Stringer Bell

Stringer Bell


Russell “Stringer” Bell is a fictional character
on the HBO drama The Wire, played by English actor Idris Elba. Bell served as drug kingpin Avon Barksdale’s
second-in-command, assuming direct control of the Barksdale Organization during Avon’s
imprisonment. Bell attends economics classes at Baltimore
City Community College and maintains a personal library, including a copy of Adam Smith’s
The Wealth of Nations. He attempts to legitimize the Barksdale Organization
and insulate himself from direct criminality through money laundering and investments in
housing development, aided through his buying of influence from politicians. Biography
Stringer was born September 17, 1969, and grew up in the West Baltimore projects alongside
childhood friends Avon Barksdale and Wee-Bey Brice. Season one
Stringer is first seen attending the trial of Avon’s nephew and lieutenant, D’Angelo
Barksdale, for the murder of rival drug dealer “Pooh” Blanchard. Avon has tasked Stringer with ensuring that
D’Angelo is acquitted. To this end, Stringer has enforcers Roland
“Wee-Bey” Brice, Anton “Stinkum” Artis, and Savino intimidate and bribe witnesses over
the course of the trial. When D’Angelo is released, Avon has Stringer
demote him to running the operation in the low-rise projects known as “the pit.” Stringer then has his hands full dealing with
Omar Little’s crew, after they steal some of Barksdale’s stash from the pit. Stringer visits D’Angelo to instruct him about
checking his organization for an informant who may have been giving Omar information. Avon orders contract killings on Omar and
all of his crew. Avon also has Stringer assist Stinkum in taking
over new territory for the organization. Stringer takes Stinkum to survey his new territory,
with some additional muscle in the form of Wee-Bey and Marquis “Bird” Hilton. While there, Stringer receives word from D’Angelo
that two of his crew, Wallace and Poot, have spotted Omar’s boyfriend Brandon at an arcade. Stringer drives to meet the young drug dealers
at the arcade, bringing the three enforcers. He has them abduct Brandon using handcuffs
and posing as police officers. They torture Brandon to death trying to discover
Omar’s whereabouts. Then, following Avon’s orders, they mutilate
his corpse and display it in the low rises. Omar responds to the brutal slaying by striking
back at Stinkum and Wee-Bey as they move into the new territory, killing Stinkum and wounding
Wee-Bey. With this escalation of the conflict, Stringer
tries to persuade Avon to offer Omar a truce. His plan is to let Omar grow complacent, then
kill him when he lets his guard down. Avon initially brushes this suggestion aside,
but after Omar nearly kills him, he accepts Stringer’s advice. Stringer also persuades Avon to give up his
pager—making Stringer a buffer between Avon and the rest of the operation. As Avon grows increasingly suspicious that
the police are watching him, Stringer takes precautions to smoke out informants and to
counter wiretaps. He instructs D’Angelo to withhold pay from
his subordinates for several weeks on the grounds that those who don’t soon ask for
money are likely to be the ones being paid as informants. However, this plan reveals no informants. To foil wiretaps, Stringer insists on phone
discipline, telling D’Angelo’s crew to remove nearby payphones and walk longer distances
to other phones instead. When it’s time for Avon to clean house, Stringer
orders the murder of Wallace, who had been a key witness in the killing of Omar’s boyfriend. Stringer tries to find out about Wallace’s
whereabouts from D’Angelo, but D’Angelo realizes his friend is in danger and only tells Stringer
that Wallace left the business. Stringer turns to Bodie Broadus, D’Angelo’s
second in the pit operation and learns that Wallace has returned to working for D’Angelo. Stringer asks Bodie to murder Wallace. He also has the witness he bribed in D’Angelo’s
trial, Nakeesha Lyles, killed. Stringer assumes command of the Barksdale
crew when Avon is arrested at the end of season one. D’Angelo is also arrested and when he learns
of the murder of his friend Wallace he blames Stringer, driving a wedge between the two. Stringer rewards Bodie’s loyalty by promoting
him to run their operation at the 221 tower. Season two
In season two, Stringer faces a serious problem when the Barksdales’ usual supplier, a Dominican
named Roberto, becomes the focus of a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation. The New York-based Dominican syndicate ends
its partnership with the Barksdales, suspecting Avon of informing on them in exchange for
a lighter prison sentence. Avon finds alternatives through Philadelphia
and Atlanta connections, but the heroin they supply is far less potent and more expensive. Compounding this problem, all of Barksdale’s
main hitmen were all arrested or killed in season one. At the same time, rival supplier Proposition
Joe introduces a purer, more effective heroin line through his connection with the Greeks—leading
many drug users to migrate to his territory. With the Barksdales’ operation threatened,
Stringer grows desperate. Stringer becomes concerned with D’Angelo’s
increasingly hostile attitude towards his uncle, fearful that he may turn against the
Barksdales. He secretly becomes involved with D’Angelo’s
ex-girlfriend, Donette, using the relationship to keep an eye on him. When D’Angelo cuts himself off from the rest
of his family, Stringer secretly arranges to have him killed through a connection in
Washington, DC Stringer’s connection has his cousin, who is in the same prison, strangle
D’Angelo and stage the death as a suicide. Stringer stresses the need to keep Avon from
knowing about his role in D’Angelo’s murder. Looking to solve the Barksdale’s struggling
drug trade, Stringer decides to go behind Avon’s back and secretly agrees to share Barksdale
territory with Proposition Joe in exchange for Joe’s higher-quality heroin—an idea
Avon vehemently opposes. When Avon hires legendary New York enforcer
Brother Mouzone to chase rival drug dealers out of the Barksdale towers, Stringer maneuvers
carefully to preserve his alliance with Joe behind Avon’s back. He manages to do so by tricking Omar into
shooting Mouzone by blaming him for Brandon’s death. The plan fails after Omar shoots Mouzone,
but calls the paramedics after realizing he’s been lied to by Stringer. With Mouzone returning to New York to recover,
Avon grudgingly agrees to Proposition Joe’s proposal. Season three
Stringer uses more businesslike strategies as he continues running the Barksdale empire. He obtains legitimate business fronts for
the Barksdale organization, forms a retail co-op with Proposition Joe and other rival
dealers, and runs meetings with his underlings according to Robert’s Rules of Order. Stringer is also shown to have made several
donations to consultants and politicians, including the corrupt state senator Clay Davis,
to facilitate development of a condominium complex. At the beginning of Season 3, Stringer has
reached the apex of his power. Along with Proposition Joe, he effectively
runs the drug supply in the entire city. Joe and Stringer realize that murders, not
drug deals, are what bring on serious police investigations, and consequently strive to
minimize violence among their crews and the other Co-op dealers, such as Hungry Man and
Fat Face Rick. The resulting lack of murders forces Daniels’
Major Crimes Unit to turn its attention elsewhere, namely to a more reckless Jamaican dealer
named Kintell Williamson. Most of the unit understands the decision,
but McNulty angrily objects, claiming that Stringer is clearly a more prolific trafficker
than their new target. This brings McNulty into conflict with Freamon
and Daniels, with Greggs caught in the middle and Prez and Sydnor disenchanted with the
less interesting Williamson. As a result, the Major Case Unit, previously
the most effective unit in Baltimore’s CID, is temporarily compromised and Stringer is
able to run free for a time. When Avon is released from prison, he is uninterested
in Stringer’s efforts to reform the Barksdale organization. While Stringer wants to invest the organization’s
profits in legitimate business investments, Avon is more concerned with an imitate war
against rival drug lord Marlo Stanfield. As Avon’s war against Marlo begins to draw
more police attention, Proposition Joe and other Co-Op Members threaten to cut Stringer
off from the Greeks’ superior heroin supply if he can’t convince Avon to stop the violence. In Stringer’s view, this would make any victory
over Marlo worthless, as street corners generate no money without drugs to sell on them. When Stringer asserts his opposition to Avon’s
war against the Stanfield Crew, Avon accuses him of lacking the toughness necessary for
their business—and based on the lack of progress on his condominiums, also accuses
him of not being smart enough for the legitimate business world. This causes Stringer to angrily reassert his
toughness by revealing that he had ordered D’Angelo’s death. Stringer tells Avon that he chose to have
D’Angelo killed because Avon himself would be unable to order the death of his own nephew,
even if he knew that D’Angelo would eventually flip. Stringer’s relationship with Avon is irreparably
damaged by this revelation. While Avon eventually seems to come to terms
with Stringer’s confession, it compromised their brotherhood and Avon was no longer willing
to protect Stringer from the repercussions of his other manipulations. Ultimately, the episode proves that Stringer’s
origins in the street have left him without the patience and restraint required to realize
his greater ambitions. Stringer’s inroads into real estate are hamstrung
by the nuances of a legitimate business world that he doesn’t fully understand, with his
condominium project repeatedly delayed by bureaucratic obstacles. Stringer is frustrated by what he perceives
as inexcusable foot-dragging that would not be tolerated in the drug world. Worse, Stringer bribes Davis to connect his
organization with federal housing grants, only to learn that Davis fabricated his federal
contact and pocketed the money. Enraged, Stringer instructs Slim Charles to
assassinate Davis, an order Avon immediately cancels. Stringer’s luck takes a turn for the worse
when Kintell Williamson joins the New Day Co-Op and curbs his crew’s violent tendencies. At the same time, Avon’s war with Marlo is
ratcheting up, and McNulty backdoors Lt. Daniels and goes straight to the Western District
Commander, Major Howard Colvin, in order to refocus the Major Crimes Unit on Barksdale’s
once-again violent drug crew. This helps Freamon and Prez slowly gather
conspiracy evidence against Stringer and his lieutenants, eventually catching Stringer
making an incriminating phone call on one of his many phone lines. The Major Crimes Unit is finally ready to
make a move against the Barksdale Crew, but just before warrants can be issued the Organization
self-destructs in an ironic turn of events. Stringer plans to stabilize control of the
Barksdale organization by sending Avon back to prison for parol violations, betraying
the location of his safehouse to Baltimore Police Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin. However, Stringer is simultaneously betrayed
by Avon when Brother Mouzone confronts him about Stringer’s plot to engineer a conflict
between Mouzone and Omar Little. Mouzone tells Avon that he knew Stringer had
intentionally fed Omar misinformation, and that he held Avon responsible for Stringer’s
actions, threatening to use his connections to cut off the Barksdale organization’s connections
and supply of drugs from New York. In an effort to avoid a war with Mouzone,
Avon reluctantly tells him Stringer’s whereabouts. Shortly after Avon’s meeting with Brother
Mouzone, Avon and Stringer enjoy a last drink together at Avon’s harbor-side condominium. They reminisce about the past. The next day Omar and Brother Mouzone track
Stringer to his development site, kill his bodyguard and, after a tense confrontation,
kill him. With Stringer dead and Avon imprisoned along
with most of his men, the Barksdale organization crumbles. Slim Charles becomes de facto leader of what
remains of the Barksdale crew, which he merges with Proposition Joe’s drug operations. Marlo Stanfield becomes the new power in West
Baltimore by default. After Stringer’s death, Detective McNulty
and the police search his apartment. The apartment is extremely clean, stylishly
furnished and tastefully decorated. Far from any expectations of a drug kingpin,
his bookshelf includes a copy of The Wealth of Nations. McNulty expresses regret that he couldn’t
arrest his arch rival before he died. In the end, McNulty displays an odd admiration
for Stringer’s lofty dreams, and a grudging respect for his talent as a drug kingpin. In essence, McNulty feels purposeless without
his adversary. Legacy
In the season five episode “Late Editions,” Clay Davis, while describing to Lester Freamon
how drug money is routed from the kingpins to state and city politicians through their
lawyers, mentions how he conned a fellow named “Bell” into giving him a great deal of money
because Davis had convinced him that he would be able to use his connections to push his
development forward quickly. As Davis laughs about how he conned Stringer,
Freamon’s eyes light up in recognition. Origins
Stringer’s name is a composite of two real Baltimore drug lords, Stringer Reed and Roland
Bell. His story bears many similarities to the life
of Kenneth A. Jackson—specifically, his crossover from the illegal drug trade to legitimate
business ownership and political contributions. References

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