Hard Cases

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"Hard Cases"
The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 4
Directed by Elodie Keene
Teleplay by Joy Lusco
Story by David Simon
Joy Lusco
Original air date June 22, 2003 (2003-06-22)
Running time 58 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Season 2 episodes
List of The Wire episodes

"Hard Cases" is the fourth episode of the second season of the HBO original series, The Wire. The episode was written by Joy Lusco from a story by David Simon & Joy Lusco and was directed by Elodie Keene. It originally aired on June 22, 2003.


Title reference[edit]

The title refers to the seeming impossibility of the cases the police have taken up: the fourteen homicides for Bunk, Beadie and Freamon as well as McNulty's attempt to identify one of the dead women.

A "hard case" is also defined as "a person who is persistently insolent or difficult to control", and may refer to the repeated issues McNulty, Greggs, and Daniels have with being kept from real police work. Along this same line, the title could also apply to Ziggy Sobotka as well as Horseface, who stubbornly refused to go downtown for questioning in connection with the Jane Does, reinforcing the front the Stevedores have against the Police.


Greggs makes this statement about her inability to return to investigative work without becoming fully involved.



Starring cast[edit]

Although credited, Paul Ben-Victor, Deirdre Lovejoy and Seth Gilliam do not appear in this episode.



The Jane Does[edit]

Officer Jimmy McNulty continues to try to identify the girls. He uses the photo he matched to the girl he pulled from the harbor to identify her clothes in the evidence, and he finds a letter amongst them.

Detectives Bunk Moreland and Lester Freamon meet with Colonel William Rawls to discuss their progress. They tell him they need to look into how goods move through the port to understand what was happening with the container. Rawls tells them they should have held the ship in the docks and that they are his scapegoats if their investigation is not fruitful.

McNulty has a foreign national translate the letter. He learns the girl's first name, Nadia, and the names of a church and priest in her home country, but both are common names. He leaves her the letter to try further.

The detectives make their way to the docks anyway and try to get Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa to tell them more about the container. He hides behind his union representation and refuses to accompany them to their offices. Later, Beadie Russell shows them Delores's bar and they hassle both Horseface and Frank Sobotka. Frank is terrified of this new attention from law enforcement and vomits in the bathroom after learning the deaths were not accidental but homicidal.

Sobotka detail[edit]

Acting Commissioner Ervin Burrell meets with Lieutenant Cedric Daniels and offers him the command of the detail to stay with the department. Burrell appears anxious to appease Valchek, and attempts to talk Daniels into putting off his retirement from the department for a year, promising him a promotion in a few months that would boost his pension to a higher level. Daniels sees through Burrell's bluster about needing a capable investigator and gets Burrell to confirm that Major Valchek has asked for him by name. Seeing he is in a superior bargaining position, Daniels demands his own permanent major case unit if the investigation is successful, and the chance to pick his own people. Burrell agrees.

Colonel Rawls allows Daniels to take all of his choices except for McNulty. Rawls is still vengeful due to McNulty's acts of disloyal and insubordinate behavior during the Barksdale investigation, declaring that McNulty must drown or quit in order to leave the marine unit. Rawls comments that Daniels must be desperate to get out of evidence control to take a case involving the rivalry between Valchek and Sobotka.

Kima Greggs' differences with Cheryl are brought to the fore when they are stuck behind a car of drunken frat boys and Kima cannot fight her impulse to arrest one of them. Daniels meets with Greggs and persuades her to join the detail despite Cheryl's desire for her to work a desk job. Kima jokes, "I'll tell your wife if you tell mine." Daniels and Marla also have different outlooks on the detail's merits, and she storms out of dinner after he tells her about it. Kima gets the same reaction from Cheryl.

Daniels meets with Valchek and he explains his premise for the investigation and drives him to the facility. Valchek also thanks Daniels for his mentoring of Prez and then describes the I.B.S. workers they are investigating as dishonest thieves. Thomas "Herc" Hauk and Greggs accompany them and are reunited with Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski. Valchek offers anyone from the Southeastern to Daniels and Herc reminds him that Carver is now there, but Daniels silently ignores Herc's implied suggestion that he recruit Carver. Daniels states that the detail needs to accrue at least a few drug busts by the harbor before adding to its number.


McNulty is still getting pressure from Bunk and ASA Ilene Nathan to find Omar Little as a witness for the Marquis "Bird" Hilton trial. He spends a day cruising the West Baltimore streets, but the best he can come up with is Bubbles and Johnny shoplifting. He then gives them an ultimatum to either find Omar or go to jail on shoplifting charges.

Bubbles and Johnny later get stoned in a crack house and ask around about Omar. Kimmy, one of Omar's new crew, is also there asking about their next target and overhears Bubbles' inquiries. Omar sets a small trap for Bubbles with a scrap radiator and asks why he is asking for him.

Barksdale organization[edit]

The aftermath of the deaths from CO Tilghman's bad package sparks an investigation in the prison. Officer Reynolds suggests that they will likely get informants if they offer to shave years from prisoners' sentences.

Avon Barksdale tries to convince D'Angelo to use the situation to their advantage and reduce their sentences. D'Angelo refuses to believe that Avon had nothing to do with the deaths of the inmates and tells his uncle that he no longer wants anything to do with his business.

Stringer Bell meets with Cherry, the manager of his cut house. They discuss the poor quality of their latest package from Atlanta and Stringer orders Cherry to dilute it regardless.

Avon works with Maurice Levy, his attorney, to negotiate a reduction of his time until his first parole hearing to one year in exchange for information about the deaths. Despite the investigator's suspicion that Avon was directly involved and responsible for the bad package, the assistant district attorney bluntly tells him and the warden to take the deal they have in front of them. When the deal is in place, Levy fingers Tilghman. The investigators discover the narcotics that Stringer had planted in Tilghman's car and arrest the CO as he protests that he'd been set up.

Nick's money troubles[edit]

Nick Sobotka meets with his uncle Frank at the harbor at his behest. Frank knows that Nick stole the consignment of cameras. Frank demands that Nick return the cameras, but Nick cannot because they have already been fenced. Frank and Nick argue about Frank's own illegal activities and Frank reminds his nephew that he is using the money he makes to save the dock industry.

Nick delivers his cousin Ziggy Sobotka's share to him at Delores's bar. He warns him not to flash the money around and lets Ziggy know that his father (Frank) knows about the theft. Nick spends the night with Aimee, but asks her to leave through the back so that his "decent" parents do not find out.

Ziggy cannot control his spending and buys a two thousand dollar leather coat. Nick and Ziggy meet with George "Double G" Glekas again and he asks them to acquire chemicals for him. Ziggy takes the list to Johnny "Fifty" Spamanto, their connection in the checkers, and he points them to a contact in another area. As Ziggy leaves, he is accosted by Maui, another checker, who intentionally spills coffee on Ziggy's new leather jacket and mocks him for stealing from the docks. Ziggy later gets his revenge by littering Maui's computer monitor with photographs of his genitals. Frank catches up with his son, cuffs him on the head, threatens to pull his card and sends him home.

Nick talks to his mother having had a successful day's employment at the docks and goes to bring his father home for dinner. His father retired from the shipyards when they closed, and now spends much of his time drinking at the local pub and playing the horses. Nick asks his father if he misses the docks, to which he replies, "Wouldn't do no good." After a brief moment of levity, they head home to "tuna surprise" for dinner. To Aimee's surprise, Nick tells her that he has come into "some back pay" and suggests they look to buy a property in the neighborhood.[1][2][3]

First appearances[edit]

  • Maui: a checker at the docks with animosity towards Ziggy Sobotka.
  • Louis Sobotka: Brother of Frank Sobotka, husband to Joan Sobotka and father of Nick Sobotka. A retired shipyard worker who spends his days drinking and watching horse races.



The episode drew an average of 4.33 million viewers and was the fifth most watched program on cable television for the week ending June 22, 2003.[4]


  1. ^ "Episode guide - episode 17 hard cases". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  2. ^ David Simon, Joy Lusco (2003-06-22). "Hard Cases". The Wire. Season 2. Episode 04. HBO. 
  3. ^ Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. 
  4. ^ "Sweet Science, 'Sex' Draw Cable Viewers to HBO". Zap2It. 2003. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 

External links[edit]