REVIEW: The Deuce (S2 E5/9)

And so the push and the pull of The Deuce continues. For four episodes of this excellent second series, we’ve seen people trying to get out, only to be pulled back in – they’re labelled and branded, and whatever they do The Deuce, or human manifestations of The Deuce, keep pulling them back into its squalid lair.

And yet people keep fighting. There’s change, there isn’t. People come, people go.

This week, the theme of change was never more apparent in three different storylines. For Larry Brown, Darlene’s heavy-handed pimp, the call of acting had never felt more urgent or vital. After showing his improvisational skills during the jail-set porn movie, he was all starry-eyed – he went to empty matinee showings of Richard Pryor and Harvey Keitel movies and recited lines as he veritably skipped down the street.

As for Lori, her plan to ease her way out of the clutches of CC didn’t go well. He caught wind of Lori and super-agent Kiki Gains’ plan and meted out a terrifying outburst of physical violence to put her in her place. After a chat with Candy, they struggled to find common ground – two people who care about each other but from different walks of life, and two people with two different sets of ambitions. In any other drama, there would have been a well-meaning but saccharine moment where they hugged it out. These two fine female characters did do that to some extent, but there was greater nuance and an unexpected tension between the two that prevailed gave the scene a ton of gravitas and proving yet again that in The Deuce it’s dog eat dog. At the end of it all, I got the impression that Lori felt cornered and without a plan. That often makes people make wrong decisions.

Elsewhere, Paul was having problems with his restaurant business. He was finding resistance – some blatantly homophobic – from the neighbourhood group, who didn’t like his proposals. By the end of the episode, after an almighty row with his partner, he found his way back to an underground sex club, where carnal desires took over and anonymous sex was conducted.

And then there was Shay. The sex worker who ODed at the end of the last episode, Shay has, like Larry, been a real emerging character, as has her saviour, Irene. Their relationship is touching. Irene, so obviously in love with her tried her best to convince her that there was a life outside of Rodney and the street. She had been losing the battle, but thanks to Irene she now had a place to stay and, if she wanted it, a girlfriend. “I mean, you like a guy, but with boobs. Just about.”

Elsewhere, Vincent and Abby’s relationship continued to deteriorate – Abby and Ashley’s sex worker outreach program was progressing quickly, while Vince’s business interests were taking a hit (Bobby’s massage parlour was raided by Alston). They have been growing apart, and yet… when Vincent came told the truth (kind of) about the envelopes of money that often changes hands in the Hi-Hat Abby was disgusted. Vincent said he wanted out and left the latest wad on the table for her to do what she pleased with it. Despite being diametrically opposed to how Vincent often earned his money and what does with it, she was presented with a moral conundrum: one of the sex workers from the street was desperate to get out of town and start over, and there was no money to do it. Abby supplied that money, thanks to Vincent’s envelope. You could argue that this money was used for good (which it was), but also that it was tainted money. How far do the layers of corruption go back? Is something bad even though it’s done with the best intentions? Who is tainted and who isn’t? Temptation is around every corner here. It’s these expert scenes and questions that make The Deuce such a deep watch.

Candy – another character whose grey areas make her so interesting – was getting busy. She was circling The Deuce looking for money and people to make her movie come alive. She courted Frankie, who had come into some money after selling the dry-cleaning business (that’s that comedy strand over and done with), Lori and other actors and writers to come onboard for next to no money. Who’s to say that Larry Brown, with stars in his eyes, won’t end up in Candy’s porn remake of Little Red Riding Hood?

Candy, so long the exploited is now on the verge of becoming the exploiter.

That’s what The Deuce does to you.

Paul Hirons
@Son_Of_Ray

FOR OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW CLICK HERE

FOR OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW CLICK HERE

FOR OUR EPISODE THREE REVIEW CLICK HERE

FOR OUR EPISODE FOUR REVIEW CLICK HERE

 

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