The high-speed chase sequence is a staple of action movies and police procedurals, as well as television news programs and cop shows that narrate real-life car chases captured by an overhead copter camera. They inevitably end in accidents and arrests, and if the budget is big enough, there’s a ballet of overturned vehicles and smashed fruit carts along the way. However, collateral damage is almost never recorded – from injured or dead pedestrians and motorists who had nothing to do with the pursuit but were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seen through the lens of popular culture, car chases are always exciting and thrilling necessary for surely the persecuted person is guilty of something serious. Otherwise, why would so many lives be at risk?
Today’s episode of We own this city begins with the rare example of a deglamorized car chase. Based on one of Wayne Jenkins’ signature assumptions—that if an adult over 18 is carrying a backpack, it must contain drugs, guns, or cash—a GTTF unit with a black Acura pulls up, but the suspects pull one down residential street. Jenkins hunts from behind the wheel, but series director Reinaldo Marcus Green keeps the action tight and ground-level, emphasizing the surrounding neighborhood, the stop signs both cars speed through, and the various near misses of drivers crossing the intersections. The usual thrill of car chases is gone, replaced with a sickening inevitability of real harm being done to a third party. And then it happens.
Beginning with this incident, “Part 4” devotes much of its time to describing Wayne’s workings as both a crook and the ultimate cop – two roles suggestively intermingled. The chase ends with the expected accident, but the unexpected result is that an innocent driver is killed instantly, raising the stakes for the arrest. Wayne’s suspicions regarding the suspicious backpack must now be confirmed in order to justify the chase, or at least mitigate the consequences for him, as we later learn that a narcotics offense is not enough to justify a continuous high-speed chase. So he planted drugs in the Acura and tells Suiter to “throw the car one more time” in case they missed something. The rudeness of Wayne’s move doesn’t seem to have escaped Suiter, who finds the drugs on the backseat floor, which doesn’t sound like the kind of stash officers might have missed in the initial search. But it’s easier to follow that narrative than to question it, which would lead Suiter down a career path that probably wouldn’t lead to a job as a homicide detective.
A similar cover-up is later revealed when Wayne needs support for an even more imaginative story about why another car chase had resulted in the suspect’s car overturning. According to Wayne, the suspect shot him through the driver’s side window, but he needs a gun to make it plausible. He asks a favor, and lo and behold, a gun appears where none was before. In either of these two prosecution scenarios, the suspects will yell about the drugs and guns planted on them, but credibility will always rest with the arresting officer. (Apart from an amazing scene in court where prosecutors struggle to find a jury willing to trust police statements.)
Where previous episodes of We own this city Having covered Wayne’s crime and cover-ups in Drops and Horrors, Part Four is amazingly comprehensive in showing his aggressive and shameless greed. When Ward, a GTTF member, speaks to the FBI about an incident in which Wayne had him cover an outside camera with a police car while robbing a dealer’s trunk, the scene plays out like a routine, unforgettable affair. When the suspects are freed, their exchange as Wayne and Ward walk away says it all: “You think they got us, yo?” “Damn yes.” At a strip club later that night, Wayne’s theft gets even more exotic than he dates a midget stripper in the champagne room and ends up speeding off with all of her tips. Later, during the Freddie Gray riots, he stops a couple of looters leaving a Rite Aid with prescription drugs behind, only to take their garbage bags of Oxy for themselves.
“We own this town” are the words he finally utters to his buddies in a bar towards the end of the episode, but they take on a double meaning here. They own the city, allowing them to rob citizens with impunity and shamelessly cover up their crimes, like filming the opening of a safe they’ve already skimmed for tens of thousands of dollars. But they cannot tolerate their ownership of the city being called into question after Freddie Gray’s murder. The cops in general, backed by their union, will always close ranks in this situation, but Wayne acts with a righteous zeal that brings sharp relief to his own serial crime. He rushes into the street to hold the line against protesters, helps injured officers into a police van, and arrives with cases of fried chicken and bottled water.
The damning implication of We own this city is that Wayne is a super cop, the guy out there who does big arrests and seizures and stands alongside his peers. He’s not the rotten apple that spoils the pile, but the most blatant representative of a department so corrupt that lawyers can’t even prosecute the cases brought to them. To the extent that he spoils the bunch, the men in his unit are put in a position where they either have to shut their noses and cooperate or, like Suiter, slip into another division. It’s easiest to just grab the money and run.
• Jon Bernthal plays Wayne’s search and trunk seizure so casually that everything feels routine, except perhaps for his need to improvise around the security camera. “I can smell marijuana” is all he has to do to justify the search, and the line seems to get out before he even bothers to sniff the air. (Also: I could listen to Bernthal tearing through the word “ambulance” forever.)
• A prospective juror, asked if he could accept police testimony on the stand, recalls being hit for taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest: “After that experience, I wouldn’t believe a Baltimore officer , who testified that his mother loved him.”
• When asked why cops caught lying are still allowed to serve as police officers, Commissioner Kevin Davis gives a compelling account of the tug-of-war between the prosecutor’s office and his predecessors. Nicole accepts it as true, but also sees it as yet another example of Davis wriggling himself out of responsibility. After all, the cops are still on the streets.
• Ending the episode with a $20,000 shot that Ward dropped in a park is fascinatingly ambiguous because it doesn’t fully absolve him of the corruption. It’s just too much for him to take home, especially for a woman who is also an officer doing her job on the plane.
https://www.vulture.com/article/we-own-this-city-miniseries-episode-4-recap-part-four.html We Own This City Miniseries Episode 4 Recap: Part Four