[SPOILER ALERT: I talk about events from Season 5 of The Wire below.]
In The Wire, Lester Freamon says, “All the pieces matter,” which is the best and most succinct summary line of the whole show.
Series 5 ends with McNulty looking over Baltimore (the whole) and then pans to a closing montage of all the players (the individual pieces) before going back to city skyline (the whole) again.
Appropriate as McNulty has basically been the city’s puppeteer in Season 5.
Anyone who’s seen the show all the way through gets that it’s about the pieces-and-whole dialectic, and about understanding the city as a complex, unified system, linked together by interconnected sub-systems.
What two characters best understand this? It seems McNulty (who is the character privileged enough to close the show with the long, longing look at the city) and Freamon (who loves seeing how pieces fit together–his bulletin board is evidence of this).
What just hit me, though, is that Freamon’s interest in tiny dollhouse pieces that then fit together into whole unified sets is a sort of microcosm of his interest in how networks and systems (like drug rings) have individual pieces that all fit together. Even in his hobby the writers portray him (intentionally?) as someone who has an interest in “all the pieces”–in this case, miniatures. He is a “systems guy,” through and through.
And, his working at a “pawn shop” could be an echo of or allusion to the “pawns” on the chessboard that D’Angelo uses to describe how the pieces each play their part in the game. Different meanings of “pawn,” but still could be related.
My conclusion? McNulty, though he’s a “gaping [jerk],” maybe sees the system better than anyone else. And Freamon, just as he does with dollhouse miniatures, is able to navigate it more deftly than anyone else.
In that sense, though they both end up very much outside the system (i.e., no longer police), the pro-systems thinking show casts them as its ultimate heroes.