We Own This City season 1, episode 4 recap – “Part Four”

May 17, 2022
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO, HBO Max, Premium Channels, Streaming Service, TV, Weekly TV
4

Summary

“Part Four” delves into Wayne’s M.O., as time begins to run out for the GTTF and the extent of their corruption starts to see the light of day.

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4

Summary

“Part Four” delves into Wayne’s M.O., as time begins to run out for the GTTF and the extent of their corruption starts to see the light of day.

This recap of We Own This City season 1, episode 4, “Part Four”, contains spoilers.


Since We Own This City began, there has never really been any question that Jon Bernthal’s Wayne Jenkins is the show’s main character. This has been one of the main points of contention for those – like me – who have drawn the inevitable comparisons between this and The Wire, which employed a lot of lesser-known actors and even some non-actors to help create a believable portrait of Baltimore’s streets. Bernthal’s a big name, a proper actor, and his performance here is an outlandish, showy one. In “Part Four” that’s truer than ever, but this hour is also the best argument yet for hiring him to turn a real-life figure into this larger-than-life caricature.

We Own This City season 1, episode 4 recap

The contradiction is that We Own The City obviously wants to condemn Wayne Jenkins but absolutely loves Jon Bernthal. In the car chase that opens “Part Four”, the camera almost never leaves him, and when it does it’s to highlight the neighborhoods he’s racing through and claims to know so well. The chase is predicated on his – it turns out incorrect – assumption that any male of a certain age carrying a backpack is automatically a drug dealer. Jenkins clearly believes this, but the camera keeps drawing our attention to all of the innocent people who’re endangered by how unflinching this belief is. Jenkins can’t entertain the possibility that he’s wrong because to do so would rupture the fantasy he has created – and espouses later in the episode – that Baltimore police can do anything they want and get away with it.

So, Jenkins makes himself right. The chase ends with an innocent driver dead and another innocent “suspect” with a potentially devastating case against the Baltimore PD, so Jenkins has drugs planted in his Acura and sends Suiter to search the vehicle one more time, for the sake of thoroughness, knowing what he’ll find, and knowing he’ll be unable or unwilling to point out how bizarre it is that nobody found such an obvious, poorly-hidden stash in the initial search. This is Jenkins’ MO. He contorts reality to fit neatly within his own worldview.

After “Part Four” it’s hard to say whether this is a guy corrupted by a system that allowed him to flourish or someone who genuinely believes the lies he tells himself. Ultimately, it doesn’t much matter. But this isn’t an attempt at an even-handed portrayal, as some previous episodes have seemed to be. There are no gags about the size of Jenkins’ crabs, and no awkward moments about him not knowing what Patron is. Here, he’s a demon. Ward, who is in the FBI hot seat this week, answers several questions with, “Because he’s Wayne Jenkins.” His ability to pull guns and drugs off the streets – even if he put them there in the first place – is almost mythical. He’s untouchable, and he knows it, and he has built his entire identity around that immunity.

Again, it’s unclear whether the younger Wayne we met during his earliest days on the force would have stolen a dwarf stripper’s tips in a strip club, or whether that’s a symptom of the deeper malaise he developed over years of corruption. “We own this city,” he tells his colleagues in one of those “someone said the title!” moments that are always fun. But he means it, which immediately takes the fun right out. A scene in which he organizes the theft of money from a safe, having his befuddled officers film their reopening of it and play up their shock and awe at the discovery of what’s inside, is presented with such confidence and efficiency that it can only be the work of someone who has done this so many times that it’s barely even noteworthy anymore.

The point is that Wayne Jenkins is very good at his job. The problem is that his job has become beating, robbing, and setting up the citizens of Baltimore with absolute impunity.

This isn’t subtle. Ward, in his interview, constantly reiterates how smart and efficient Jenkins is. In the wake of the Freddie Gray killing, we see his legitimate fury at the public attacks on the police force, and we see him throw himself into the line of fire to defend his fellow officers. You can understand why someone would like him if they were in his position. You can understand why someone wouldn’t question him; how they would recognize his power and realize it’s easier to play by his rules and be protected by his handlers than to rock the boat. If you profit financially as a result, that’s a bonus. But the idea is that Jenkins is so powerful that it isn’t worth going up against him.

And yet there’s a distinct feeling of change in the more present-day sequences. The climate in Baltimore after Freddie Gray is different. People are finally starting to stand up to the Wayne Jenkins’ of the world and to peel away the layers of corruption that have enabled him. In a court scene, prosecutors can barely find a juror who is willing to trust police testimony (one says that he wouldn’t believe a Baltimore cop if he said his mother loved him.) Wayne has been arrested, and his men are being interrogated. Time is running out. “Part Four” ends with a shot of the money that Ward dropped in some bushes rather than take home to his wife, also a Baltimore PD officer, but a straight one. He admits he didn’t drop it out of any sense of morality, but because of practicality. A sum that size wouldn’t go unnoticed. It might have taken far too long, but the abuses of the GTTF will no longer sweep neatly under the rug. It’s a fitting metaphor for the jig being up.

You can catch We Own This City season 1, episode 4, “Part Four”, exclusively on HBO and HBO Max

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