The Detail

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"The Detail"
The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 2
Directed by Clark Johnson
Story by David Simon
Ed Burns
Teleplay by David Simon
Original air date June 9, 2002 (2002-06-09)
Running time 58 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Target"
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"The Buys"
List of The Wire episodes

"The Detail" is the second episode of the first season of the HBO original television series, The Wire (2002-2008). The episode was written by David Simon from a story by David Simon & Ed Burns and was directed by Clark Johnson. It originally aired on June 9, 2002.

Plot summary[edit]

Detectives Moreland and McNulty discuss murdered witness William Gant with the coroner. McNulty believes the Barksdale organization had Gant killed to send a message to people in the projects not to testify against them; Moreland, who is the primary investigator on the murder, is skeptical that anybody would kill a witness after they had already testified. McNulty visits Judge Phelan to inform about Gant. Based on Phelan's pressure, Deputy Commissioner Burrell orders Lieutenant Daniels to let McNulty work the case, hoping to keep the murder of a witness quiet. Mollified, Phelan agrees not to call the media about the murder.

Daniels and his detail arrive at their new office - a damp basement with little furniture. The rest of the detail is introduced, but Daniels soon dismisses them all as useless "humps", especially after officer Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski accidentally discharges his weapon indoors. When Daniels visits ASA Pearlman to complain, she tells him that Prez was nearly indicted for shooting his own patrol car. Daniels confides that he feels that Burrell sent him a message by not allowing him to pick his detail. Daniels meets with Lieutenant Cantrell and convinces him to assign Detective Leander Sydnor (Cantrell's best man) to the detail to counterbalance Prez (his worst).

Detectives Carver, Greggs, and Herc surreptitiously photograph Bubbles as he marks Barksdale dealers by pretending to sell them red hats. When Greggs brings Bubbles in to identify the photographed drug dealers, McNulty is impressed with the technique and surprised by the scale of the Barksdale organization.

Moreland and McNulty visit D'Angelo Barksdale in the low-rise projects to press him regarding the Gant murder. D'Angelo will say nothing and when he attempts to leave, they arrest him. Under interrogation, they play upon D'Angelo's conscience and he is moved to begin writing a letter of condolence to Gant's family. Barksdale attorney Maurice Levy arrives and stops D'Angelo from further self-incrimination. Greggs and McNulty show the letter to Daniels who is skeptical about its usefulness in building a case. Now free, D'Angelo takes his girlfriend, Donette, and their infant son to a family party, where his uncle Avon rebukes him for the letter.

While drinking late at night, Herc, Carver, and Prez decide to intimidate the tower operation. Prez pistol-whips a young man, Kevin Johnston, in the face for leaning on his car and mouthing off. This prompts a hail of missiles (beer and liquor bottles, TVs, etc.) thrown from the towers building, and ultimately gunshots. Herc is hit by flying glass as Carver calls for back-up, but is not seriously hurt. The next day, Daniels berates Herc, Carver, and Prez for their foolishness and asks who hit Johnston. Prez confesses and Daniels instructs him to lie about his actions and suggests a plausible story. He warns Prez that he must be convincing or he cannot protect him.

Moreland awakens McNulty by phone and tells him to look at the newspaper: the Gant murder is on the front page and Judge Phelan appears to be the source. Homicide Major Rawls becomes enraged yet again. McNulty again visits Phelan, who denies alerting the media, but quickly leaves. Alone, McNulty drinks heavily and is too inebriated to effectively intervene in a nearby car break-in. Daniels dines with wife Marla who admonishes him for covering up police brutality. She counsels him to withdraw from the politically charged case. Daniels is awakened later with news that Johnston has permanently lost use of one eye.[1][2][3]

First appearances[edit]

The episode marks the first appearance of several new recurring characters. Joining Daniels' detail are Lester Freamon, an aging former homicide detective who has spent thirteen years (and four months) in the pawn shop unit; Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski, a young and inexperienced detective with a history of erratic behavior and a father-in-law in a command post; Leander Sydnor, a rising star in the Baltimore PD that Daniels requests for his detail to compensate for bringing on Prez; and Augustus Polk and Patrick Mahon, two alcoholic property detectives who are nearing retirement age and are only interested in overtime pay and are content to let their careers end while performing as little actual police work as possible.

In the Barksdale organization, this episode marks the first appearance of Donette (D'Angelo Barksdale's materialistic girlfriend and the mother of his son), Little Man (a lieutenant who handles resupply for the tower crews), Ronnie Mo (the lieutenant who was previously in charge of the low-rises), and Kevin Johnston (the 14-year-old drug dealer who is maimed by Prez).

Guest star Erik Todd Dellums ("Dr Randall Frazier") previously appeared in Homicide: Life on the Street as recurring drug kingpin Luther Mahoney.[4] Reviewers have noted the similarities between the Homicide storyline involving this character and the plot of The Wire's first season.[5] Creator David Simon has admitted a tendency to re-cast actors he has worked with previously on Homicide or The Corner in roles on the other side of the law; in The Wire Dellums plays a medical examiner, Randall Frazier, who appears a few more times over the course of the series.[6]


Title reference[edit]

The title refers to the newly formed Barksdale detail (see picture).


This line is spoken in a conversation with Marla's husband Cedric about his impossible position of running the Barksdale investigation while trying to further his career. Extended to the episode as a whole the quote can also mean that if you do not become involved with the drug trade, commonly referred to as "The Game", you will not lose your life. This is most obviously evidenced in the episode by the murder of William Gant, about which D'Angelo exclaims, "he ain't have to testify"; if Gant had chosen not to testify he would not have become involved in D'Angelo's murder trial and would have still been alive.



Critical response[edit]

The "Chicken McNugget" scene is often cited by fans, and some reviewers, as being one of the most memorable moments in the show. Poot and Wallace speculate that the man who invented the Chicken McNuggets must be rich, and D'Angelo explains to them that McDonald's owns the rights to the McNugget, and the man who invented it likely received nothing for it and is now probably "working in the basement for regular wage thinking of some shit to make the fries taste better." Wallace responds with "he still had the idea though." [7]


  1. ^ "Episode guide - episode 02 The Detail". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-26. 
  2. ^ David Simon, Ed Burns (2002-06-09). "The Detail". The Wire. Season 1. Episode 2. HBO. 
  3. ^ Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. 
  4. ^ Rob Owen (2002-06-01). "TV Reviews: Networks aren't taking it easy this summer". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  5. ^ Peter Hartlaub (2002-06-05). "Fighting crime, and bureaucrats. Creator of HBO's 'Wire' takes police drama in new direction". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  6. ^ David Simon (2005). The Wire "The Target" commentary track (DVD). HBO. 
  7. ^ I Like to Watch | Salon Arts & Entertainment

External links[edit]

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