Warning, spoilers for The Deuce ahead!
On the heels of three of the best episodes of television this year, The Deuce heads into the halfway point of its first season. Merging style and substance, HBO’s newest show has admirably filled the void left by Game of Thrones after its season finale. Will it end of the first half of the season strong or will the story take a breather before heading into the second half?The Story so Far: Vincent Martino’s bar, the Hi-Hat, has been a resounding success. Vinnie hires Big Mike as the bar’s bouncer after a confrontation with a former “partner.” Someone is making sex tapes and selling them to porn shops on the Deuce. Those shops in turn are selling them for big profit. Some of the prostitutes have been going to photographers in hopes of no longer having to work the streets and get into this new business. Still, many of the girls think it is just a passing fad. Candy is having some problems breaking into the film business. Officer Alston is surprised that the Deuce has been named a “no collar” zone, effectively making crime in that area legal. C.C is trying to convince Lori to play the “long game.”
Episode 4 “I See Money”: The previous episodes of The Deuce have focused on various storylines and characters. Episode four of the show follows this same pattern, but less so than the previous three. Candy is the focus, including one of the funniest and simultaneously saddest cold opens ever seen.She has already shown herself to be independent and intelligent, spending the past few episodes attempting to break into the film business. Her one connection in the business previously made it clear that she had a future as an actress, but not behind the camera. It was one of the better scenes of the season. While her nightly activities have been a focus of the show, the audience has seen very little of Candy’s personal life. All that we know is that she has a son and a strained relationship with her mother.
The fourth episode lets the audience into Candy’s life more than any previous episode has, including possibly revealing her real first name. We even see her meet a man and give him her number. The writing in the episode really shines when watch Candy prepare for a real date. She might be the most confident prostitute on the Deuce, but having to meet a man for an actual date is obviously nerve wracking for her. Maggie Gyllenhaal is amazing in these moments, conveying uncertainty without saying a word. It’s an excellent, emotional example of underacting. When the date actually does happen, Candy has no idea how to act and it ends in a comically disastrous fashion.
Candy’s dating adventures are only a small part of what happens in the episode. The entire episode is a comedy of errors for her. Once again, the writing is excellent. David Simon writes almost a black comedy, where one bad thing after another happens to Candy. Each event in a vacuum may be humorous, but as they pile on things become farcical. The writing does an outstanding job of writing making these moments comical and sad at the same time.
Though Candy is the focus of episode, other stories develop in parallel. Vinnie lets Andrea know that he is still not ready to move back with her. Meanwhile, his relationship with Abby seems to be growing stronger. For the first time, we are let in on the motivations of Paul, the bartender who works at the Hi-Hat. While he could be an interesting character, it also seems questionable to add another storyline to an already loaded shows. Interestingly, this episode featured the least involvement of the pimps and the development of the pornography storyline. Neither’s absence negatively impacted the show however.
The first three episodes of the show focused on change and its effects on the characters. The fourth is more about control, and more accurately, the lack of it. Candy’s story is a perfect example. It’s fairly straightforward, but throughout, she realizes that there are many things in life she has no control over. The nuanced, layered writing and acting really stands out in these moments.
The Deuce ends the first half of its first season with its strongest episode. In what has become the norm, the show combined strong writing and acting. Departing from the established pattern of the season, the fourth episode focused more on one character than any other episode had previously, delivering a perfect hour of television in the process. Halfway through its debut season, The Deuce has established itself as the best show on television.