Lance Reddick: The Wire’s crusading cop led with command and conviction
The late actor has left behind a career of distinguished and often devastating roles, headed up by his no-nonsense lieutenant in the HBO drama
On HBO’s crime-and-punishment epic The Wire, the moral arc of the universe does not bend toward justice. In the dramatized yet scrupulously realistic Baltimore mapped by creator David Simon, institutions – policing, education, politics – preserve their entrenched structures of power at the cost of the individual, and it happens over and over. Red tape renders meaningful change pitifully incremental when possible at all, and those responsible for shaking up the status quo invariably face punishment rather than reward. There’s a deep vein of cynicism at play in this worldview, fairly earned by Simon during his previous career as a reporter on the city desk at the Baltimore Sun, but it comes with a fundamentally idealistic corollary. So long as large, immovable systems of iniquity exist, we’ll always have principled reformers who try in their own modest way to make some small difference.
Through the landmark series’ five seasons, in more episodes than any other character, Lt Cedric Daniels stoked this inextinguishable ember of hope. A born-and-raised Baltimore native himself, actor Lance Reddick never played the no-nonsense lifer cop as a valiant crusader, however, viewing him instead as a shrewd and pragmatic compromiser. For every moment of rousing defiance that sees Daniels extend his middle finger to the system, like his vitriolic kiss-off to a superior pulling his unit’s funding or his instantly immortal declaration that the latest top-down order is “BULLSHIT”, there’s a sobering reminder of how the game is played. Daniels defends his people even when they’re at fault, both out of cop solidarity and the knowledge that bad PR won’t make the job more doable. In the course of a single scene, he could chew out a few of his underlings for cracking skulls in project housing, then advise them on how to beat a brutality investigation with a chilling calm.Continue reading…