both eventually climbed the police ranks as respected, hard-working and honest policemen, with Carver representing the next generation of this type of officer. Carver's character arc is in stark contrast to that of his early companion Herc; while both began the series as similar types of officers, Carver became a righteous and worthy policeman, while Herc abandoned all morality to aid and abet extremely dangerous criminals.
Salon described Carver and Herc as providing needed comic relief to the show and acting as a bickering couple.
- David Simon (director); Ed Burns (story and teleplay), David Simon (story) (2008-03-09). "–30–". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 10. HBO.
- Dan Kois (2004). "Everything you were afraid to ask about "The Wire"". Salon.com. Retrieved 2006-07-12.
- "Org Chart - The Law". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-22.
- "Character profile - Sergeant Ellis Carver". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-22.
- Joe Chappelle (director); David Simon (story and teleplay), Ed Burns (story) (2008-01-06). "More with Less". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 1. HBO.
- "The Wire episode guide - episode 51 More with Less". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- Dan Attias (director); Ed Burns (story and teleplay), David Simon (story) (2008-01-27). "Transitions". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 4. HBO.