The Wire: Stringer Bell – It’s Business


“You can’t show no weakness.” If the characters on The Wire are the pieces
in a game of chess, then Stringer Bell is the Queen. Avon Barksdale starts out as the reigning
King of the West Baltimore drug trade, but just as the Queen is the more active and
useful chess piece for most of the game, we quickly sense that the person running the
Barksdale empire is Russell “Stringer” Bell. And he’s the one McNulty desperately wants
to take down, as well, for this reason. Stringer is the spiritual descendant of Michael
Corleone and the iconic godfather line “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly
business.” He’s trying to turn gangster business into
legit business. He catches our attention early on by attending
night business classes at the community college. And he approaches the Avon Barksdale brand
with a calm temperament and strategic approach. “So he proposed –” “To change the name.” “Exactly.” At times, like Michael Corleone, he almost
convinces us that this is going to work and he can pull it off. The problem with Stringer’s “business,”
of course, is that it combines the cool-headed efficiency of a corporation with a market in which it’s standard to
kill people who get in one’s way. Without the limitations and oversight that
most legitimate businesses presumably have, and without rules against killing anyone who
annoys us, Stringer’s pragmatic capitalist mindset
yields the most exceptionally cold and lethal code that we witness on the show. “You know what the difference is between me
and you? I bleed red, you bleed green.” Over time, Stringer’s cold-blooded capitalism
sets him at odds with his childhood friend and partner. Avon is emotional, instinctive, and old-school. He sees himself matter-of-factly as a drug
kingpin, and he’s fine with that. He doesn’t share Stringer’s desire to
change up the way things are or distance themselves from the streets and the gangster image. For a while, we’re encouraged to see the
value in Stringer’s cool-headed way over Avon’s hot-blooded one. In the early seasons, Stringer also seems
to be the one who’s doing all the work and showing the real skill in the Barksdale empire. While Avon’s in jail, Stringer is running
the business better than ever, as if this so-called King isn’t really needed at all. The peak of Stringer’s control happens in
Season 3, and just as Bunny Colvin introduces Hamsterdam — the experiment with effectively legalizing
— or turning a blind eye to — drugs in order to clean up the neighborhood. For a brief moment, as Bunny’s experiment
seems to be working, it seems that Stinger’s vision of the drug
trade as respectable business could also possible — that there’s a chance for, if not a win-win,
at least a form of drug-dealing that’s relatively body-free. Thanks to Stringer’s logical approach and
the way events are coming together, he starts to strike us — in moments — almost
like the Enlightened Kingpin. But this Hamsterdam moment is revealed to
be a false promise. Avon returns and gets back into his tough
gangster act, as Marlo Stanfield comes at his crown. “Look at you. F**king shooting dope without
a f**king needle right now, man. Getting high on a power trip, playing f**king
soldier.” Avon keeps messing up Stringer’s business
because he’s addicted to the rush of posturing and warring on the streets. “It ain’t right for you to be at the head
of our table, when you can’t call off your dog.” Stringer wants to grow and leave the corners
behind, but for Avon the street is still the point. “String, this ain’t about your motherf**king
business class either. It ain’t that part of it. It’s that other thing. The street. It’s the street, always.” At first we think Stringer and Prop Joe are
right to be condescending about Avon’s addiction to showing his muscle in turf wars, but we later realize Avon was right to take
the threat of Marlo seriously. And in fact both Stringer and Joe have been
a little too progressive or optimistic in thinking that making all of this more civilized
was really going to work. And at the same time as all of this is going
down, Tommy Carcetti turns Colvin’s Hamsterdam into a casualty of his campaign for mayor. So we see that Stringer’s aspiration of
becoming the Enlightened/Peaceful Drug Kingpin was never to be. And Stringer’s end comes when he’s betrayed
by none other than his partner, Avon. Every action Stringer takes makes sense. He’s
unfailingly logical. Yet it’s precisely because Stringer is too
logical that we come to hate him. Stringer is cold blood personified. The most stunning, jaw-dropping reveal in
Stringer’s story is when he finally tells Avon the truth that he murdered D’Angelo. “I knew you couldn’t do it, and Brianna wouldn’t
do that shit. But there goes a life that had to be snatched,
Avon.” We gather Stringer likely arranged the killing,
but following Avon’s direction. So it’s shocking to learn that Stringer
took this move on his own, and Avon truly didn’t know. Here Stringer is not confessing — he proudly
boasts that it was him. “Man ain’t wrong about that.” Stringer is using this information to prove
that he, too, is as hard and tough as Avon. “What, ’cause I don’t shoot up a block indiscriminate
I ain’t hard enough?” Yet Avon is far from impressed. He reacts
as we do with disbelief at the icy blood that runs in Stringer’s veins. Because Avon would never have been capable
of this action. We feel sick at the sight of him. There was no emotional heat — no fear, anger
or revenge — in his decision to kill D’Angelo, nor was it even really that necessary. The kid had already taken his years, was minding
his own business in prison and not in a position to do them much harm. Stringer did it just to rule out the possibility,
however small or unlikely, that Dee could cause a problem. If we look back, Stringer is also to blame
for the worst, most heartless murder of season one, one of the first moments in the show that
made us truly scream at the TV screen. “String! String! Look at me! Where the f**k
is Wallace? Huh?” “Alright you stupid motherf**ker. You made
this decision.” “Yeah, I made my decision. Where’s Wallace
at? Where the f**k is Wallace?” Stringer rushes to order this hit without
really knowing whether Wallace was guilty, erring on the side of killing a young boy,
just in case. And when he orders the murder of Omar’s
lover Brandon, he displays the young man’s mutilated body to get at Omar. He then has the nerve to misdirect Omar’s
grief over the very murder that Stringer ordered at the wrong culprit. He manipulates Omar into going after Brother
Mouzone, simply because Brother Mouzone is making his business somewhat awkward and Stringer doesn’t feel like confronting
Avon about that or speaking to Brother openly about changing the arrangement. “My n*****, I would take the motherf**ker
out if I could but Avon can’t know it came from his own people, right?” “You don’t think I’m gonna send any of my
people up against Brother? Shit. That n***** got more bodies on him than a
Chinese cemetery.” All of this shows that Stringer has a very
low threshold for committing murder that has nothing to do with guilt, retribution, fairness or even proportionate
response to the individual’s behavior. Stringer approaches killing as if it were
simply another aspect of his business, another tool in his arsenal that he uses freely
when he’s decided to fire someone from his organization, or when he can’t be 100% certain that a
person is not even a small risk. And this logical, green-blooded approach to
killing is what makes him so hateable. In the era or the Hamsterdam experiment, Stringer
does want to avoid bodies, but not because he has a distaste for killing, merely because this makes life easier and
helps his business by keeping the police away. “It’s the fight for the territory that be
bringin’ the bodies, and the bodies that bring the police.” So it’s merely a happy coincidence that
for a time that he shares Bunny’s goal of keeping the body count down. He argues against fighting because that helps
his business, but he’d just as easily argue for more killing
if that were more beneficial to his profit. Since he’s an opportunist, Stringer is the
kind of drug dealer who could thrive in a city where Colvin’s social change went forward. And in that environment, Stringer, with his
discipline and control actually might not be so bad. But he lives in this world, and he has no
objection to killing. So Stringer’s pure capitalist logic applied
to the arena of the violent illegal drug trade yields something terrifying and perverse. Stringer’s plot shows us that this idea
of the not-so-bad, Enlightened Businessman Kingpin is a myth that can’t exist. Meanwhile, his forays into becoming actually
legit, as a developer, are frustrating and full of errors, He gets taken in by Clay Davis and can’t
wrap his head around the kinds of legitimized crooks he’s now dealing with. He can’t set his muscle on them to get his
way. “Assassination shit, man.” ” Look, I tell you to get somebody, you gettin’
him. I ain’t askin’.” “Damn, String, I don’t know –” “N*****, I gotta remind you who the f**k you
work for?” “Ayo. I think Slim gonna have to sit this
one out, boss.” Stringer gets stuck in an in-between place
— trying to turn the street into business, and business into the street. So when Stringer’s Iago-like scheming eventually
catches up to him, he falls because he’s slipped between the two worlds. He doesn’t really get the rules of legitimate
business, and he’s shown too much disregard for the
rules of the world he came up in. Omar and Brother Mouzone come after Stringer
for breaking the rules of their game. And Avon knows these rules are everything
for maintaining their credibility. “What got you here is your word and your reputation.
With that alone, you’ve still got an open line to New York. Without it, you’re done.” When Stringer tries to bargain with his killers,
offering them money, he still doesn’t really grasp how and why he ended up here. “What y’all n*****s want, man? Huh? Money?” Stringer the Capitalist doesn’t get that,
however you go about it, murder is still murder. It’s more than just an exchange of money
or some other routine aspect of business. It can’t be healed by any negotiation or
appeal to self-interest. “You know what? I look at you these days,
you know what I see? I see a man without a country. Not hard enough
for this right here. And maybe, just maybe, not smart enough for
them out there.” So he doesn’t understand why his time has
come, but Stringer Bell most certainly has it coming. “Well, get on with it, motherfu –” What we don’t see at the moment of Stringer’s
death is that the future is about to get even colder than we could have imagined when we thought Stringer
was the epitome of icy blood. Everything we saw as heartless in Stringer
gets multiplied many times over in Marlo Stanfield. Stringer’s just-in-case murders to rule
out any possible problem are exactly the kind of killings that we’ll see became everyday routine for Marlo’s
lieutenants Chris and Snoop. So we see that Stringer, the capitalist green-blooded
kingpin, wasn’t an individual phenomenon at all, but a sign of the times. “It’s a cold world, Bodie.” “Thought you said it was getting warmer.” “World going one way, people another, yo.” And everything is about to get much worse.

100 thoughts on “The Wire: Stringer Bell – It’s Business

  1. Cutty, Bodie, Avon, Slim Charles, Marlo, Michael, Chris, Snoop, Bubbles, Brother Mouzone, Kenard should all get one of these videos.

  2. The best tv series created , it was well written , acted and directed.

  3. Actually, Avon asked for Brandon to be displayed like that. There's a scene when Wee Bay, Stinkum, Avon and stringer are playing basketball and he tells Wee Bay he wants him on the hood of a car like rednecks do when with deer.

  4. I think you almost got the point, but missed it entirely.

    Capitalism justifies killing all the time. Every day and in every way.

  5. Still Idris Elba's best role and performance to date.

  6. real shit stringer bell was the real messaiah for the hood

  7. This was a brilliant point of view. Like it makes perfect sense. But I didn't get it this way before today but I still loved the show. What does that say about me. That I didn't understand it but still loved it. It's in my top 3 shows. Like the part were he's trying too bring the buisness into the streets and the streets in the buisness and got caught slipping in between. I never thought of it like that but it makes perfect sense. Good work 👍👍 👍👌👌

  8. The world before social media and MARVEL….Every Millennial should watch THE WIRE and grow a pair.

  9. Avon described him perfectly. Not smart enought for the downtown, not hard enough for the streets.

  10. I'd say while Stringer undeniably played a big role in Brandon's death, ultimately it was Avon who gave the order. He wanted him on display , like those cracker motherfuckers do with a deer and what not 🙂 Stringer was the guy who made it happen, but he was following the King's orders.
    Please do bubbles, I need a good cry 😀

  11. ‘Speak softly, and carry a big stick’

    Stringer: diplomacy, sanctions, blockades, trade wars.

    Avon: D-Day

    Stringer should’ve learned from Castellano in NY or Bruno in Philly.

  12. I thought Breaking Bad was the greatest show ever but then I watched Wire and Sopranos! Now my thinking is a lot different!

  13. This channel is amazing,the videos are so on point and interesting,hope to see a video on Michael Lee,always thought that his story was interesting!

  14. Never watched it, is it good ?? I've watched some of the best shows like breaking bad, prison break me casa de papel etc. Does it stand with those shows ?

  15. i loved wallace as a character and his death was legit one of the saddest things i've ever seen on tv….but you cannot tell me stringer made the WRONG decision in carrying out that hit. he ALREADY gone to the police and was willing to confess. killing wallace is literally the only reason stringer didnt end up behind bars at the end of season 1

  16. She's the "get shit done" piece. And remember: she ain't no bitch

  17. I ain’t no suit wearing business man like him.. I’m just a gangster I suppose.. and I want my corners..

  18. Funny thing is, in chess, if you catch the other dude's king, and trap it, then you win, as D said. Yet when the police caught Avon, they didn't win. Not at all.

  19. Here's the problem with Stringer types and the streets and why that shit NEVER works in the end: The streets require EVERYBODY to display the SAME mentality in order for you to have any type of longevity ! If the streets is THUGGISH then the streets DEMAND that EVERYBODY act or truly be thuggish. If U deviate and start acting smart or openly talking book shit, the streets is going to start to HATE you ! It doesn't MATTER if you are CORRECT. First comes resentment, then comes hate, then comes death ! Keep your new and smart ideas to yourself,stack your cash and get the FUC OUT ASAP is the ONLY chance of survival!

  20. stringer was right to whack all of the people he whacked, they were all snitches and stick up kids

  21. So many interesting comments here. I see Marlo as sort of being like a combination of Avon and Stringer as well but to more of an extreme. He’s like their spawn. He was like Avon in his need for recognition and blood but it was more obsessive, and he was like Stringer when it came to being extremely logical in the sense that feelings didn’t really appeal to him. All three were street smart, Stringer just didn’t CARE for the code of the streets anymore; he wanted to outgrow it. Although Marlo wasn’t as intelligent as Stringer—yes, he was smarter than your average street thug—he functioned like a machine similar to String, but he wasn’t as pragmatic, just completely barren of many emotions. Not saying he didn’t have any feelings because it’s hinted that Marlo does value certain entities around him such as the way his eyes always light up when he interacts with Chris and with his pigeons. These are probably the only two entities that Marlo actually sees any real value (or life) in.

    In regards to the differences between Marlo and his enemies, Stringer and Avon, it is shown throughout the series that many have futilely attempted to reason with Marlo but he simply cannot he reasoned with—that is his character flaw. Stringer is like a walking computer so he lives and breathes logic and practicality, and Avon, once he calms himself and realizes his blunders, eventually sees reason. But Marlo is a different breed of monster. He shares both Stringer’s greed and Avon’s pride but it’s obsessive to the point of him even being a narcissist. His ego is extremely fragile and he is hypersensitive to any perceived slight, so he constantly needs reassurance of his greatness which combined with his intelligence makes him extremely lethal. This is why Avon’s keen instincts immediately registered Marlo as a threat that needed to be dealt with as quickly as possible because he instantly recognized that intense want or need to be the most respected and dominant. However, as some have pointed out, while Avon liked being feared he may have enjoyed being loved and admired more while Marlo only valued fear because that registered as real power and respect to him—this proves to be a miscalculation on his part (I’ll explain later on).

    In the end, Avon, Stringer, and Marlo all fall victim to their biggest strengths but most deadly flaws. Stringer is no doubt intelligent, but he is too smart for his own good and his pragmatism makes him devious and seemingly sociopathic in his approaches 😈🧠. Avon loves being LOVED and ADMIRED as the “king” but is quick to light everything ablaze if he can’t get his way because he loves a good fight 👑 ⚔️. Marlo is extremely vain, and his pride would never allow him to ever even consider letting someone have more power, control and, most important, recognition than him 😎👀😈. He loves being FEARED as the “king”. Their vices—Stringer’s greed, Avon’s wrath, and Marlo’s pride—prove to be their downfalls and no matter how much money, respect, recognition or power they have, what they each individually want most somehow eludes them at the end. Avon wanted “his” corners and seeks to claim them through war but ended up having to settle for cell blocks and a yard while doing time in jail ⏸🔒👮. Stringer is rain-made and outwitted by his beloved and longed-for legitimate world which slips through his grasp because for once his intelligence and scheming seriously failed him 💀🔫 . And Marlo, who’s vanity knows no bounds and craves recognition to the point of killing anyone who he thinks is threatening his image, comes back to the hood only to be frustrated by the fact that he isn’t the legend he thought he was or is striving to be and those he considered to be less than him are the ones who are remembered 😐😶🤬👿. All the money and potential business out there means nothing to him if he can’t be recognized as the one and only—that’s what he lives for. A brilliant show, really. All three are fantastic characters.

  22. Too smart to be a gangster, too gangster to be a businessmen.

  23. D’angelo- “String! Where the fuck is Wallace”?
    String- “In Creed ll muhafcka”

  24. vid was decent, but was off on some shit.. avon told string exactly how he'd wanted brandon wiped, that wasn't string's doing.. on top of that, the game's the game, always, and it has all types of pieces – like chess – and each has it's own mentality and skillset.. u can't learn logic 2 fools that boast a 40degree day even after uv slapped a fat negative connotation to the end of it, & u can never tame viscous sociopaths like marlo who want nothing more than 2 wear the crown… stringer was dumb 2 expect the game to mold 2 his ideals, and avon knew this the entire time, string just refused 2 listen…

  25. One correction. It was not Stringer Bell who had Brandon tortured and laid out for all to see. It was Avon who demanded he be tortured and done that way, referencing hunters who string deer up on top of their car for others to see the kill.

  26. D'Angelo dies and this death is felt for the rest of the series. That's how you do death in a show. Take notes Walking Dead, I'd say "Take notes, Game of Thrones" but it already used to know. Then it died.

  27. Hey like if you want them to do a video like that on Marlo's character

  28. Actually lady Stringer betray Avon twice he had his nephew killed without sanction and he ratted Avon out to the police

  29. Avon had no choice but to give up Stringer because Stringer violated an agreement between Avon and brother mouzone bike trying to have or should I say trick home or into killing no Zone for the benefit of Prop Joe and Stringer again this was not sanctioned by Avon the Stringer and Prop Joe was really smart they should have killed Avon and later found some way to kill Marlo which would have been a tough task considering the strength of his crew and then they could have control the drug trade the way they wanted to but since they try to go about it and a slimy sneaky way it cost them both their lives and they deserved it what happened to them

  30. Such a shame that stringer got caught up in the game. Dude had a fair amount intellegence and could have been a ecomnomist or even a lawyer.

  31. Stringers problem was he tried to reform the drug trade. A trade which refuses reform.

  32. You've got to do more of these on the Wire!!!

  33. Assessment of Stringer is as ignorant and dumb as Avon Barksdale. Stringer is the only one trying to make sense of this here game. Take your anti capitalist rhetoric and get the fuck on.

  34. sorry i dont hate stringer and i agreed wit his choice to kill deangleo dee had to go wallace had to go simple

  35. D was ready to sing… if he flipped everybody goes down. Game is the game. People get killed as precautions all the time in the game. I agree that he probably deserved to die for all of his shenanigans I personally was upset to see him die I wanted him to make it out.

  36. Plus Avon and Stringer both HAD to give each other up. Stringer made way too many unforgivable mistakes in the game. Avon was keeping Stringer from his aspirations and from the Co-op he set up with Prop Joe.

    But as you say.. Marlo is WAY worse. They killed just to do it. I hated Marlo he was so trash as a character

  37. I think the video is an overall great analysis, but its not true in how Stringer was portrayed or at least received. It's al out like this video tried to make me hate Stringer more than I did watching the show but truth is, the viewer doesn't experience it in this way.

  38. i liked stringer….. was rooting for him and his b&b real estate start up

  39. Baltimore must be paradise to Elijah Cummings and ex-president Barack Obozo because they've done nothing to help the people of Baltimore!! Just rip off the money for themselves.

  40. Youtube getting my recommendations right for once instead of playing those away game's. 😂

  41. “Stringer Bell is the Queen”

    This is very true considering what a powerful piece the Queen is but also that line made me do a very deep voiced giggle.

  42. Fun fact: until about 4 or 5 episodes in my first time watching the show I had no idea what was going on I just knew it was interesting, and I thought Stringer was Avon.

  43. I have to admit some poignancy in the idea that had he been born somewhere else or taken a slightly different track he would have ended up a highly successful, if somewhat sociopathic, CEO of a major company on the scale of a Steve Jobs. That always made me a bit sympathetic to his character.

  44. When I watched the show, I kept thinking that a guy like Stringer out of the hood would like be a hedge-fund manager or own a construction company or something. Business was in his blood. He was hedged in.

  45. You got it twisted,Stringer was not remotely hated..He was simply recognised as a more business orientated character than the rest of his crew,but not business enough for the shady corporates and not street enough to remain street until the end.

  46. He gave Avon up Avon gave them hit his gps one went to [jail]
    one went to [ hell ]

  47. when stringer "displayed" the body of omar's partner on the hood of the car, he was following Avon's orders.

  48. I watched the whole series just because of this video.
    And because of Omar’s too.

  49. Stringer didn't order Omar's boyfriend to be killed and mutilated, Avon did stop all the hate

  50. Stringer was actually always my favorite character while he was around. I never hated him.

  51. This video is dumb. It’s obvious they are white people and they just don’t understand. Marlo and Barksdale were far more superior because the street to the core. He is never as hard as them cause he is a snitch at the end of the day. That’s the fucken point he’s dead cause he forgot where he’s from. And “misdirecting” the two most gangster motherfuckers the show ever had to offer was the dumbest moves. Watch and break down friends or some shit

  52. Avon wants his fuckin corners cause he knows that’s what needs to be done. Prop joe everybody that was sitting at those meeting with stringer got edged out in the end cause Marlo had the streets under control with the most muscle just like barksdale did in season 1. Stringer and prop joe were never on the level of Marlo and Barkdale.

  53. He was also fucking dees baby mama…also Avon wanted to display the dead body’s

  54. Who tf hates Stringer lol? I mean yea he was greezy but his persona is dope

  55. The problem with Stringer isnt that he thought he was smarter than everyone, he tried to outsmart the game.

  56. While this is a great character analysis. I have to disagree with what was said about Stringer ordering the hit on D’Angelo. D had gotten 20yrs and almost gave them up twice before, and he is the sole reason that Weebay gets caught. D told Mcnulty and the others where he dropped Weebay off at. Alive he would always be a liability to their freedom

  57. I’ve never seen the wire :29 minutes in I’m reading the comments and I think I’m going to put off watching this video and actual watch the show. With GOT over I need a new obsession.

  58. dude I love this show so far, I don't give a fuck about the spoilers I realize why this show is so loved.

  59. I think Stringer was fine, if anything he should of gotten out sooner, or been more savage when people were moving in on his territory. Great character, people like him deserved to die, but for people thinking he was to cruel…..you're selling drugs you have to be ruthless.

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