“The f$&@ did I do?”
How many times have we heard McNulty say those words. His exasperation at his colleagues ager with him is only matched by his love for making them angry. He goes out of his way to pull one over his bosses in the Baltimore Police department. He knows he is smarter than most of them.
He’s an alcoholic. He’s a philanderer. As Lester Freamon says, he sets fire to everything he touches and watches it burn. In his pursuit of what he determines to be righteous, or even just in pursuit of being right, he is willing to do whatever it takes to whomever it takes. Chain of command be damned. Friends be damned. Family be damned. He is utterly selfish.
And yet, when you get down to brass tacks, he is good police. He is relentless in his pursuit of justice. He knows when to eschew the little fish in favor of going after the big fish. We love Jimmy because he may not always do right, but neither do we. We strive after our own righteousness and fall short. And often, we set fires we cannot put out.
Landsman says it best:
“He learned no lessons. Admitted no mistakes…but in the end he gave us the clearances. He was natural police, and I don’t give that one up unless it happens to be true. Natural police. But what an asshole.”