Michael Lee (The Wire)
|First appearance||"Boys of Summer" (episode 4.01)|
|Last appearance||"–30–" (episode 5.10)|
|Created by||David Simon|
|Portrayed by||Tristan Wilds|
|Occupation||Drug Dealer, Soldier for the Stanfield Organization, Stick-up Man|
|Family||Bug (half-brother), Raylene (mother), Devar (stepfather)(deceased),|
Michael Lee is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by Tristan Wilds. He is a middle school pupil and is friends with Namond Brice, Randy Wagstaff and Duquan "Dukie" Weems. He is more soft-spoken and composed than his friends, and appears to have a leadership role among his peers. Michael is very protective of his younger half-brother Bug, to whom he is effectively a parent, and Dukie, who is often ridiculed by his peers for his poverty. His mother Raylene is a drug addict and he avoids any adult interest in his home life because of the precarious nature of his situation. It is strongly implied that he was sexually abused by Bug's father, even though Bug's father seemed helpful when returning from prison. Because of this, Michael has little trust in the adults in his life and, rather than trust or confide in any of the law-abiding men who try to mentor him, becomes a protégé of Marlo Stanfield's enforcer Chris Partlow.
Michael is interested in boxing and often works out in a local gym. He distrusts authority figures; he rebuffed both Dennis "Cutty" Wise's offer to train him in boxing and Marlo Stanfield's offer of a cash handout with no strings attached. He tells his friends that he is reluctant to feel like he owes anyone. Regardless, Stanfield is impressed with Michael's strength of character in denying a handout, not budging even after Stanfield personally confronts and insults him. In order to provide new school supplies for himself and his brother, he temporarily took over Namond's job as a runner for drug dealer Bodie Broadus. Bodie took a strong interest in him and offered to employ him permanently, but Michael turned him down.
Cutty continues to encourage Michael to take an interest in boxing and even takes him to a professional fight. Michael avoids conversation and physical contact with Cutty and refuses a lift to his house after the fight. Marlo orders Chris Partlow to find out more about him. Chris approaches Michael and offers him cash and protection to join the organization. Michael turns down the offer, claiming that he must look out for his family first and that Chris was never there for him or his mother. Michael also turns down Randy to work delivering fliers on election day. He also refuses to work with Namond selling drugs.
Michael gets into trouble with his math teacher Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski because he will not do his homework or participate in classroom exercises. Prez gives him detention, which Michael skips in order to pick up Bug from his own school. Prez learns from Randy why Michael did not attend and approaches him directly with an appeal to discuss any problems he might have. Michael begins to work harder in the class and is a quick study when Prez uses games of cards and dice to teach probability. He also completes his homework.
Michael continues to be wary of Cutty when using the boxing gym. He attends a professional fight with Cutty and Justin but refuses to let Cutty drive him home after Justin is dropped off. He is suspicious of Cutty's motives because he tends to get involved with the mothers of boys who use the gym. Cutty continues to try to break down Michael's defenses but Michael remains suspicious of him, later hinting to his friends that he suspects that Cutty is a pederast (which isn't true). This could be because of trust issues Michael has with adult men stemming from his treatment by Bug's father. When Namond is attacked by rival drug dealers, Michael is there to support his friend. However, when Cutty asks Michael what Namond is getting into, Michael tells him it is none of their business. Later, at Cutty's gym, Michael beats Namond for teasing Dukie, and runs out. Cutty tells him to never return, but later feels guilty about it. When Cutty decides to apologize and meets up later with Michael, standing on a street corner with other members of Marlo's crew, Michael initially rebuffs him. Monk shoots Cutty twice in the leg for not leaving Michael alone. Finally understanding Cutty's worthy character, Michael stops Monk from delivering a third and fatal shot, then offers to wait until the ambulance comes. Cutty tells Michael to go with the people who injured him, apparently accepting that Michael is now a lost cause.
Over the show's fourth season, Michael evolves from soft-spoken introvert to a cold-blooded killer. When Bug's father is paroled and returns to their home, Michael becomes desperate to get rid of the man. While not stated explicitly, it can be assumed from Michael's reactions that Bug's father sexually abused Michael before going to prison. This is hinted by Michael's distrust in adult males and the rather negative attitude he displays when subjects involving sexuality are brought up. It is also made more clear in Season 5, episode 7, "Took": while reviewing the case files of the bodies in the vacants, Bunk comes across Devar's profile and says, "Look at you, you baby-bumping motherfucker." The abuse is further hinted at later in the same episode while Bunk is interviewing Michael and says, "Look at you...not even blinking. Not that I blame you, after what this heinous motherfucker did to you." He asks Randy what would happen if he were to call social services on his stepfather, and Randy, speaking from experience, says that Michael and Bug would be split up and would both be placed in group homes. Out of options, Michael turns to Marlo and Chris for help. Chris murders Bug's father, Devar, after asking if he likes to "fuck little boys" and telling him that he knows why he is going to be killed. Chris deviates from his normal style of killing by savagely beating him. Marlo provides Michael and Bug with their own apartment. In return, Michael becomes a drug dealer and soldier in Marlo's operation. Marlo jokingly refers to Michael as Chris' "pup" when Michael is not around. While he has moved on to a new life within the drug trade, he nonetheless offers "Dukie" a place to live, although with the apparent price of enlisting Dukie into Marlo's crew.
Michael continues to work with the Stanfield Organization more than a year later and still reports to Chris Partlow. His crew has changed somewhat and while Duquan "Dukie" Weems and Kenard remain, Michael also now has Spider and a young dealer named Marcus working for him. The other dealers do not respect Dukie and do not respond to him. Michael decides to withdraw Dukie and pay him to look after Bug instead. He promotes Spider to act as his second.
Partlow continues to train Michael as an enforcer. Michael is brought along to kill Junebug after Marlo Stanfield hears that Junebug has been questioning Marlo's sexuality. They arrive over an hour early to do the hit, as Chris tells Michael to arrive early for a murder to scope out the scene and make sure there are no surprises. Michael questions the necessity of the murder since the rumors are unfounded and have not been proved to originate with Junebug. However, Snoop angrily rebukes Michael. Partlow orders Michael to watch the back of the house and kill anyone who tries to escape while Partlow and Snoop enter from the front. Once inside, the older enforcers kill three adults, but a small child runs out of the house. Michael cannot bring himself to shoot the boy.
Following his involvement in the Junebug triple homicide Michael becomes socially withdrawn. Dukie convinces Michael to take a day trip to Six Flags with him and Bug. The two enjoy their day but when they return Monk confronts Michael about leaving his corner unattended.
Michael and his crew are arrested by Officer Anthony Colicchio but no charges are filed. Raylene signs Michael out of jail and chastises him for not bringing Bug to see her more often. She asks Michael for money but he refuses to pay her to act as his mother. Bunk Moreland questions Michael about the murder of his stepfather, saying he doesn't blame Michael for having him killed because of the sexual abuse he suffered, but knows that Michael lacked the size and strength to do a brutal murder like that himself and asks who did the murder. Michael refuses to tell him anything. Along with Chris, Snoop, and O-dog, he participated in the botched ambush on Omar Little in Monk's apartment. He was frightened when Omar approached him on sending a message to Stanfield, fearing that he might recognize him from the apartment that night. With Omar in the streets terrorizing Marlo's corners, and Marlo doing little in response, Michael begins to question his boss' fierce reputation. This begins to cause a rift between him and the higher ups in the organization.
When Marlo, Chris, Cheese and Monk are all arrested due to the investigation, Monk suspects Michael of being an informant. Although neither Marlo or Chris believe Michael to be a snitch, Marlo reluctantly orders Snoop to kill him, not wanting to take the risk of leaving Michael on the streets. Snoop attempts to set Michael up, by telling him a local drug dealer is responsible for the bust. Suspicious, Michael follows Snoop and discovers that it is indeed a set-up. Before Snoop has the chance to kill Michael, he draws his gun on her, and tells her he figured out the plot by following Chris's earlier advice to show up to a job early. He asks what has he done to be killed. Snoop replies that they think he's been talking to the police. Michael denies the claim, but Snoop tells him that he's too isolated and asks too many questions to ever be considered a true member of their crew. Michael shoots her in the head and leaves Snoop in the car dead. Michael rushes home, and in a panic, tells Duquan and Bug to pack their things. On the run from Marlo's crew, the three are forced to split up. Michael leaves a tearful Bug at his aunt's house in the suburbs. Duquan reluctantly stays with the junk man he has been working for after having a conversation with Michael where he realizes the two are not as close as he thought they were. Michael drives off and goes into hiding. Michael eventually returns as a stick-up artist, and with a partner robs Vinson in his rim shop, shooting him in the knee with a shotgun. His actions parallel those of Omar Little.
- "Character profile - Michael Lee". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-09-16.
- 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.
- Ernest Dickerson (director); William F. Zorzi (story and teleplay), David Simon (story) (2008-01-13). "Unconfirmed Reports". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 2. HBO.
- "The Wire episode guide - episode 52 Uncomfirmed Reports". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- Scott and Joy Kecken (directors); Chris Collins (story and teleplay), David Simon (story) (2008-01-20). "Not for Attribution". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 3. HBO.
- "The Wire episode guide - episode 53 Not for Attribution". 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.