We ain't gotta dream no more.
~ Stringer to Avon on their status as the most powerful gangsters in Baltimore.

Russell "Stringer" Bell is a major character in the HBO series The Wire. He is a heroin dealer and kingpin in Baltimore; he is second only to his childhood friend and fellow gangster and boss, Avon Barksdale. Stringer also acts as the bankroll behind Avon's operations. Stringer serves as the secondary antagonist of the first season of the series but becomes the main antagonist of seasons 2 and 3.

He is portrayed by Idris Elba, who also portrayed Colin Evans in No Good Deed, Krall in Star Trek Beyond, William Roque in The Losers, Shere Khan in the 2016 The Jungle Book film, Brixton Lore in Hobbs & Shaw, Macavity in the 2019 Cats film and The Commandant in Beasts of No Nation.


Season 1

Stringer is first seen attending the trial of Avon's nephew and lieutenant, D'Angelo Barksdale, for the murder of a rival drug dealer. Avon has tasked Stringer with ensuring that D'Angelo is acquitted. To this end, Stringer has Barksdale enforcers Roland "Wee Bay" Brice, Anton "Stinkum" Atris, and Savino Bratton intimidate and bribe witnesses over the course of the trial. When D'Angelo was released, Avon has Stringer demote him to running the operation in the low-rise projects known as "the pit."

Stringer then had his hands full dealing with a stick-up crew led by the legendary Omar Little, after they stole some of Barksdale's stash from one of their heavily guarded stash houses. Stringer visited D'Angelo to instruct him about checking his organization for an informant who may have been giving Omar information. Avon ordered then ordered the deaths of Omar and all of his crew. Avon also tasked Stringer with assisting Stinkum in taking over new territory for the organization.

Stringer took Stinkum to survey his new territory with some additional muscle in the form of Wee-Bey and another brutal Barksdale soldier, Marquis "Bird" Hilton. While there, Stringer received word from D'Angelo that two members of his crew, had spotted Omar's boyfriend Brandon at an arcade. Stringer drove to meet the young drug dealers at the arcade bringing the three enforcers with him. Posing as police officers, the Barksdale gangsters abducted Brandon using handcuffs. They tortured Brandon to death trying to discover Omar's whereabouts. They then mutilated his corpse and displayed it in the low rises as Avon had instructed. Omar responded to the brutal slaying by striking back at Stinkum and Wee-Bey as they made their move on the new territory, killing Stinkum and wounding Wee-Bey.

With this escalation of the conflict, Stringer tried to persuade Avon to offer Omar a truce. His plan was to let Omar grow complacent, then kill him when he let his guard down. Avon initially brushed this suggestion aside, but after Omar nearly killed him, he agreed with Stringer's advice. Stringer also persuaded Avon to give up his pager so that he could act as a buffer between Avon and the rest of their operation.

As Avon grew increasingly suspicious that the police were watching him, Stringer took precautions to smoke out informants and to counter wiretaps. He instructed D'Angelo to withhold pay from his subordinates for several weeks; the ones who weren't asking for money at the end of that time were the ones who were being paid as informants. However, no informants were found. To foil wiretaps, Stringer insisted on phone discipline, asking D'Angelo's crew to remove nearby payphones and to walk longer distances to other phones instead.

When it came time for Avon to clean house, Stringer ordered the murder of Wallace, the youngest member of D'Angelo's crew and a key witness in the killing of Omar's boyfriend. Stringer tried to find out about Wallace's whereabouts from D'Angelo but D'Angelo realized his friend was in danger and only told Stringer that Wallace had left their business. Stringer turned to another member of D'Angelo's crew, Bodie Broadus, D'Angelo's second in command and learned that Wallace had returned to working for D'Angelo. Stringer asked Bodie to murder Wallace. He also had the witness he had bribed in D'Angelo's trial, Nakeesha Lyles, killed. Stringer assumed command of the Barksdale crew when Avon was arrested at the end of season one. D'Angelo was also arrested and when he learned of the murder of his friend Wallace he blamed Stringer, driving a wedge between the two. Stringer rewarded Bodie's loyalty by promoting him to run their operation at the 221 towers.

Season 2

During season two, Stringer faces a serious problem when the Barksdales' usual supplier, a Dominican named Roberto, becomes the focus of a DEA investigation. The New York-based Dominican syndicate ends its partnership with the Barksdale organization, suspecting Avon of informing on them in exchange for a lighter prison sentence. Avon is able to find alternatives through his connections in Philadelphia and Atlanta, but the heroin they supply is far less potent and more expensive. 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 mortally 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 takes out a hit through a connection in Washington. Stringer's connection has his cousin strangle D'Angelo in prison and stage the death as a suicide. Stringer stresses the need to keep Avon from knowing about his role in D'Angelo's murder.

Avon's trust in Stringer becomes strained when he secretly agrees to share Barksdale territory with Proposition Joe in exchange for Joe's higher-quality heroin, an idea which Avon vehemently opposes. When Avon hires legendary New York enforcer Brother Mouzone to chase Joe's 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. After Mouzone returns to New York, Avon grudgingly agrees to Stringer's proposal. However, the two are no longer as close as they had been before.

Season 3

Stringer utilizes 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 Roberts rules of order. Stringer was also shown to have made several donations to consultants and politicians, including the corrupt state senator Clay Davis, in order to facilitate the development of a condaminuim complex.

At the beginning of Season 3, Stringer has reached the apex of his power. Along with Proposition Joe, he is effectively running the drug trade 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 amongst 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 (AKA Prince K). 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 use the organization's profits to make legitimate business investments, Avon is determined to wage war against the fledgling drug lord Marlo Stanfield. As Avon's war against Marlo begins to draw more police attention to the drug trade, Proposition Joe and other Co-Op Members threaten to cut Stringer off from the Greeks' superior heroin supply until he can control Avon. 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 Stringer 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 being repeatedly delayed by bureaucratic obstacles. Stringer is frustrated by what he perceives to be 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 had fabricated his federal contact and pocketed the money. Enraged, Stringer instructs Slim Charles to assassinate Davis, an order that is immediately rebuffed by Avon.

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 allows Freamon and Prez to 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 conclusive 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 regain control of the Barksdale organization by sending Avon back to prison, betraying the location of his safehouse to Baltimore Police major Howard "Bunny" Colvin. However, Stringer is simultaneously betrayed by Avon when Brother Mouzone confronted him about Stringer's plot to engineer a conflict between Mouzone and Omar Little. Mouzone told 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 supply of drugs from New York. In an effort to avoid a war with Mouzone, Avon reluctantly gave him information about Stringer's whereabouts.

Shortly after Avon's meeting with Brother Mouzone, Avon and Stringer enjoyed one last drink together at Avon's harborside condominium, reminiscing about the past and acting as if their old friendship was intact, despite each man having betrayed the other. The next day Omar and Brother Mouzone tracked Stringer to his development site, killed his bodyguard, and, after a tense confrontation, executed him.

With Stringer dead and Avon imprisoned along with most of his men, the Barksdale organization crumbled. Slim Charles became the de facto leader of what remained of the Barksdale crew, which he merged with Proposition Joe's drug operations. Marlo Stanfield became the new power in West Baltimore by default.

After Stringer's death, Detective Mcnulty and the police searched his apartment. The apartment was extremely clean, stylishly furnished and tastefully decorated. Far from any expectations of a drug kingpin, his bookshelf included a copy of The Wealth of Nations. M

Bell's death.

cNulty expressed a regret that he was unable to arrest his archrival before he died, and in the end displayed an odd admiration for Stringer's lofty dreams and grudging respect for his talent as a drug kingpin. In essence, McNulty is left without purpose now that his worthy adversary is gone.
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