Old Cases

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"Old Cases"
The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 4
Directed by Clement Virgo
Story by David Simon
Ed Burns
Teleplay by David Simon
Original air date June 23, 2002 (2002-06-23)
Running time 60 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Buys"
Next →
"The Pager"
List of The Wire episodes

"Old Cases" is the fourth episode of the first season of the HBO original series, The Wire. The episode was written by David Simon from a story by David Simon & Ed Burns and was directed by Clement Virgo. It originally aired on June 23, 2002.

Plot summary[edit]

The Police[edit]

Kima Greggs and McNulty attend a court hearing for Marvin Browning, a Barksdale dealer arrested for a hand-to-hand deal. Hoping he will give them information, they push ASA Dawkins to pursue the maximum sentence of 5 years due to his prior arrests, even though Browning had only been caught selling 1 gel cap of heroin and 1 vial of cocaine. He nonetheless summarily refuses their offer of a deal. Polk visits Mahon in the hospital, where he learns that Mahon will be getting an early retirement and an increase in his pension due to his injury. Mahon tells Polk that he could emulate him and deliberately injure himself, which Polk mulls.

Herc and Carver drive out to the "Boy's Village"[1] in Prince George's County, planning to interrogate Bodie Broadus, only to find that he has escaped from the low-security facility. They raid Bodie's home, but find only his grandmother. Embarrassed by the rude intrusion, Herc apologizes respectfully to Bodie's grandmother and leaves his card.

Bunk Moreland and McNulty review old homicide cases and try to match them to the Barksdale organization. Their sergeant, Jay Landsman, insists they review the case of Deirdre Kresson, a college girl murdered far from the west side, with a "Dee" listed as a possible suspect. Landsman points out that the Homicide Unit is under-staffed while McNulty is on the Barksdale detail, and McNulty reluctantly agrees to investigate the months-old murder despite not believing there is any connection.

McNulty and Bunk visit the Kresson crime scene, where they communicate using only variations of the word "fuck." McNulty snags his finger in a metal tape measure and Bunk uses a squeaky marker pen. They are able to accurately recreate the events of the murder and find the shell casing and bullet that previous detectives missed. Landsman visits Major William Rawls and — while he concedes that McNulty is "addicted to himself" and believes that he is "the smartest person in the room" — defends him asserting that these very qualities make him a good detective. Relenting, Rawls offers a deal: if McNulty wraps up the detail in two weeks, he can return to normal duty.

Greggs and Bubbles discuss the recent hit on the Barksdale stash. Bubbles is disappointed she has never heard of Omar Little or his brother No-Heart Anthony. She realizes that she is late for a class and calls in for a replacement. McNulty picks up Bubbles (and proves to Greggs that widespread knowledge of No-Heart Anthony isn't a figment of Bubble's imagination); an irritated Greggs responds with "fuck y'all" and then drives to her class, while McNulty realises he is late for his son's soccer game and drives there with Bubbles. McNulty discusses sharing parental custody with estranged wife Elena, but the conversation devolves into profanity. Greggs studies at home, until Cheryl chastises her for getting marker on the sofa. The two play around and Cheryl insists that Greggs work at the table. Greggs notices Cheryl's cell phone bill and realizes that the Barksdale dealers use pagers rather than cell phones because cell phones maintain a record of all incoming and outgoing calls.

Judge Phelan is disappointed when Deputy Commissioner Ervin Burrell tells him they have nothing on the Barksdale organization's leaders. At the detail office, Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski does wordsearch puzzles and mans the phones, when Phelan calls McNulty to tell of his meeting with Burrell. Daniels meets with Burrell and tells him that he can take the case wherever Burrell wants, raising the possibility of a wire to make the case, suggested by McNulty, as the only way to get at the higher-ups.

At the detail office, Greggs brings up pager cloning, and they discuss the requirements for a surveillance affidavit, including the need to demonstrate "exhaustion" by showing that no other method will work. Daniels points out that they need to have a number to bug, and Freamon surprises everybody by revealing that the number he found in the stash house (in "The Buys") belongs to D'Angelo Barksdale. Realizing that Freamon is "natural police" (as confirmed by Bunk), McNulty buys him a drink. Freamon tells how he was thrown out of homicide and moved to the pawn shop unit for defying orders from his Major. Specifically, Freamon investigated a homicide case involving the robbery and murder of an old woman. Freamon had identified the suspects (two squirrels) as well as a third person who had all the stashed stolen goods (the fence). Freamon was told by his Major not to include the fence in the case as he was the son of a prominent newspaper editor with connections to the acting Commissioner. Freamon defiantly persevered, using the third person in the case, precipitating his transfer to an area he dreaded — the pawnshop department. Freamon warns that McNulty is likely on a similar path, and that if a commanding officer ever asks "where do you not want to wind up?" in a concerned tone, to be wary and not answer honestly. That night, McNulty shows up at Greggs's apartment drunk. She confirms that their visual surveillance was unable to follow targets into the project towers as planned, fully proving "exhaustion", and he thanks her for her good work. Back with Cheryl, Greggs explains that McNulty is lonely, and they begin to make love.

The Street[edit]

Omar, Brandon, and Bailey enjoy the proceeds from the Barksdale stashhouse robbery. Brandon apologizes for using Omar's name during the raid, and Omar reassures him, pointing out that he was already well known in Baltimore anyway. His worry is that the Barksdale crew would retaliate upon Brandon — now revealed to be Omar's lover. An addict approaches Omar with her infant son and respectfully asks for a free fix, which he gives her.

Avon Barksdale discusses the loss of the stash with his enforcers Anton "Stinkum" Artis and Wee-Bey Brice and puts a contract out on Omar's crew. Avon ridicules Omar and doubles the price of the original bounty for his murder when informed by Stinkum that Omar is gay. Stringer Bell tells Avon he is worried about the pit operation, since the stashhouse robbery coincided with the police raid. He reassures Avon that his nephew D'Angelo is doing well, but he is worried there may be a leak from someone else in D'Angelo's crew.

Bodie arrives back at the low-rises, where Poot Carr and Wallace are surprised that he got home so soon after his arrest for assaulting a police officer. D'Angelo laughs when Bodie says that he's just too bad and that the system 'can't hold me' and Bodie says to D'Angelo that, had it been him, he would still be there. D'Angelo bristles at this and tells of murdering a scorned girlfriend of Avon, Deirdre Kresson, who had threatened revenge by testifying to police. He describes tapping on the window of her apartment at night and shooting her when she approached. Bodie, who has never killed anybody, is humbled. The dealers destroy some new security cameras around the towers.[2][3][4]


Title reference[edit]

The title refers to both the old homicide cases being investigated by Bunk and McNulty and to the old bullet cases found at the Deirdre Kresson crime scene.


The line is said as Bubbles is being returned to the ghetto by McNulty after the two have spent an afternoon in suburbia, which Bubbles refers to as "Leave It to Beaver land." Bubbles is referring to the fact that despite the short drive, there is a night and day difference between Baltimore county (heaven) and Baltimore City (here).


When Freamon and McNulty start talking in the bar, Miles Davis' "All Blues", from the album Kind of Blue plays diegetically in the background. When the head has finished and Davis begins his trumpet solo, Freamon opens up and tells McNulty what happened to his career.


Starring cast[edit]

Although credited, Deirdre Lovejoy does not appear in this episode.

Gbenga Akinnagbe, the actor who portrays Chris Partlow, Marlo's adviser and primary enforcer, appears in this episode uncredited as a police officer in court.

First appearances[edit]

This episode marks the first appearance of Jimmy McNulty's estranged family. Callie Thorne plays Elena McNulty, Jimmy's estranged wife and the mother of his two sons. Callie Thorne also appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street alongside several other Wire cast members. Antonio Cordova plays Michael McNulty, Jimmy's soccer-playing younger son. His older son, Sean, remains unseen in this episode.


This episode was noted for the "Fuck scene" in which Bunk and McNulty evaluate a crime scene while repeatedly saying only the word "fuck". TimeOut listed it as one of the Top 5 scenes from the series.[5]


  1. ^ TelevisionWithoutPity > Old Cases - Episode Details
  2. ^ "Episode guide - episode 04 Old Cases". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-26. 
  3. ^ David Simon, Ed Burns (2002-06-23). "Old Cases". The Wire. Season 1. Episode 4. HBO. 
  4. ^ Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. 
  5. ^ http://www.timeout.com/newyork/own-this-city-blog/top-five-scenes-from-hbos-classic-series-the-wire-1

External links[edit]