Warning! Spoilers for The Deuce ahead!
The story so far: Frankie’s antics finally seem to have caught up with him. Bobby seems to have found a profitable new money stream until Black Frankie gets unexpectedly caught in the middle. Detective Alston decides to take the next step to help improve the city. Everyone on the Deuce is worried about AIDS or the Mafia – or both. Lori tries to branch out. Candy is still trying to deal with having a man in her life.
Few shows know their characters as well as the writers on The Deuce. There has never been a moment when someone has acted out of character. At the same time, the show is never predictable. The HBO drama constantly has viewers saying, “That is exactly something they would do.” Episode five is an excellent showcase of this great storytelling.
Nowhere is this attention to character more poignant than in the opening of ‘You Only Get One’. Following the events of the previous episode, the Martino family are gathered to watch a videotape. It is a touching moment filled with humor. The ending of the tape perfectly summarizes one of the show’s most important characters.
This dark humor has always been prevalent in The Deuce. Despite its gritty subject matter, the show still manages to find something to laugh at. Bobby has been one of the most consistently funny people on the show. Much of it has been unintentional – especially this season – but he his guaranteed to make viewers laugh out loud at least once per episode. His interaction with a john is one his best moments. It is difficult to find anything to laugh about when dealing with this subject matter. The Deuce manages to do so without negatively impacting the overall tone of the story.
Candy’s underdog tale has always been an important part of the plot. Things are constantly thrown in her path and her life is never easy. She has two constants: she never gives up on a plan and she does not need the help of men in her life. The final season of The Deuce sees both of these traits continue to be a big part of her. She has an important story she wants to tell and she will do what she needs to in order to get her film made. This is to be expected of one of the stronger characters on the show.
What season three has also shown is there is a man who is very important in Candy’s life. He is someone she has depended on for support and comfort. They have shared laughs and gone through tough times together. Harvey Wasserman has stood by the former prostitute since the first season. He has also been there to tell her when she may be aiming higher than she can actually shoot. Arguably, it is the healthiest relationship on The Deuce. The two obviously have a deep bond and viewers have cheered their victories. The latest episode shows how strong the bond is.
In a nice bit of storytelling, scenes involving Candy are usually followed by ones with Lori. The two have had similar struggles. Both worked the streets before making it big in the porn industry. The difference between the two is while Candy has a definite plan, Lori seems to constantly be flying by the seat of her pants. ‘You Only Get One’ shows just how different the two are.
It is almost impossible not to pity Lori. (This is another similarity she has with Candy, who finally sits and talks with her son in the fifth episode.) Despite her supposed confidence, she has always been at the beck and call of others. That is more clear here than any previous episode. Lori is still controlled by a pimp (though he does not call himself one) and she is still forced to entertain men for money. Emily Meade has done a great job of replacing the defiant look of previous seasons with one of desperation.
The episode is also incredibly tense. There is a wonderful build to Lori’s segments. As the episode progresses, the audience sees the lack of control turn into confusion before morphing into terror. It is great writing that will keep everyone watching on the edge of the seats. That tension permeates throughout the entire episode. Chris Coy has always played Paul with a dynamic vibrancy. His story in ‘You Only Get One’ builds up to a great finale. Vinnie also has some difficult choices to make after what occurred last episode. The show does a great job of making viewers feel a number of emotions.
The Deuce has always done a great job of telling its many stories. With its powerful writing and tremendous acting, the show is one of the most engaging on television. It somehow manages to make people laugh while they worry about what is going to happen next. All the while, the show never loses its almost oppressive atmosphere. The Deuce is the rare show that makes you proud to be watching.