The Wire

Old Cases

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"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.

Bodie wakes up from his injuries in a Washington, D.C. juvenile detention center and manages to escape just before Herc and Carver arrive to interrogate him. Avon discusses the loss of the pit's stash with his enforcers and marks Omar and his crew for death. McNulty and his partner from homicide Bunk Moreland investigate an old murder that may be related to D'Angelo.


The Police Edit

Kima Greggs and McNulty attend a court hearing for Marvin Browning – a Barksdale dealer they pulled in on a hand to hand. Hoping he will give them information about Avon Barksdale and his organization, they push ASA Dawkins to pursue the maximum sentence (five years, due to his prior arrests), but Browning refuses their offer of a deal, electing instead to do the time. Polk visits Mahone in the hospital, where he learns that Mahone will be getting an early retirement and a bump in his pension due to his injury. Mahone tells Polk that he could follow him by deliberately injuring himself, which Polk reluctantly considers. Herc and Carver drive out to the "Boy's (sic) Village" [1], planning to interrogate Bodie Broadus, only to find that he has escaped from the low-security facility. They burst into Bodie's home, but find only his grandmother. Embarrassed by his strongarm tactics, Herc speaks 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 "D" listed as a possible suspect. Landsman points out that the Homicide Unit is under-staffed while McNulty is detailed away, and McNulty reluctantly agrees to investigate the months-old murder despite not believing there is any connection. When McNulty and Bunk visit the Kresson crime scene, communicating solely in variations of the word "fuck", they accurately recreate the events of the murder and find the shell casings and bullet that previous detectives missed. Landsman visits Major William Rawls and says that McNulty is addicted to himself and his ego leads him to believe that he is the smartest person in the room. Somewhat convinced, Rawls offers a deal: if McNulty wraps up the detail in two weeks, he can come back with a clean slate.

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 she is late for a class and calls in for a replacement. McNulty picks up Bubbles, but has to stop off at his son's soccer game. McNulty discusses sharing custody of his sons with his estranged wife Elena, but the conversation devolves into profanity. Kima studies at home, until Cheryl chastises her for getting marker on the sofa. The two play around and Cheryl insists that Kima work at the table. Kima 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 word search puzzles and mans the phones, when Phelan calls 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, McNulty brings up pager cloning, and they discuss the requirements for a surveillance affidavit, including the need to prove "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 by doing his job properly and fully. 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", as if they are concerned, to be wary and not answer honestly. That night, McNulty shows up at Kima's apartment, drunk. She confirms that their visual surveillance was unable to follow targets into the project towers, fully proving "exhaustion", and he thanks her for her good work. Back with Cheryl, Kima explains that McNulty is very lonely, and they begin to have sex.

The StreetEdit

Omar, Brandon, and Bailey enjoy the proceeds from the Barksdale stash rip. Bailey apologizes for using Omar's name and Omar reassures Bailey that he is more worried that Brandon will face repercussions, as Omar is well known in Baltimore anyway. An addict approaches Omar with her son and respectfully asks for a free fix, which he grants.

Avon Barksdale discuss the loss of the stash with his enforcers Anton "Stinkum" Artis and Wee-Bey Brice and he puts a contract out on Omar's crew. Avon seems even more upset when informed that, according to Bird (another soldier), Omar is a homosexual. Stringer Bell tells Avon he is worried about the pit operation with the stash rip coinciding 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 in the low rises and Poot Carr and Wallace are astounded that Bodie got home so quickly after his actions. D'Angelo feels his alpha male status being challenged and tells them a story of murdering a girlfriend of Avon's -- Deirdre Kresson. He describes tapping on the window of her apartment and shooting her once she approached. Bodie, who has never killed anybody, is humbled. Later, the dealers destroy some new security cameras around the towers.[2][3][4]


First appearancesEdit

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. The older son, Sean, remains unseen in this episode. [5]



Actor/actress Character Role
Dominic West Jimmy McNulty Homicide detective - Barksdale detail
John Doman William Rawls Major and homicide unit commander
Idris Elba Stringer Bell Barksdale organization underboss
Frankie R. Faison Ervin Burrell Deptuty commissioner of operations
Larry Gilliard, Jr. D'Angelo Barksdale Barksdale organization crew chief
Wood Harris Avon Barksdale Drug kingpin
Deirdre Lovejoy Rhonda Pearlman Assistant State's Attorney
Wendell Pierce Bunk Moreland Homicide detective
Lance Reddick Cedric Daniels Narcotics unit shift lieutenant
Andre Royo Bubbles Drug addict and confidential informant
Sonja Sohn Kima Greggs Narcotics unit detective

Despite being credited, Deirdre Lovejoy does not appear in this episode.

Guest Starring

  1. with Peter Gerety as Judge Daniel Phelan
  2. Callie Thorne as Elena McNulty
  3. Michael K. Williams as Omar Little
  4. J. D. Williams as Bodie Broadus
  5. Seth Gilliam as Detective Ellis Carver
  6. Domenick Lombardozzi as Detective Thomas "Herc" Hauk
  7. Clarke Peters as Detective Lester Freamon
  8. Jim True-Frost as Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski
  9. Hassan Johnson as Wee-Bey Brice
  10. Michael B. Jordan as Wallace
  11. Corey Parker Robinson as Detective Leander Sydnor
  12. Delaney Williams as Sergeant Jay Landsman
  13. Melanie Nicholls-King as Cheryl
  14. Michael Salconi as Detective Michael Santangelo
  15. Tray Chaney as Poot Carr
  16. Brandon Price as Anton "Stinkum" Artis
  17. Nat Benchley as Detective Patrick Mahone
  18. Tom Quinn as Detective Augustus Polk
  19. Michael Kevin Darnall as Brandon
  20. Caroline G. Pleasant as Bodie's grandmother
  21. Antonio Cordova as Michael McNulty
  22. Lance Williams as Bailey



Opening credits

  1. Alexa L. Fogel C.S.A. - Casting
  2. Vince Peranio - Production Designer
  3. Kate Sanford - Editor
  4. Uta Briesewitz - Director of Photography
  5. Karen L. Thorson - Co-Producer
  6. Nina Kostroff Noble - Producer
  7. David Simon - Creator
  8. David Simon - Teleplay
  9. David Simon &
  10. Edward Burns - Story
  11. Clement Virgo - Director

Closing credits

  1. Robert F. Colesberry - Executive Producer
  2. David Simon - Executive Producer
  3. Nina Kostroff Noble - Unit Production Manager
  4. Frank Ferro - First Assistant Director (AD)
  5. Joseph Incaprera - Second AD
  6. Alonzo V. Wilson - Costume Designer
  7. Pat Moran C.S.A. - Baltimore Casting

Title ReferenceEdit

The title refers to the old homicide cases being investigated by Bunk and McNulty. Slang-wise, it could also refer to Polk and Mahone, who are aged and letting themselves be useless, contrasted with Freamon, who is old but bursting to be useful again.


"It's a thin line 'tween heaven and here. - Bubbles"
- {{{2}}} Spoken by Bubbles to McNulty after McNulty returns Bubbles to the ghetto low-rises of Baltimore after being with McNulty in Baltimore's suburbia which Bubbles refers to as "Leave It to Beaver land." Bubbles is describing the physical short distance between the slums and suburbia as well as the philosophical distance in that the two are still connected as parts of the same city and that it doesn't take much for an area of a city to degrade. Bubbles may also be describing how it is more dangerous in the slums and that death, and possibly heaven, could be just around the corner.


  • In the bar Freamon and McNulty begin talking slowly and without much information as Miles Davis' 'All Blues', from the album Kind of Blue plays diegetically in the background. When the main theme of the song has finished and Davis begins his trumpet solo, Freamon opens up and tells McNulty what happened to his career.
  • The non-fiction book The Corner describes this specific Boys Village, which is in Prince George's County, Maryland, in great detail, including the feuds which develop because it accepts corner kids from both Washington D.C. and Baltimore. Later, in season four, Namond Brice is scared to go because of the DC boys.
  • The episode opens with Herc struggling to get a desk into Daniels's office. The other officers attempt to help, but many wind up pushing in the wrong direction, hindering rather than helping. In an interview, David Simon pointed out that this is a metaphor for his opinion of the general state of policework in Baltimore.
  • David Simon has said that, when working on the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, Jay Landsman and he discussed the possibility that homicide detectives would be able to communicate solely through the word "fuck". Years later, in this episode, he fulfilled this fantasy by having Bunk and McNulty successfully work a crime scene, communicating only through that word.


  2. Episode guide - episode 04 Old Cases. HBO (2004). Retrieved on 2006-07-26.
  3. "Old Cases". David Simon, Ed Burns. The Wire. HBO. 2002-06-23. No. 4, season 1.
  4. Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. 
  5. Rob Owen (2002). TV Reviews: Networks aren't taking it easy this summer. Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved on 2007-10-04.

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