HBO’s Killer With A Code

Omar Little, 34, Armed Robber
A charming, cunning shotgun surgeon who made his living robbing drug dealers, Omar Little had an aura of permanence—amazing considering he wasn't a real person, he was a TV character (played by actor Michael K. Williams). On "The Wire," HBO's Baltimore crime drama, we're used to lives ending abruptly. But the death of Omar—a cult figure among "Wire" fans, felled by a bullet to the head from a tween triggerman—was especially jolting. And the subsequent scenes, in which news of his death spread, were even more sobering: neither the cops nor the corner boys showed any affect, a response that was faithful to the world of the show, but created dissonance between the observers and the observed.

We spent years with Omar. In his way, he was principled, committed to hustling those who hustled others. ("A man got to have a code," he said once.) His moral compass so endeared him to viewers that he long outlived the seven-episode arc his creators had originally planned for him. More than any other death on "The Wire," Omar's made us know the agony of caring for a murder victim—even one who, by all rights, had it coming. For a moment, we knew how it felt to have someone close to us die, and to wait in vain for someone to give a damn.