The Deuce is coming off the two strongest episodes of its inaugural season. The show has reached a point where it is no longer a question of whether the newest episode will be good. With only three episodes left the question is: how much better can the show get?
The Story so Far: Darlene has been given a bus ticket by Abby to leave the Deuce. Darlene instead uses the ticket to recruit a new girl for Larry. Larry decides this new girl is too young and sells her to Rodney. Abby has had other problems as her other attempts to convince people the error of their ways falls on deaf ears. Things continue to get harder for Candy as a client beats and robs her. She is finally able to get into the film business, but not in the way she wants. Sandra continues to get into Officer Alston’s good graces and is able to score an interview with Reggie Love. Thanks to Rudy’s help, Vincent is about to get in on the ground floor of New York’s newest sex trade.
Episode 6 “Why Me?”: The Deuce has done a masterful job its premier season advancing its various storylines. Plot points introduced early in the season are being brought back with more importance. For example, early in the season Larry set Darlene up with a customer that wanted to do some filming. Aside from this brief discussion, the topic hasn’t come up since. In this episode, the same customer comes back around with his offer, but now the pornography scene is gaining even more attention. It’s really interesting how the characters react to essentially the same situations, but with shifted context. This scene in tonight’s episode, between Larry and Darlene, was also notable for another reason: the two discuss the long-term consequences of pornography. The entire season has seen all the show’s characters think very short-term. They have sex and use various drugs with reckless abandon. It’s almost refreshing to see a character think about their future.
This is not the only simmering storyline that’s picked back up. Rudy Pipilo’s involvement with the mayor’s office is shown in the third episode of the season. The ambitious mayor has not been seen since that episode, however the effects of Rudy’s meeting have been felt. This is seen most obviously in this episode, as the 14th Precinct have been given orders from City Hall to round up all pimps and prostitutes on the Deuce. Bail has been increased and the pimps are explicitly told that if they want to continue to do business on 42nd Street, they will have to find somewhere safe to do it. This, coincidentally, lines up with the opening of Vincent’s new “massage” parlor. City officials have also possibly had a hand in dropping the new obscenity laws in New York. A lower court ruling has essentially made the filming of pornography legal. It’s clear that mass corruption is helping to open the doors for pornography. This has not gone unnoticed by Officer Alston, and it will be interesting to see where this will lead.
An interesting development in the episode is the revelation that the pimps seem to resistant to change. They all soundly rebuke Vincent’s offer to send prostitutes to his new business venture (though Gentle Richie is seen at the parlor later.) It takes police intervention for the pimps to agree, and even then, it is with great reluctance. Earlier in the season, C.C. seemed to be hinting at entering the film business. After Candy brings Lori to a shoot, C.C unexpectedly shows up. He collects money since Lori is “his” girl, but doesn’t seem to like the idea. It’s possible that the pimps see porno films shifting the balance of power away from them, and they either have to get on board or lose out.Vincent and Frankie continue to develop as the show progresses. Both were once wary of the mob’s help at first. Frankie’s initial caution has totally disappeared, as he’s eager to help Rudy with possible problems and prove his worth. Interestingly, as he becomes more willing to work with criminal elements, Frankie also seems to become more responsible. Vincent, on the other hand remains cautious. Which is ironic, since he is the twin with financial ties to the mob. Though he is not in debt like his brother once was, Vince is now in charge of two business that are mob fronts.
Candy’s life has been miserable the last couple of episodes. She has finally made it into the film business, and though she is in front of the camera, she continues to try to learn as much as possible. She has shifted during the season from simply a prostitute who seems to have her life together to a tragic hero. Candy’s motivations are simple: she wants to get off the streets. She doesn’t want to be a better person or save the streets; she simply wants to make porno films so she does’t have to work as a prostitute. Candy has inched closer and closer and has met some awful setbacks along the way. It is hard not to celebrate her successes or feel for her when she falls short.
The overall theme of the episode is integrity. The show lives in the seedy underbelly of New York where the most like-able character may be a prostitute or porno film director. Throughout this episode, our cast of outcasts manages to display some kindness. It might be setting up a co-worker with an “honest” pimp, or a mobster dubbing someone trustworthy, but the human moments are refreshing in a show filled with unabashed misogyny and corruption.
The entire first season of The Deuce has been consistently fantastic. Along the way there has been both character and story progression. Episode six is the first episode that seems to focus more on set up than developing the story. While there are some key moments, it is the first episode of the season that seems to lack advancement. This was all about preparing the audience for the last two episodes of the season. Still, a good episode of The Deuce is better than most shows’ best.