The first episode of “The Wire” opens with a shot of flashing police lights reflected in a trail of blood flowing from the body of a young black man named Snotboogie. A friend of the victim tells Officer Jimmy McNulty that Snot was shot dead by a peer for stealing during a game of craps. McNulty struggles to understand the entirety of the story, from Snot’s unfortunate nickname to why his friends would let him into the game when he would always snatch the money and run.
"Why'd you even let him in the game?" he asks.
"Got to. This America, man."
In that famous chess scene in episode three, the original HBO-subscribed audience of "The Wire" came to a greater understanding of street-level drug trafficking through the rules of a familiar board game. Conversely, Wallace and Bodie learn the rules of chess through their understanding of the dynamics of the Barksdale empire. But the profound complexity of chess is nothing compared to the complexity of the impact of the drug war and overpolicing.
"He made you fear for your safety and that of your fellow officers," he informs Prez with his cold, hair-raising glare. "I'm guessing now, but maybe he was seen to pick up a bottle and menace officers Hauk and Carver, both of whom had already sustained injury from flying projectiles. Rather than use deadly force in such a situation, maybe you elected to approach the youth, ordering him to drop the bottle. Maybe when he raised the bottle in a threatening manner, you used a Kel-Lite, not the handle of your service weapon to incapacitate the suspect. Go practice."
Daniels' wife Marla spells out the game to her husband as they discuss the dilemma over dinner.
"The department puts you in a case it doesn't want," she says. "You're given people who are useless or untrustworthy. If you push too hard and any shit hits the fan, you'll be blamed for it. If you don't push hard enough and there's no arrest, you'll be blamed for that, too. The game is rigged. But you cannot lose if you do not play."