Realistically, how screwed is Jimmy McNulty?
September 11, 2012 4:44 AM   Subscribe

By the final episode of Season 5 of the Wire, just how screwed is SPOILERS INSIDE?

He's no longer a cop, and on the shitlist of the Governor, a Judge, and the Superintendent of the State Police. Would there be anywhere he could go? I can't see him working as an investigator for the District Attorney's office, for example, or any role in the State Police. What other line of work could he pursue? Or does his future probably include a security guard's uniform?

If anyone here has a law enforcement or city hall background, your opinions would be extremely welcome, rather than discussion about what it would be *cool* for him to end up doing.

Thanks! This is the question I joined to ask :)
posted by Ripper Minnieton to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maybe a private eye, or a security expert - similar to what Bunny almost did.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:59 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: I might be mistaken, but didn't he get his pension? A ten year pension isn't nothing. Still, I can't see him being ever allowed anywhere near a badge again. You'd have to imagine that at the very least, Rawls would do the best he could to damage any possible career in law enforcement, ever, and that's just the first name I can think of that would bear a grudge.

His own conscience wouldn't let him do what Herc did, going to work for someone like Levy. He had his chance at happiness in the Western, and that's pretty much gone. The only benefit in front of him is that he's out of homicide and the enabling environment that came with it. But employment-wise, he's screwed. He has, what, a year of college, and ten years as a cop without a single positive reference, and he is a raging asshole.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:09 AM on September 11, 2012

I always just assumed he'd move on to write a book.* Not even as a joke, either. He was part of the task force that brought down two of the biggest drug syndicates in Baltimore employing new police tactics. That's ripe for a book, and gives him a chance to call out his old "colleagues" and their pointless police work. Always figured he'd be too self-righteous to do anything police-like that wasn't real police.

I guess he could also write a book about how he hoodwinked an entire city into believing in a serial killer, but that would be a dick move, however lucrative.

* likely called Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
posted by General Malaise at 5:29 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Corrections, maybe. If not, then private eye/consultant.
posted by jquinby at 5:29 AM on September 11, 2012

"He's no longer a cop..." I believe you may have misunderstood the situation there. He is still a cop. The deal that is offered to both McNulty and Freamon is that in return for their silence about fabricating the Homeless Serial Killer case-- which if exposed would be a huge scandal affecting the Baltimore Police Departement and Mayor Carcetti-- in return for their silence, both will be allowed to keep their jobs, but will never work in an investigative or law enforcement capacity again. Because Lester Freamon has enough time in service to retire, and also is making a very comfortable living on the side making dollhouse furniture, he chooses to retire. The implication is that McNulty will be placed somewhere as a records clerk, or scrubbing toilets, or wearing a police mascot furry suit at an Elementary School. Actually, symbollically, author David Simon probably intends for McNulty to work in the evidence control locker, since that is where both Cedric Daniels and Auggie Polk were assigned in similar situations where they had to be left on the force, but both were disgraced and viewed as undesirable. But no, McNulty is definitely still technically a police officer. Whether or not he will choose to remain on the force is left up to the viewer. On the one hand, he has found some measure of happiness with Beadie Russell and her kids. On the other hand, hey, he is still Jimmy McNulty...
posted by seasparrow at 5:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

He might still be a police, and they may try to keep him down in a paper shuffling job, but I can't see Jimmy taking it lying down.

Munch moved to NYPD, maybe McNulty will too.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:19 AM on September 11, 2012

on the shitlist of the Governor

Not just Governor!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:58 AM on September 11, 2012

David Simon probably intends for McNulty to work in the evidence control locker, since that is where both Cedric Daniels and Auggie Polk were assigned in similar situations where they had to be left on the force, but both were disgraced and viewed as undesirable.

Or the pawn shop division, where Freamon himself worked, for 13 years....and 4 months, after pissing off the brass.
posted by LionIndex at 7:28 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

McNulty is no longer a cop at the end of season 5. When he goes to Richmond to find the homeless man, he says as much to the lady at the homeless shelter. (She tells him where the homeless tend to be, but implies it's not safe. He replies that he used to be a cop.)

McNulty was transferred to the boat at the end of Season 1, and that was his punishment transfer (like Freamon's 11 years and 3 months in Pawnshop). Season 5 involved much worse transgressions, and McNulty had to get a much bigger punishment. Carcetti wanted to cover it up, but Daniels insisted that at the very least Freamon and McNulty needed to both get axed for their crimes, and they do. It's quiet and hushed-up, but it's basically the only big move Daniels makes as Police Commissioner. Freamon has his years so he can retire, but McNulty is too young. The fake detective wake we see in the last episode is the McNulty and Freamon retirement party.

We've seen many cops washed out of the force in the five seasons of this show, so we know McNulty has options. He can go the way of Bunny Colvin or Pryzbylewski or even fucking Herc, for that matter, but we also know that it's McNulty, and that he's his own worst enemy, and that he's not going to make things easy for himself.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:30 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Freamon's 13 years and 4 months. Dammit. I thought I knew that one off the top of my head.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:31 AM on September 11, 2012

He replies that he used to be a cop.

I took that as him being a smart ass. I mean maybe he meant it literally but I took it as he still technically has a badge but he is a desk jockey now and not a "real cop". But that was just my interpretation.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:52 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

OK, I felt strongly enough about this that I went back and checked the video. I know, this makes me a jerk, but I was bothered by the fact that there might be people who were smart enough to be on metafilter, but dumb enough to have missed this crucial element. It's like coming away out of The Empire Strkes Back and saying "I wonder who Luke's father was?" (OK, not that bad.)

Anyway, in the final episode of the series "-30-", Rhonda Pearlman takes both McNulty and Freamon into an interrogation room. This starts at approximately 1 hour 2 minutes into the episode. I turned on the captions, and here is the transcript:

Pearlman: "You're right. They can't fire you. Not without it bouncing back on City Hall. If you don't mind being buried in some backroom unit, you can stay for as long as you can stand it. Or until you get the pension. But, at the same time, I can't let you do police work. Not anything that's going to find its way into a courtroom. I won't do that. For both of you, that's over."

I definitely think people are right to say that the self-destructive McNulty might not stay on in the Department in a situation like that. But that conclusion is not explicitly stated. It is for the individual viewer to decide for themselves.

I don't even know why I bothered to verify this, part of me feels stupid for pressing the point. I guess this is me today: Someone on the internet is wrong.
posted by seasparrow at 9:32 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I didn't mean to use the word "dumb" in that previous post. ^^^^ My apologies. I intended to write something like " enough to be on metafilter, but might have missed the fact that a back-room deal was struck, as it always is in these corrupt institutions David Simon writes about..." That is more of my original intent. I hope I didn't offend anyone!
posted by seasparrow at 9:37 AM on September 11, 2012

I'm not disputing Pearlman's speech. City Hall can't outright fire them because firing police would bring more questions from the media, and the story would spread while Carcetti wants to bury it. But she's still forcing them to resign. It's not the same as what happened in Season 1 with McNulty riding the boat or with Freamon being buried in the Pawnshop unit. Those were just transfers with the possibility that both could come back to do real police work later (and they both did). They were both still police. This, on the other hand, is the end of their careers, a forced resignation. Obviously there's a backroom deal: they can't be fired, technically, but that's only a technicality. They've been fired; it's just that they can choose when they actually leave the premises.

Even if Pearlman's speech does not explicitly state it, there is the matter of the detective wake and retirement party. It is not just a party for Freamon, because they lay out McNulty on the pool table and eulogize him. Why would they throw a party for McNulty if he was sticking around to work in a backroom unit, career dead in the water? That doesn't happen. When we see McNulty after that, in Richmond, he says that he's not a cop anymore. He's not being sarcastic; sarcasm doesn't fit with the mood of the scene where he knows full well that he's finally doing one honorable thing after a whole lot of nasty dishonorable shit. He used to be a cop. He's not a cop anymore.

I can't review my DVDs right now because I'm at work, but I did go back and look for the review by Alan Sepinwall, and he refers to "McNulty's early retirement" (towards the top, just above the picture of McNulty). Scott Tobias at the AV Club is less specific; he refers to it as McNulty not doing real police work anymore (in the notes section towards the bottom).
I really don't think it's left open to interpretation. It's clear to me that McNulty resigned. But I guess that others can have a different read on it. I will agree to disagree with people... who are clearly clearly wrong!

Actually, it's been fun to get all worked up and fighty about the details of an TV show that is 5 1/2 years old. I miss this show a lot!
posted by aabbbiee at 2:13 PM on September 11, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

BTW Afroblanco, I always assumed Beadie and McNulty would end up solving crimes and juggling childcare in a blue-collar reboot of 'Hart to Hart.'
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 2:05 AM on September 13, 2012

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