Hard Cases

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


As McNulty tries to identify the Jane Does, he finds a letter amongst their clothes, written in a foreign language. McNulty is able to get the letter transcribed, but doesn't learn anything new besides the girl's name and some sparse details about her home country. Bunk and Freamon tell Rawls that they need to look into how goods move through the port to understand what was happening with the shipping 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. The detectives try to get Horseface to tell them more about the container. Later, after Beadie shows them the stevedores' bar, they hassle both Horseface and Frank, who is terrified when he learns that the Jane Does were murdered.

To appease Valchek, Burrell offers Daniels command of the Sobotka detail with the promise of a promotion. Seeing he is in a superior bargaining position, Daniels demands his own permanent unit if the investigation is successful, and the chance to pick his own people; Burrell agrees. Rawls allows Daniels to take most of his choices, but refuses to let McNulty leave the marine unit. Daniels persuades Greggs to join the detail despite Cheryl's desire for her to work a desk job. Daniels' wife Marla has a difficult reaction to his promotion, and storms out of dinner after he tells her about it. Kima gets the same reaction from Cheryl.

While Daniels briefs Valchek, Herc and Greggs are reunited with Prez. Herc suggests that Carver be recruited, but Daniels ignores him and states that the detail needs to accrue at least a few drug busts by the harbor before adding to its number. Meanwhile, Bunk and ASA Ilene Nathan continue to pressure McNulty to find Omar in time for Bird's trial. While cruising around West Baltimore, McNulty spots Bubbles and Johnny shoplifting and threatens to arrest them unless they find Omar. Kimmy, one of Omar's new crew, overhears Bubbles asking around for him, leading Omar to set a trap for the vagrant and ask why he is looking for him.

The drug deaths in the prison spark an investigation. Avon tries to convince D'Angelo to use the situation to their advantage and cooperate with the investigators to reduce their sentences. D'Angelo refuses to believe that Avon had nothing to do with the deaths, and states that he no longer wants anything to do with his business. Avon works with his attorney, Maurice Levy, to negotiate a reduction of his time until his first parole hearing in exchange for information about the deaths. Despite the investigator's suspicion that Avon was involved, the assistant district attorney bluntly tells him to take the deal. Levy subsequently fingers Tilghman, who is arrested after planted drugs are found in his car. Elsewhere, Stringer orders Cherry, the manager of his cut house, to dilute their latest package from Atlanta despite its poor quality.

Frank demands that Nick return the stolen cameras, only to learn that they have already been fenced. The two argue about Frank's own illegal activities, which Frank tries to justify by saying he's helping the dock industry. Nick delivers Ziggy's share and warns him not to flash the money around, telling him that Frank knows about the theft. However, Ziggy buys a $2,000 leather coat. Nick and Ziggy meet with Glekas, who asks them to acquire chemicals for him. Ziggy takes the list to Johnny Fifty, who 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 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.

Nick talks to his mother Joan about having had a successful day's employment at the docks, and goes to bring his father Louis home for dinner. Louis retired from the shipyards when they closed, and now spends much of his time drinking and playing the horses. Nick asks Louis if he misses the docks, to which he replies, "Wouldn't do no good." 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]


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.


If I hear the music, I'm gonna dance.

— Greggs

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.

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]