Category Archives: The Deuce

HBO confirms transmission date for series three of The Deuce

David Simon and George Pelecanos’s The Deuce has been, for two series, some of the best human drama on the box.

We know that series three is to be the last, and now we know when it’s going to happen.


The series, which chronicles the legalisation and rise of the porn industry in New York City beginning in the early 1970s and through the mid-1980s, stars James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The show’s US home, HBO, has now announced the transmission date for series three. Look out for it on 9th September, so it’s likely it’ll be shown on Sky Atlantic here in the UK the following day.


REVIEW: The Deuce (S2 E9/9)

“There’s no fixin’ this world, is there?”

This second series of David Simon and George Pelecanos’s The Deuce has been an extraordinary thrill ride, with characters inhabiting this filthy, grotty, alive neighbourhood of 1970s New York City struggling against the push and pull of identity, stereotype and psychogeography.

When it comes to series finales, you’d expect a cliffhanger here or a cliffhanger there, but The Deuce is different. Instead, using series one and Simon and Pelecanos’s previous series as gauges, there’s a clearing of the decks; out with the old, in the with the new. It happened at the end of series one with the death of Ruby, and it happened to an extent here, too: we lost CC in episode eight and, in this episode, we lost another of the pimps. Rodney, who has been on an opiate-induced tear since Shay turned him onto the joys of the dragon. It was no surprise that he bought it tonight, in a pharmacy stick-up gone wrong. Coincidence upon coincidence – the cop who shot him was one of the corrupt ones, in league with Rodders and received a hero’s medal from his superiors at the end of the episode.

These deaths are symbolic. (We also lost bit player Carlos tonight, when Black Frankie – who’s super-cool but obviously super-quiet and super-dangerous – took him out on what seemed like a whim-order from Tommy. They drove out to a deserted, neon-lit street. They chatted. Frankie shot Carlos in the head without pomp or ceremony. It was quite a scene.) Not only do they represent character death but also the death of a way of life – CC and Rodney had to go because they would not change, could not change. As The Deuce changes, as the monster wheels of gentrification grind to life, as Alston is tasked with cleaning the place up (but only just enough), as sex workers’ rights begin to be taken seriously (although tell that to poor Dorothy, whose militancy cost her her life) and as the sex industry has been taken from the streets into the massage parlours and then onto film (and soon, as Harvey excitedly told Candy and her editor/soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, VIDEO!), pimps have become redundant.

And yet the pimps’ hold and legacy were felt in this series finale in two contrasting storylines. Lori, about to take off for LA to further her career thanks to rave reviews in Red Hot (although the rate she’s tooting the marching powder, she’s not going to last for very long), is suffering from reverse separation anxiety, a kind of Stockholm syndrome: even though everything has been taken care of she will not and cannot leave without getting CC’s blessing. As she explained, we don’t understand – he’s always got a hold of her – and she was terrified he would come back and destroy everything. It took some uncharacteristic honesty from Frankie, who told her CC’s fate. She snorted back tears of sadness, which soon turned to tears of relief, and then uncontrollable laughter.

Elsewhere, there was the story of Larry Brown and Darlene. Larry has adapted and changed, taken his acting seriously and has shown real talent. And yet… he’s still a nasty pimp. Darlene – who’s been trying so hard to educate herself and move on, not just from Larry but the whole lifestyle – packs her bags and leaves, quietly, early in the morning. Larry catches her. What proceeded was really unexpected – we’re used to seeing the pimps of The Deuce react violently to any of their stable trying to leave or escape their clutches. And we’ve seen Larry do that too. But here, there’s a mutual respect and almost a tender recognition. Darlene tells him that she’s seen “inside the pretend” for a while now, and once anyone sees inside a pimp’s pretend, their power is nullified. Everything’s an act, and she’s seen through it. Larry nodded and smiled, and didn’t put up a fight. He knew she was right. Darlene slowly turned on her heels and left to pursue a new life. It was a very poignant scene, in an episode packed full of poignant scenes.

These examinations of abusive relationships are one of the most interesting aspects of The Deuce. Often abusive relationships are reported in very black-or-white ways – he’s a monster, why doesn’t she leave him, she must be a loser etc. This series really explores the many facets of these types of relationships – the violence, the manipulation and the exploitation, but things like mutual reliance, a feeling of perverse safety and even a strange kind of love, too.

Elsewhere, the show’s two lynchpin characters – Vince and Candy – were finding the struggle real, too. Candy is currently the centre of the world, when Red Hot became big news, received rave reviews and appeared on a national talk show. But there were consequences to this fame – the talk show host made fun of her, her boyfriend mads a chauvinistic faux pas at the launch party (and was swiftly shown the door), and she was banned from seeing her son because he got a thumped in the face at school because of his mum’s appearance on national TV talking about what she does to make a living. She was moving forward, but change is difficult.

Vince explained to his ex that he wanted the picket fence-house, the garden, the wife and the kids but also he wanted, like Candy, to be the at the centre of the world. And yet there he was, after the camera took us on a terrific Scorsese-like tracking shot through the club, looking miserable as sin as the revellers danced and made merry around him.

After a series where he struggled to find his identity, he had made an uneasy peace with who he was and where he was.

And this was the same for all members of The Deuce ensemble: each and every character had an identity crisis in this series, where they were desperate for change but The Deuce kept pulling them back in, reminding them – like a wound that would not heal – of their place and who they really were. Only the lucky, or the most courageous, got out.

And of course, this kind of inner conflict makes for fantastically engrossing, nuanced human drama. I said that series one was Dickensian in the way characters exploited one another in an enclosed, urban space, and this series showed what happens when you drop a couple of bombs into the middle of this dangerous, brilliant, beautiful, horrid place – those bombs being hope and ambition.

Once again The Deuce proved that you don’t have to be a cops-and-robbers show to be a superior crime drama. We often sit through two months’ worth of episodes and characters and their stories, and sometimes you have to say that we come out of the whole experience none the wiser as to who you’ve been watching and what makes them tick. With The Deuce, not only are characters fully rounded, believable and incredibly nuanced, but you invest in them and feel part of their lives. It’s that kind of immersive drama, where love, sex, politics of every kind, relationships, society and crime all inter-mingle.

It really has been a pleasure to watch, and series three – with the promise of cocaine, AIDs and the end of the dream – couldn’t come soon enough.

Paul Hirons










REVIEW: The Deuce (S2 E8/9)

Such is the slow-paced evolution of story arcs in The Deuce, it came as some surprise that in this, the second series’ penultimate episode, that one of the major characters died a grisly death. Not that death – in all its forms – is a surprise in this neighbourhood, but it was a surprise in the context of the series.

For a while now, the threat of violence has been real. David Simon and George Pelecanos always like to keep things simmering and never go for the easy, cheap option: they like to let things evolve as organically and as naturally as possible, which puts it at odds with other urban dramas who seem to think that killing off characters should happen in every other episode.  No, Simon and Pelecanos recognise that the threat of violence is every bit as threatening as showing it.

And this episode, to begin with, carried on that simmering threat. Rudy took Vince to ‘have a word’ with a mafioso about the attempt on their life, which almost led to Vince ‘popping his cherry’; CC waved goodbye to Lori, who had been bought out by the mob after having done a deal with Kiki Rains and was off to LA for good, and ‘treated’ her to a bout of violent sex; Shay got Rodney hooked on hydromorphone, the latter now strung out and prowling pharmacists looking for a place to hold up; a recently released sex worker confronted Larry Brown in the diner; and Dorothy/Ashley’s militant approach to cleaning up the streets was not only angering the pimps, but also Abby and Dave, who disagreed with her no-compromise approach to negotiations. In all these little strands, the threat of violence was real. In only one did it boil over.

If the heat was being turned up ever so slightly, it was because there was a sense that things were coming to a head.

Elsewhere though, characters were explicitly beginning to question their part in this world. This series has seen everyone from Vince and Abby to Candy and Lori trying to change their circumstances – instead of being the exploited, they’ve been trying to claw back power in their situations. And yet… the mob, now owning most of Candy’s film want to meddle and usurp her leadership, and Lori has gone from being owned by CC to now being owned by the mob and Kiki Rains.

The cycle of exploitation is endless; the pit of despair bottomless.

This episode showed various characters having what can only be described as a full-blown existential crisis. Chris Alston, after the suicide of his partner Danny, mused about his place in the world and how he wasn’t going to let The Deuce swallow him up, Gene Goldman had sex with another man and answered questions about his sexuality and duality, Vince went to visit his father and the pimps were wondering aloud how they could take back what they thought was there’s.

There was no louder voice than CC’s tonight. Spurned, rejected, exploited himself, he was forced ‘sell’ Lori to the mob. But he wasn’t going to go quietly. He went to Bobby and Frankie’s massage parlour and demanded a cut of the profits from the yet-to-be-released Red Hot. They refused. He began to get angry, goading Bobby until the angry Irishman plunged a knife into his sternum.

CC had no place in the world anymore. What place the others occupy is a matter for discussion – who is exploiting who, how deep are the layers of corruption, and can anyone really escape The Deuce?

Paul Hirons








REVIEW: The Deuce (S2 E7/9)

The one uniting theme throughout this second series of The Deuce – that oh-so Dickensian slice of urban drama from David Simon and George Pelecanos – is the way the characters have been kicking back against the NYC district, only for the pull of the place, the lifestyle and the ingrained DNA to kick back even harder. We’ve seen it all throughout the series – from Vince, Candy and Lori, to Larry, Paul and Ashley. They’ve all wanted to leave, or better themselves, but either the place, someone else or something inside them keeps them there.

As the character with almost the most screen time in a large ensemble cast, Vince has been feeling this push and pull the most in recent episodes. In tonight’s penultimate series installment (or at least I think it is… there seems to be some confusion over whether there are eight or nine episodes in this series), Vince takes matters into his own hands. His mobster bosses – Rudy and Tommy – offer him the chance to manage a new bar that they’ve bought near the UN headquarters, but Vince – tired, tired, tired – will only do it if he can give up the massage parlours. His bosses tell him it’s a “take it or take it” offer and there would be consequences if he didn’t accept.

So he takes off. Takes off with a bag of coke and drives off into the country, into verdant Vermont. Why? It’s never really explained and I don’t think Vince even knew why – he was feeling trapped, at the end of his tether and just wanted to drive… anywhere. Anywhere out of the city.

It was a curious detour. One that shouldn’t have fitted in with the rest of the series, but the lush pastures, the sun and clean fresh air almost had the same effect on us as it had on Vince. And yet the menace of The Deuce still followed him – because of the threats he faced back home, you half expected something to happen or go wrong, even though he was far away from harm. And, of course, he had the time of his life. He fiound himself in a pub in a student town, and then found himself behind the bar helping out the friendly owner. It reminded him what he was good at – mixing drinks, holding court and being a people person. When he stayed over at the barman’s home and met his family, he saw a way out and a life outside of the strife, possibly for the first time.

Back in The Deuce, bad things were still happening. Copper Danny, who had been infatuated with massage parlour worker Anita, did something heinous: after Anita threatened to tell his wife about them unless he left her, he beat her to death in his car and promptly threw her body into the river. There’s that theme again… it’s tough to leave anything in The Deuce. Alston was on the case when Anita’s body was found – after seeing a familiar watch on her person, he knew exactly who perpetrated the crime. Danny pleaded with him to let him tell his wife in person, and then he would turn himself in. Instead, he shot himself in his car. Alston, a likeable realist, used to the Sisyphean grind of policing the district, agreed with his boss that they should give their colleague dignity in death, even though his crime patently didn’t deserve it. They covered it up.

Elsewhere, Abby slept with Dave The Outreach Worker who, later, had a threatening mini-confrontation with CC and a couple of other pimps. It felt like that they were reaching the end of their tether when it came to these new do-gooders on the street – instead of new pimps busting in on their territory, it was people who wanted to take away their business in a different way. Candy, so energised by her directing role, encountered rank sexism during a financing meeting, and Bobby, too, was having problems with his son – both at school and then at the massage parlour (where he thought it’d be a good idea to give him a job to give him a real education).

So things were bubbling away, but really this episode was about Vince and his almost dreamlike tangent into a parallel dimension – like Lori when she visited Los Angeles a few weeks ago, he saw what life could be like. A real life, free of corruption, grime and people trying to make you – even if he had been doing some of the making.

Instead, he returned to The Deuce, where almost immediately Abby cocked a snook at moving out to the country (she came from Connecticut) and then, while driving with Rudy and Tommy to the new bar, encountered a not-so-friendly group of men with guns.

Nothing ever changes.

Paul Hirons







REVIEW: The Deuce (S2 E6/9)

We’ve seen it in other series (series three of Fargo springs to mind), but this sixth episode of The Deuce felt like a mini-series within a series; an episode that was so different in tone and theme that it felt slightly separate to the rest of the run. Not that it was a total departure – there were still some tough things to think about and deal with within the arcs of the main protagonists – but this was a brilliant example of a series so assured and confident in its storytelling ability that it seamlessly went off on a bit of a tangent and it didn’t feel awkward or jarring in the slightest. (NB: This episode was written by The Killing Times‘ favourite Megan Abbot and Stephani DeLuca.)

Quite the opposite.

For most of this episode things revolved around the filming of Candy’s porn version of Little Red Riding Hood, and much of it was thrilling, vital and, in parts, high farce. Candy had limited funds, remember, so she took the decision to film on the streets and at locations where she didn’t have a permit – in car parks and graffiti-strewn subway cars at three in the morning. New York never looked more alive, Candy never looked more alive, and that scuzzy, urban energy crackled from our screens.

She was winging it, making things up as she went along and we felt that creative buzz. Cameramen were pushed along in supermarket trolleys for tracking shots, actors endured incredulous passers-by and everything was a mess (in a good way).

First of all, though, Candy had a casting disaster to circumnavigate. She had blown a lot of her budget on a highfalutin porn star called Lance Minx (go figure) who could not and would not abide by neither the perceived amateurism nor the rat-infested Deuce streets. In a hissy fit of epic proportions, he stormed off the set and off the project – the fact that he had this hissy fit wearing fake wolf teeth made it hilarious. This left Larry Brown to step into the breach and wear the teeth and assume the lead character (much to Harvey’s chagrin – he spent most of the episode effing and jeffing and pulling his hair out). It’s funny how this show makes you root for guys who have done very bad things.

Equally hilarious was Frankie’s role in the production. He was taking his status as producer seriously and suddenly found that this project was helping him take responsibility for something for once in his life. When Candy ran out of cash, Frankie took it upon himself to come up with the extras. Bad move. He and his crew held up a truck and stole some shoes and tried to sell them to Rudy. When they unloaded their bounty, they found out that the boxes were filled with two left-footed shoes each. The shoe company had seen them coming.

But… explaining to a guffawing Rudy his predicament and taking him on-set, so beguiled was the mobster with the buzz of movie life he stumped up the cash without a second thought. Suddenly Red Riding Hood was now part-funded by mob money. Not that Candy cared – she finished her movie with Lori and Larry excelling, and Candy herself starring in the final scene. As Harvey muttered incredulously after viewing the rushes: “You just might have something here.”

Elsewhere, eyes were very much on Vince and Abby. Their relationship had been suffering in recent episodes – Vince’s old ways of doing business (greasing the palms of the mob, the cops and the health inspectors) were clashing with Abby’s benevolent, new-wave feminism and liberalism. She was making progress with the pimps who hung outside the apartment complex by getting them to agree, in theory at least, to only operate at certain times of the day. Crucially, Abby had managed to get the two entrenched sides – the residents and the pimps – to talk and compromise. David Simon and George Pelecanos took this approach in The Wire, and they did it here – they not only showed problems but offered solutions. It was drama as action, and drama showing the world how to behave properly.

I’ve always felt that Vince was an interesting character – a strutting Italian-American alpha male, he’s part lothario, part wiseguy. He’s always been in it for the buck and plays the game, and yet… he’s helped gay friend Paul out on numerous occasions and mixes with African-Americans freely and easily, never judging. He’s old-school but embraces the new-school of multiculturalism without a blink. He’s a walking contradiction and full of surprises.

Since the murder by arson of Kitty, the massage parlour sex worker, and last week’s mob shooting, Vince has become unsure of his place within the world – he likes the notoriety, the status and the money, but he wants out. Abby, disgusted at the mob involvement in his business dealings and his role in the massage parlours, didn’t really care whether he had become reflective or not.

But, at the opening of Paul’s posh restaurant/club, she watched him as he schmoozed his way around the room, and embraced his friend. She realised he was a good man, of a sort, and pulled him onto the dance floor for a slow dance and a smooch.

Elsewhere, squeaky clean, idealistic civil servant, Gene Goldman, kissed his picture-perfect wife and kids goodbye that morning at the breakfast table and headed off to work, and to rid The Deuce of all the massage parlours and seedy businesses for good. That same night Gene Goldman sat in a sauna with several other men. Some of them were jerking each other off, some were voyeurs. He left with another man, and they entered a separate booth, alone.

Once again, The Deuce proves you can want change but you can never change your spots.

Paul Hirons







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






REVIEW: The Deuce (S2 E4/9)

We’re almost half-way through series two of The Deuce and it remains drama out of the top drawer. Throughout this run, we’ve seen the push and the pull of The Deuce – an area that people are desperate to leave but when they do they find that it has a hold on them, whether they like it or not.

Episode three was a brilliant piece of television, suggesting all the way that this pull and push – this psycho-geographic tension; a movement of the district’s tectonic plates – was about to come to a head. Mobsters were preparing for war, relationships between lead characters were edging towards if not a confrontation a parting of the ways, and the lawlessness and frontier mentality of a lot of our neighbourhood entrepreneurs was being squeezed and squashed.

For the time being, life in The Deuce continued: Abby put on an exhibition of photographs at The Hi-Hat (Vincent slept with the photographer); Larry Brown had decided to enter the porn movie business for himself and undertook his first acting gigs in front of the camera, while behind it, Candy was making progress on her adult version of Little Red Riding Hood; Frankie was trying to get to grips with his new dry-cleaning business; and Lori was becoming bored and disenchanted with the amateurism shown by both CC and the New York film crews. She desperately wanted to break free and get back to LA and earn the big bucks and the plaudits.

After episode three, most dramas would have taken the easy option and blow the whole thing up – mobsters engaging in open warfare on the streets, guns popping all over the place, cops chasing people down alleyways, and people getting killed here there and everywhere. But this is The Deuce, and that would be too easy, too sensationalist. Instead, this episode examined the human cost of living and working in the area. Yes, the mob war escalated but not in a way anyone might have imagined. Bobby’s peep show joint was burned down in retaliation by the rival mob gang, but we didn’t see any flames or charred bodies. We found out that a young woman had perished through conversation.

Outreach worker Ashley was on it like a shot, expressing anger and disbelief at Bobby and, to some extent, Vincent. She argued that because they owned the place they were both culpable and made it clear that this young woman was more than just a piece of flesh.

Ever since Ashley came back to The Deuce, she has been the show’s moral conscience. While the likes of Vincent, Bobby, Frankie, the mob, whoever, have ridden roughshod over everyone in their relentless pursuit of money (often by exploitation), Ashley has returned and given names, faces and personalities to the ones who have been exploited. Even though the young fire victim was initially a Jane Doe, Ashley travelled to upstate New York and successfully found out who she was. You put a name and a face to a victim of exploitation and the exploiters feel something they haven’t felt in a long time: guilt.

Again, being a David Simon and George Pelecanos drama, there is a 360° approach to storytelling. We are told the story from all angles – from those who are looking to make it, those who have tried and failed and those who are trying but failing, as well as the exploiters and the exploited. But the layers of exploitation and the layers of socio-political and economic oppression are also examined. We again got to see the inner workings and motivations of the police force tonight – with real upstate money ready to be poured into The Deuce, and an idealistic plan in place to shut down all the massage parlours and gentrify the whole district, we got to understand why police often do what they do. As ever, the sanguine Chris Alston looked on in disbelief at yet another wave of idealism and economic cleansing.

But the conveyor belt is still churning. The dream is dying for some, while, for others like Larry (who wowed with his, ahem, acting skills), it’s only just beginning.

Paul Hirons


REVIEW: The Deuce (S2 E3/9)

We’re up to episode three in series two of The Deuce, David Simon and George Pelecanos’s detailing of the fledgeling sex industry in 1970s New York, and it was the most thrilling of the run yet. One of the criticisms that many have of the show is that things develop too slowly, scenes are too short and the large ensemble cast of characters isn’t given enough time to breath (something I disagree with). In tonight’s episode there was a real cut and thrust, and a real sense that things were moving inexorably towards disaster – there was tension and trouble brewing in paradise.

I told you last week how the characters in The Deuce were grappling with ideas of change – some craved it, some didn’t – but in this episode, there was a sense that however hard any of them tried The Deuce itself had an unbreakable, unshakeable magnet-like hold on them. Sure, the likes of Lori, Darlene, Paul, Candy and the returning Ashley had made moves to better themselves in some way, further their careers or even move away, but whether it be a someone or a something there was always The Deuce waiting for them in the shadows, pulling them back into the quicksand. It seemed that once you’re tarred by The Deuce there’s no changing your spots.

We got a real feel for this with both Candy and Lori, who both jetted off to Los Angeles to appear at the adult movie awards. It was strange seeing a world outside of the dark and fetid Deuce – there was sunlight for a start – and Lori luxuriated in her posh pad out on the west coast. There was the sun, there was colour, there was the ocean, there was air to breathe and there was life. To her, and us, it felt like a world of opportunity and a fresh start. CC had decided not to come with her (he had never been on a plane before and he didn’t understand the concept of time zones: “What, we travel back in time?”), and as she was feted by all and sundry and won the award she was nominated for, you hoped she might jack New York in and fulfil her promise. Not so. When she returned to The Deuce she was greeted by a defensive, angry CC who threw her award against the wall. His view? You can take the girl out of The Deuce, but not The Deuce out of the girl. The concept of personal development was lost on him.

Candy, too, was having a fine time in LA. Harvey also won an award (instead of the ‘British are coming’, it was a case of ‘the New Yorkers are coming’), and Candy was using her time in the city to network among industry types to make contacts and pitch her idea for making an adult-themed version of Little Red Riding Hood. She found a willing producer, who was interested in the idea and wanted to stump up the cash. Again, it looked as though Candy’s dreams of becoming a director – a proper, funded director – were about to be realised. Until the producer said that he would only sign the cheque if she came over and sucked his cock. Candy had been moving around LA with real confidence, but this knocked her back – her expression was one of surprise, bemusement, anger and disgust. She took a while to decide what to do, and in the end she silently moved around the desk and did what he asked. It was that or no cheque. The scene was extraordinary – a dilemma brilliantly and almost silently acted by Maggie Gyllenhaal, proving that actions and expressions often speak a thousand words. Post fellatio, she went to the bathroom to think and to silently scream. She had gone to LA because she thought things would be different, but all she found were the same levels of exploitation, male entitlement and expectation of control and ownership.

Back in The Deuce, there were other elements of the story that demonstrated the struggle for change. Darlene was appearing in an adult movie scene, but soon found that she was being paid significantly less than her white co-star. When she and Larry – who was getting a taste for hanging around on-set – remonstrated with the director, he told her that she was “the wrong part of the Oreo”, meaning that because of her race she would never be paid as much as her white co-stars. She (and Larry) told him where to stick it.

Elsewhere, Ashley (or Dorothy as she was now known) was continuing her sex worker outreach program, and she swung by the bar to meet Abby. In walked CC, the first time she had seen him since she escaped The Deuce. He was disparaging, but Dorothy stood firm – she was someone else now, but the pull of The Deuce, of CC and who she used to be tugged hard on her.

It was as if everyone in The Deuce experiences some kind of Stockholm syndrome – you can’t live with it and you can’t live without it.

Finally, there was trouble brewing between the Mafia bosses. Frankie had lifted the takings from the peepshow again so he could gamble, and Rudy had a quiet word with Vince about him. But Rudy had bigger things to worry about – a rival capo was moving in on his territory by opening a massage parlour next to Bobby’s that not only undercut them but also employed underage girls. Rudy had his men burn it down, but you got the impression the touchpaper had been lit.

In fact, you got the impression The Deuce was beginning to catch fire full-stop. It was a fascinating, engrossing and brilliantly acted and structured installment.

Paul Hirons




HBO renews The Deuce for a third series

One of our favourite crime dramas – although subtle in its crimeyness – is David Simon and George Pelecanos’s The Deuce.

The sprawling story of pimps, sex workers, cops and the nascent sex industry set in 1970s New York, is currently two episodes into its second series. Now HBO – its home network in the US – has announced that the show will return for a third and final run next year.

Vulture says:

The third and final [series] will skip ahead to the 1980s and focus on “the rough-and-tumble world that existed there until the rise of HIV, the violence of the cocaine epidemic and the renewed real estate market all ended the bawdy turbulence.”

The Deuce isn’t to everyone’s taste because it has no real hooks, twists or rapid-fire thrills – it’s a slow burner, with quietly-forming arcs and immersive, almost documentary-like drama. But that’s what makes it so good.