“Part Three” can be a little too obvious, but its ingrained and justified cynicism is difficult to ignore.
This recap of We Own This City season 1, episode 3, “Part Three”, contains spoilers.
In my review of We Own This City, I – like virtually every other critic – compared it to The Wire. And while there are many similarities, some unavoidable and others very deliberate, there’s an essential difference. Even The Wire, an all-time-great case study in systemic corruption, was never this cynical.
We Own This City season 1, episode 3 recap
In part, this might have been because The Wire took a wider view of Baltimore’s institutions, from its police department and street gangs to its dockworkers, politicians, schoolteachers, and reporters. It was easy to imagine a few good eggs in each area, striving to do the right thing and being stymied by the extensive rot of high-level corruption. You could feel for a moment that if all these people just got together, they’d be able to make a difference.
We Own This City, focusing entirely on the Baltimore PD generally and the GTTF specifically, has no such advantage. Almost everybody is awful, and very few are secretive about it because there’s really no need for them to be. As I outlined in my recap of the second episode, the system is designed, simply, to reward and protect those who abuse it. All that matters is arrests, so arrests are incentivized. Whether the people being arrested are actually guilty is a matter of no real concern.
Tom Allers, a higher-up in the GTTF who is facing federal charges for stealing $10,000 from a man named Devon Robinson, feels as entitled to his ill-gotten gains as everyone else we’ve met, although admittedly his lips are loosened by the severity of the charges he’s facing. He could probably care less that Robinson was subsequently shot to death in the street for being unable to give that stolen 10K back to his suppliers – what matters is that Allers took the money for himself, and for once didn’t distribute it among the rest of the GTTF, meaning that the responsibility is his and his alone.
If only he’d just shared the dough around. It continues to be astonishing quite how flagrant the GTTF’s abuses are, and “Part Three” runs the risk of finding the egregiousness of the whole thing too outlandish to take seriously. There are two scenes here that are horrifyingly on the nose. In one, Hersl is transferred to GTTF because complaints about him are beginning to pile dangerously high, and within the GTTF he’s basically untouchable. Big laughs and handshakes follow. In the second, Jenkins, in flashback, hammers on a “suspect” who did nothing but drink beer on his own stoop, and his superiors laughingly haze him about it by pretending, just for a moment, that he might have faced some professional repercussions for beating a man for no reason. What a lark!
Some or indeed all of this is probably true, but the way it’s presented makes it ring false. What sticks, though, is the explanation of how Jenkins needs to organize his paperwork to avoid any comeback. As long as he claims he was attacked, he’ll be protected.
Within all this, Suiter feels like a clear anomaly, and him teaming up here in “Part Three” with an enthusiastic uniformed officer with a penchant for protocol feels like Bigfoot riding a unicorn. It’s hard to care about the murder they’re investigating because it really seems like Suiter as a character only exists to remind us that there are good cops, and an entire flashback sequence designed to test Suiter’s moral character by teaming him up with Jenkins on a raid makes the point a bit too obvious. Suiter might be a good guy, but is one enough to make any real difference? You’d like to think so, but everything we’ve seen thus far suggests probably not.