The Target (The Wire episode)

The Target (The Wire episode)

Infobox The Wire episode

caption =
episode_name = The Target
episode_no = 1
epigraph = "...when it's not your turn."
- McNulty
teleplay = David Simon
story = David Simon and Ed Burns
writer =
director = Clark Johnson
guest_star = "see below"
prod_code = 101
airdate = Start date|2002|6|2
season = one|
"The Target" is the first episode of the first season of the HBO original series, "The Wire", the pilot episode of the series. 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 2, 2002.


Title Reference

The title refers to Detective Jimmy McNulty setting his sights on Stringer Bell (see picture) and Avon Barksdale's drug dealing organization as the target of an investigation.


This line is spoken in a conversation with Bunk where McNulty is criticising him for taking on a homicide case he could have avoided because he was not up in the rotation to receive one thus breaking the rules of their institution. Bunk took the case because he was told the corpse was in a house and knew that his chances of solving the case were statistically higher with the body indoors. The conversation is ironic because McNulty has broken the rules in a much larger way by circumventing the chain of command and is about to get into trouble over his actions.cite video
people = David Simon
year = 2005
title = "The Wire" "The Target" commentary track
medium = DVD
location =
publisher = HBO


The episode featured a commentary track recorded by creator and writer/producer David Simon as a special feature on the DVD release. He is quick to discuss the season's novelistic structure and the theme of the corrupting influence of the institutions that the characters have committed to. He mentions many real life inspirations for events and characters on the show.

He discusses the technique of using surveillance methods within shots (TV monitors, security cameras etc.) to give the sense of always being watched and a need to process the vast amount of information available to the show's detective characters. He also talks about trying to ground the show in realism by using only diegetic music (music with a source in the scene).

Throughout the commentary Simon tries to distinguish The Wire from other television crime dramas. He makes the point that the detectives are motivated not by a desire to protect and serve but through the intellectual vanity of believing they are smarter than the criminal they are chasing.

At the end of the episode, when the body of Gant is found, there is a brief flashback to the trial, re-identifying the character for the audience. David Simon cites it as one of the few things HBO urged them to do, to make sure audiences recognised the character. Although Simon concedes that 'maybe they were right', he says that they were reluctant to put it in as it broke from the style of the show. The show's storytelling has been entirely linear ever since.cite video
people = David Simon
year = 2005
title = "The Wire" "The Target" commentary track
medium = DVD
location =
publisher = HBO

Non-fiction elements

Both the Snot Boogie murder story and Bunk's tale of shooting a mouse in his kitchen are true stories from Simon's time researching "". Real police officers named Jay Landsman and Bunk are also characters in the non-fiction book.

Reviewers have noted the pilot's grounding in the non-fiction political climate. The San Francisco Chronicle commented that the show had forecast a reduction of the FBI's attention to the war on drugs because of the competing war on terror.Cite web|url=|title=HBO fleshes out all sides of drug war in "The Wire'|accessdate=2007-10-04|publisher=San Francisco Chronicle|year=2002|author=Tim Goodman] David Simon confirms that the pilot was shot only a few weeks after 9/11, but that the writers correctly predicted what the FBI's response would be.


The opening scene (the Snot Boogie crime scene) is filmed at the corner of Faltington and Lexington in West Baltimore. The scenes at the Orlando's gentleman's club (beginning in this episode, and continuing throughout the season) were actually filmed at the Ritz in Fells Point.


tarring cast

The credited starring cast consists of Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty), John Doman (William Rawls), Idris Elba (Stringer Bell), Frankie Faison (Ervin Burrell), Larry Gilliard, Jr. (D'Angelo Barksdale), Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale), Deirdre Lovejoy (Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman), Wendell Pierce (Bunk Moreland), Lance Reddick (Cedric Daniels), Andre Royo (Bubbles), and Sonja Sohn (Kima Greggs).

Guest stars

#Peter Gerety as Judge Daniel Phelan
#Seth Gilliam as Detective Ellis Carver
#Domenick Lombardozzi as Detective Thomas "Herc" Hauk
#Leo Fitzpatrick as Johnny
#J.D. Williams as Preston "Bodie" Broadus
#Hassan Johnson as Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice
#Michael B. Jordan as Wallace
#Clayton LeBouef as Wendell "Orlando" Blocker
#Melanie Nicholls-King as Cheryl
#Doug Olear as FBI Special Agent Terrance "Fitz" Fitzhugh
#Delaney Williams as Sergeant Jay Landsman
#Richard DeAngelis as Major Raymond Foerster
#Wendy Grantham as Shardene Innes
#Michael Kostroff as Maurice Levy
#Michael Salconi as Detective Michael Santangelo
#Ingrid Cornell as Nakeesha Lyles
#Larry Hull as William Gant
#Lucy Newman-Williams as Assistant State's Attorney Taryn Hansen
#Michael Stone Forrest as Detective Frank Barlow

The episode introduces many characters who are important over the course of the series, despite only being credited as guest stars. Domenick Lombardozzi plays Herc. Leo Fitzpatrick plays homeless, hapless drug addict Johnny Weeks. Hassan Johnson plays criminal enforcer Wee-Bey Brice. Michael B. Jordan plays sensitive fourteen year old drug dealer Wallace. Melanie Nicholls-King plays Detective Greggs' domestic partner Cheryl. Doug Olear plays FBI Special Agent Terrence "Fitz" Fitzhugh. Richard DeAngelis plays Major Raymond Foerster. Wendy Grantham plays stripper Shardene Innes. Michael Kostroff plays defense lawyer Maurice Levy. Michael Salconi plays Detective Michael Santangelo.

Reviewers have noted that several actors appearing in the series have previously appeared in "" and "Oz".cite web
year = 2002
title = Wire Power
publisher = Entertainment Weekly
accessdate = 2007-10-03
url =,,264531~3~~wire,00.html
] In addition to Reddick and Harris, Oz alumni include Seth Gilliam (Ellis Carver) and J.D. Williams (Bodie Broadus). Peter Gerety (Judge Phelan) and Clayton LeBouef (Orlando) were both major characters on "Homicide", on which Delaney Williams (Sgt. Jay Landsman) had appeared as well. This episode was the first of several directed by Clark Johnson, also an alumnus of Homicide. "The Corner" star Larry Hull appears as maintenance man and witness William Gant.

Uncredited appearances

*Chris Clanton as Savino
*Tray Chaney as Malik "Poot" Carr
*Brandon Price as Anton "Stinkum" Artis
*Robert F. Colesberry as Detective Ray Cole
*Bobby J. Brown as Officer Bobby Brown
*Unknown as Snot Boogie's friend

Brandon Price and Chris Clanton appeared as Barksdale crew soldiers Anton "Stinkum" Artis and Savino Bratton in the courtroom scene but had no lines and were not credited. Tray Chaney appeared as Poot Carr in the pit, notably being told by Bodie Broadus to chase down Johnny Weeks, but he has few lines and no credit. This begins a trend of minor roles and appearances remaining uncredited on the show. Producer Robert F. Colesberry makes an uncredited cameo appearance as homicide detective Ray Cole, whom he plays over the course of the first two seasons.



The Police

Jimmy McNulty, a detective with Baltimore Homicide, observes the trial of D'Angelo Barksdale, a young drug dealer charged with murder. The first witness, William Gant, identifies Barksdale, but the corroborating witness, a security guard named Nakeesha Lyles, changes her story and refuses to finger Barksdale. The jury returns with a "not guilty" verdict. Judge Phelan calls McNulty into his chambers, where McNulty reveals that he has noticed that D'Angelo's uncle Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell have been tied to many murders and tells Phelan that he believes they are major players in West Baltimore's drug trade; McNulty complains that nobody is investigating their organization, and Phelan calls Deputy Commissioner Burrell. Major Rawls is incensed, and forces McNulty to write the report which Burrell requests about the Barksdale murders. Sergeant Landsman (McNulty's supervisor in Homicide) arrives in the morning warning McNulty that his behavior could end up in reassignment. McNulty reveals that his worst nightmare would be working "the boat" - the marine unit.

Narcotics lieutenant Cedric Daniels is charged by Commissioner Burrell with organizing a detail to investigate the Barksdale operation. Burrell wants to keep the investigation quick and simple, nothing sustained. Daniels brings Narcotics detectives "Kima" Greggs, Herc Hauk, and Ellis Carver with him. Rawls sends McNulty to join them, in addition to Homicide Detective Santangelo, one of his unit's more inept detectives. McNulty objects to Daniels's plan of action - "buy busts" - and suggests a wiretap is the way to get a conviction. Daniels doesn't budge, insisting that a fast and simple investigation is the way to go and also suggests looking at old murders to try to find a connection to Barksdale.

McNulty visits another contact to look for help with investigating the Barksdales - FBI Special Agent Terrence "Fitz" Fitzhugh. Fitz shows McNulty the FBI's far superior surveillance equipment but reveals that their drug investigations are coming to an end because resources are being shifted to the war on terror. McNulty then goes drinking with his homicide partner Bunk Moreland and complains about his ex-wife, who prevents him from seeing his two kids enough. Greggs has a rather different evening - returning home to her partner Cheryl.

The Street

Wee-Bey Brice drives D'Angelo to Orlando's strip club, a front for the Barksdale Organization. When D'Angelo makes the mistake of discussing the trial in Wee-Bey's car - Wee-Bey pulls over and curtly reminds him that their rules are not to talk business in the car, on the phone, or anywhere they aren't sure of. At the club, Avon chides D'Angelo for murdering someone publicly, costing the crew time, effort, and money to change the security guard's story. D'Angelo also meets a stripper named Shardene Innes working in the club, though he declines to buy her a drink.

When D'Angelo shows up to the towers the next day, Stringer tells him he's been demoted to heading a crew in the low-rise projects, including Bodie Broadus, Poot Carr, and young Wallace. A junkie named Bubbles and his protégé Johnny buy drugs with counterfeit money, but when they try to repeat the scam, Bodie leads the crew in beating Johnny. Bubbles is also a confidential informant (CI) for Greggs, and agrees to begin giving her information on the Barksdale organization as revenge for the beating.

D'Angelo has a distressing start to his second day working "the pit". He passes the body of William Gant - the witness in his murder trial - lying in the street and seems upset about his fate.

cite web
year = 2004
title = Episode guide - episode 01 The Target
publisher = HBO
accessdate = 2006-07-24
url =
] cite episode
title = The Target
episodelink = The Target (The Wire episode)
series = The Wire
serieslink = The Wire (TV series)
credits = David Simon, Ed Burns
writers =
network = HBO
station =
city =
airdate = 2002-06-02
season = 1
number = 1
] cite book
last = Alvarez
first = Rafael
year = 2004
title = The Wire: Truth Be Told
publisher = Pocket Books
location = New York


William Gant, a witness in the D'Angelo Barksdale murder trial, is found murdered in the low rise projects at the end of the episode.


Critical response

The Guardian Unlimited review noted the pilot episode establishing the series themes of institutional dysfunction, the ineffectiveness of the war on drugs and novelistic structure. The review compared the series to Richard Price's novel Clockers and wondered if the pace could be sustained for an entire season. The review picked out the characters of Jimmy McNulty and Avon Barksdale as particularly significant.cite web
year = 2002
title = Call the cops
publisher = The Guardian Unlimited
accessdate = 2007-10-03
url =,14676,1404985,00.html
] An Entertainment Weekly reviewer praised Clark Johnson's direction of the episode and credited him with drawing subtle performances out of actors Peter Gerety and Lance Reddick. Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle characterised the show as another success for the HBO network and a well produced and complex subversion of the cops and robbers genre. He credited David Simon's reporters eye for detail for the series' verisimilitude. He also noted the series themes of institutional dysfunction, the ineffectiveness of the war on drugs and novelistic structure. A separate Chronicle article highlighted the theme of institutional dysfunction through the comparable experience of characters on opposite sides of the law using McNulty and D'Angelo Barksdale as examples.Cite web|url=|title=Fighting crime, and bureaucrats. Creator of HBO's 'Wire' takes police drama in new direction|accessdate=2007-10-04|publisher=San Francisco Chronicle|year=2002|author=Peter Hartlaub] The review also made favourable comparisons between the show and Simon's previous work on Homicide: Life on the Street attributing the differences to the switch to cable television for "The Wire" from the NBC network who produced "Homicide".

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette was more critical of the show. They stated that the producers expectations that the audience would have the patience for a complex and morally ambiguous story that unfolds slowly might prove unfounded. They noted the cast members from Homicide and Oz and described "The Wire" as less accessible than either of these shows and also compared the pacing to "Farscape". They praised the performances of some of the cast and said that the show had moments that drew the viewer in but ultimately required too much of its audience.Cite web|url=|title=TV Reviews: Networks aren't taking it easy this summer|accessdate=2007-10-04|publisher=Pittsburgh Post Gazette|year=2002|author=Rob Owen] The New York Times also felt that the show "went out of its way to be choppy and confusing" and eschewed conventions of signposting the introduction of characters and obvious exposition but commented that while some viewers may be alienated others would find this refreshing.Cite web|url=|title= TV WEEKEND; A Gritty Drug World, From All Sides|accessdate=2007-10-11|publisher=The New York Times|year=2002|author=Neil Genzlinger] They noted the theme of institutional dysfunction and the use of parallel storylines for characters in different organizations to highlight this citing the pariah status of Jimmy McNulty and D'Angelo Barksdale. The review also criticised the shows attempts at realistic dialogue, saying that it often seemed self conscious, and the examination of the detectives' personal lives, saying that it had been done before. The review stated that the show's success would hinge not on its apparent high quality but on the tolerance of the viewer for the complexity of the continuing narrative which they characterised as considerably more downbeat than high octane shows like "24".

The opening scene at the Snot Boogie crime scene has been praised as being a "perfectly crafted set-up" for the series themes of institutional dysfunction, devaluing human life and as epitomising the bleak humor of the show.Cite web|url=|title=Stealing Life|accessdate=2007-10-14|publisher=The New Yorker|year=2007|author=Margaret Talbot "It was a perfectly crafted setup for Simon’s themes: how inner-city life could be replete with both casual cruelty and unexpected comedy; how the police and the policed could, at moments, share the same jaundiced view of the world; how some dollar-store, off-brand version of American capitalism could trickle down, with melancholy effect, into the most forsaken corners of American society. But, as it happened, the Snot Boogie story was real—Simon had heard it, down to the line about America, from a police detective, and it appears in “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.” Simon’s gift is in recognizing an anecdote like that for the found parable that it is—“stealing life,” as he once described it to me—and knowing which parts to steal."]


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