- "Ain't nobody got nothin to say about a 40-degree day. Fifty? Bring a smile to your face. Sixty? Shit, niggas are damn near barbecuing that motherfucker. Go down to 20? Niggas get they bitch on. Get they blood complainin'...but 40? Nobody give a fuck about 40. Nobody remember 40, and y'all niggas is giving me way too many 40-degree days."
- ―Stringer Bell
Russell "Stringer" Bell, played by Idris Elba, serves as drug kingpin Avon Barksdale's second in command. Academically Intelligent and business-savvy, Bell gets As in his economics classes at Baltimore City Community College and even has a copy of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations on his bookshelf. He also insists that Rules of Order be used at meetings to keep order. He attempts to legitimize the Barksdale drug gang by investing in housing properties and buying influence from politicians.
An intelligent planner and businessman, Bell is a useful advisor to Barksdale and handles the economic decisions for the Barksdale crew. He often tries to temper Avon's bloodthirsty nature. Though not as vengeful as Avon, Stringer is arguably more ruthless and calculating, being completely devoted to his work, and eliminating threats to the Barksdale organization as soon as they appear.
Stringer was born September 17, 1969, where he grew up in the West Baltimore projects alongside his childhood friends Avon Barksdale and Wee-Bey Brice.
Stringer was first seen with a trio of enforcers at the court house. He was attending the trial of Avon's nephew and lieutenant D'Angelo Barksdale for the murder of Pooh Blanchard. Avon tasked Stringer with ensuring that a not guilty verdict was returned. To this end he had enforcers Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice, Savino Bratton and Anton "Stinkum" Artis attend the trial with him to intimidate witnesses and also bribed a key witness, Nakeesha Lyles, to change her story. When D'Angelo was released Avon had Stringer demote him to running the operation in the low rise projects known as "the pit."
Stringer then had his hands full dealing with Omar Little's crew, after they stole some of Barksdale's stash from the pit. Stringer visited D'Angelo to instruct him about checking his organization for an informant who may have been giving Omar information. Avon ordered contract killings on Omar and all of his crew. Avon also tasked Stringer with assisting Stinkum in taking over new territory for the organization.
Stringer took Stinkum to survey his new territory with some additional muscle in the form of Wee-Bey and Marquis "Bird" Hilton. While there Stringer received word from D'Angelo that two of his crew, Wallace and Poot had spotted Omar's boyfriend Brandon at an arcade. Stringer drove to meet the young drug dealers at the arcade bringing the three enforcers with him. He had them abduct Brandon using handcuffs and posing as police officers. They then tortured Brandon to death trying to discover Omar's whereabouts, mutilated his corpse and displayed it in the low rises as Avon had instructed, not far from where Wallace lived in an abandoned house with the homeless children he'd charged himself with. Omar responded to the brutal slaying by striking back at Stinkum and Wee-Bey as they made their move on the new territory, killing Stinkum and wounding Wee-Bey.
With this escalation of the conflict, Stringer tried to persuade Avon to offer Omar a truce, planning to let Omar grow complacent, then kill him when he let his guard down. Avon initially brushed this suggestion aside, but after Omar nearly killed him, he agreed with Stringer's advice. Stringer also persuaded Avon to give up his pager so that he could act as a buffer between Avon and the rest of their operation.
As Avon grew increasingly suspicious that the police were watching him, Stringer took precautions to smoke out informants and to counter wiretaps. He instructed D'Angelo to withhold pay from his subordinates for several weeks; the ones who weren't asking for money at the end of that time were the ones who were being paid as informants. However, no informants were found. To foil wiretaps, Stringer insisted on phone discipline, forcing D'Angelo's crew to stop using the nearby payphones and to walk longer distances to other phones instead.
When it came time for Avon to clean house, Stringer ordered the murder of Wallace, who had been a key witness in the killing of Omar's boyfriend. Stringer tried to find out about Wallace's whereabouts from D'Angelo but D'Angelo realized his friend was in danger and only told Stringer that Wallace had left their business. Stringer turned to Bodie Broadus, D'Angelo's second in the pit operation and learned that Wallace had returned to working for D'Angelo. Stringer asked Bodie to murder Wallace. He also had the witness he had bribed in D'Angelo's trial, Nakeesha Lyles, killed. Stringer assumed command of the Barksdale crew when Avon was arrested. D'Angelo was also arrested and when he learned of the murder of his friend Wallace he blamed Stringer, driving a wedge between the two. Stringer rewarded Bodie's loyalty by promoting him to run their operation at the 221 tower.
Stringer faces a serious problem: the Barksdale crew's usual supplier, a Dominican named Roberto, was under investigation by the DEA. The Dominicans refused to deal with Avon, believing that he might have informed on them in exchange for a lighter sentence. Avon was unable to find a decent alternative despite suggesting connections in Philadelphia and Atlanta and Stringer grew desperate.
Stringer had secretly become involved with Donette, D'Angelo's ex-girlfriend. He used the relationship to keep watch on the young Barksdale, growing concerned at D'Angelo's increasingly hostile attitude towards his uncle. When D'Angelo cut himself off from his family, Stringer grew worried that he might turn on them. He organized a contract killing through a connection in Washington, DC. Stringer's connection, Leech, had his cousin, Mugs, strangle D'Angelo in prison and stage the death as a suicide. Stringer was emphatic that Avon could not learn of his actions.
Stringer's relationship with Avon began to fray further as he secretly agreed to share Barksdale territory with Proposition Joe in exchange for Joe's higher-quality heroin, an idea which Avon vehemently opposed. Avon hired legendary New York enforcer Brother Mouzone to chase Proposition Joe's dealers out of the Barksdale towers. Stringer had to maneuver carefully to preserve his alliance with Joe while keeping it secret from Avon; he solved this problem by tricking Omar into shooting Mouzone by blaming him for Brandon's death. After Mouzone returned home, Avon grudgingly agreed to Stringer's proposal, but the two were no longer as close as they had been before.
Stringer was still effectively in charge of the Barksdale empire at the start of the season, and had become even more businesslike in his thinking, forming a retail co-op with Proposition Joe and other rival dealers, and running meetings with his underlings according to Robert's Rules of Order. Stringer was also shown to have been involved in political donations, giving money to consultants and politicians including State Senator Clay Davis in order to facilitate the development of a building of condominiums.
However, despite Stringer's best efforts to reform the drug game and make the transition from a criminal to a legitimate businessman, he found his efforts hindered by Avon. While Stringer wanted to move into a strictly financial role of financing a package, then using the profits from that package to make legitimate business investments, Avon, fresh out of prison, was determined to remain a gangster and go to war against the fledgling drug lord Marlo Stanfield in order to take his corners from him. As Avon's war against Marlo spiraled out of control, Stringer found himself in danger of being cut off from Prop Joe and the co-op's good supply, and discovered that Clay Davis had in fact simply pocketed the money Stringer had been giving him, without doing anything to speed the construction of the condominiums.
Beyond the two being at odds over how to run their empire, Avon accused Stringer of not being hard enough to be in their business anymore. Angry at the accusation, Stringer then reasserts his attitude by stating that he's the one who set up D'Angelo's death as D was starting to break down and would have given everyone in the Barksdale organization up as soon as he could have. Stringer and Avon saw their relationship fray as Stringer revealed this to Avon, and while Avon eventually seemed to be able to live with this, things were not quite the same between him and Stringer after that.
As Stringer saw his legitimate ambitions imperiled, he moved quickly to return Avon to prison. To that end, he betrayed Avon to Howard "Bunny" Colvin by revealing the location of his safehouse to Colvin, in the hopes of getting Avon out of the way long enough for Stringer to quiet things down. However, Stringer himself was betrayed simultaneously by Avon, when Avon sold him out to Brother Mouzone and Omar Little who sought vengeance against Stringer for engineering a conflict between them.
Shortly after Avon made the deal, he and Stringer enjoyed one last drink at Avon's harborside condominium, both men knowing they had betrayed the other, but reminiscing about old times and acting as if they were still the best of friends. The next day Omar and Brother Mouzone tracked Stringer to his development site. While Stringer is angrily meeting with a conversation with developer Andy Krawzyk, Omar interrupts the meeting by shooting his bodyguard dead. Stringer runs through upstairs for his life (or symbolically running away from the gangsta life), only to encounter Brother Mouzone. Omar and Brother Mouzone confront Stringer, who tries to offer money so they can let him go. Omar explains that Avon gave information about his whereabouts. Stringer, realizing that he can't get them to change their minds, orders them to carry on their task, which Mouzone shoots first into his chest several times before Omar opens fire from his shotgun, finally killing Stringer.
The day after Stringer's death, the Major Crimes Unit raided Avon's safehouse, where he and and his henchmen were found along with major artillery. McNulty delighted in showing Avon the search warrant, which names Stringer as the source of information. Because Avon was on parole, and the additional charges, he was sentenced to twenty years. With Avon and most of his men imprisoned, and Stringer dead, the Barksdale organization crumbled. Marlo Stanfield and Chris Partlow became the new power in West Baltimore by default.
After Stringer's death, Detective McNulty and the police searched his apartment. The apartment was extremely clean, stylishly furnished and tastefully decorated. Far from any expectations of a drug kingpin, his bookshelf included a copy of The Wealth of Nations. McNulty was amazed at how little he truly knew about Stringer, despite having spent three years building a case against him.
Stringer's murder victims:
Brandon Wright (ordered murder)
Wallace (ordered murder)
D'angelo Barksdale (ordered murder)
|Season 1 appearances|
|"The Target"||"The Detail"||"The Buys"||"Old Cases"||"The Pager"|
|"The Wire"||"One Arrest"||"Lessons"||"Game Day"||"The Cost"|
|"The Hunt"||"Cleaning Up"||"Sentencing"|
|Season 2 appearances|
|"Ebb Tide"||"Collateral Damage"||"Hot Shots"||"Hard Cases"||"Undertow"|
|"All Prologue"||"Backwash"||"Duck and Cover"||"Stray Rounds"||"Storm Warnings"|
|"Bad Dreams"||"Port in a Storm"|
|Season 3 appearances|
|"Time after Time"||"All Due Respect"||"Dead Soldiers"||"Amsterdam"||"Straight and True"|
|"Homecoming"||"Back Burners"||"Moral Midgetry"||"Slapstick"||"Reformation"|
|"Middle Ground"||"Mission Accomplished"|
Stringer's name is a composite of two real Baltimore criminals, Stringer Reed and Roland Bell.
Stringer: Motherfucker, what is that?
Shamrock: Robert Rules say we gotta have minutes for a meeting, right? These the minutes.
Stringer: Nigga, is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy?