Howdy boys and girls and welcome to Times Square in 1971 with The Deuce. It means something entirely different these days, so this is me and my twelve-year-old self snickering in the corner. I've heard this series has excellent writing and equivalent nudity, so I am all in. Rolling the Pilot after the break!
We open late a night in a grimy bar watching bartender Vincent Martino (James Franco) watch a married man cheat on his wife, how many times do you think that happens in a night? Can we count that high? Lotta money sitting on that bar, time for a night drop.
He gets the drop done just as two guys come screaming up in a car. Even though the money is gone, one guy pulls a gun on him and forces him to beg on his knees before pistol whipping him and driving away.
That seemed gratuitously cruel, yes?
Vinnie gets home to find his wife gone and his mother in law smoking in front of the TV, where'd Andrea go? Out! In the middle of the night, as you do. He calls Kim to tell him he won't be there in the morning to do distribution, much shouting ensues.
Next morning he's at Kim's accepting a liquor delivery (except crap creme de menthe), watching Darlene (Dominique Fishback) walk by in teeny tiny gold lame shorts. Her bum is contrasted with the well-dressed black woman walking by opposite, it's quite jarring in the light of day but Vinnie seems to dig it.
Now we're at the Port Authority bus terminal discussing politics and Nixon as head P.I.M.P. with two gorgeously turned-out actual pimps scoping for incoming talent from Topeka.
One catches their eyes
But sadly: she has "too much ass" which neither knew was a thing. It's the whiteboy clientele, see. CC (Gary Carr - the one with the glorious curls) sees a mark and knocks out a goodbye handshake before making his move.
Lori (Emily Meade) from Minnesota agrees to "just breakfast", she needs a place to stay in New York, after all! One can't make such decisions on an empty stomach.
He's got a Cadillac outside with a rack of women's clothing in the back, she's never ridden in a Cadillac!
It's almost too easy for deseguys, yes?
Or is it? I think Lori from Minnesota has her own hustle going on.
So no, CC, no need for the rest of the sales pitch. Hahaha
A professor that looks a lot like Vinnie Martino lectures on entomological fallacies until an attractive student licking her pen distracts.
Just then Vincent is getting held up on the streets of New York by thugs looking for FRANKIE Martino, must be his brother, because Frankie's gone to Vietnam to escape some street debts.
CC is pretty close to sealing the deal with Lori when a blonde woman staring at him draws him away. This cafe is hooker and pimp central, Darlene's there with her dude and two of his other girls.
The other pimp from the bus station is there too, I think his name might be Reggie? Anyway, he's wide open about giving his girls drugs to get them ready for the day's trade. No, he's Jerry Love! (Tariq Trotter) and he is fresh and funky, even if it's creepy af watching all these grown women call somebody "Daddy."
CC keeps an eye on Lori while sweet talking his bottom b*tch Ashley (Jamie Neumann) into sticking around. It's just..she's tired. He promises a bath followed by sweet, sweet solo lovemaking and she appears to capitulate, but now her eyes are on Lori.
Vinnie would really like to go home, but his boss tells him he can't leave until the mob guys holding forth in the corner are ready to call it a night, maybe no distribution tomorrow morning either, Kim.
So we've got tired, frustrated family man Vincent Martino working bar with a convenient bandage on his head while his brother Frankie (very much not in Vietnam but also played by James Franco) negotiates Times Square with all the swagger.
We see the first of many peni on our trip through New York in the seventies, when a hooker on her knees pulls off to say hi to Frankie on his way by. Thanks for that elderly peen, fellas, charmed I'm sure.
Then the closeup on shoes, very Saturday Night Fever, The Deuce!
We walk by bunches of movie theatres showing all kinds of adult offerings, "Thar She Blows" must be a nautically-themed adventure! Ahhhhh but they do have Mondo Trasho with Divine, much respect. He places a bet with a guy I'll call Puffy Shirt then heads across the street to hand us off to Candy Merrell (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who's being harassed by her would-be pimp Rodney (Method Man).
She politely declines his services, even after he threatens, just a little.
The next morning, CC, Larry (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and Rodney are getting their shoes shined when cops Chris (Lawrence Gilliard Jr. - from The Wire! And Bob from The Walking Dead!) and Lonnie (Scott Long) rollup to do some damage.
By that I mean Chris gets his shoes shined while they spout 70s jargon (out of sight!) and look entirely at home with their permed or relaxed hair. That scene was glorious in how natural it looked, cop and pimps enjoying four very different looks.
Vincent made it over to work at Kim (James Saito)'s Korean restaurant, its not doing well. They have one month or the doors will close. Vinnie suggests not kicking out the hookers and pimps but Kim insists this is a family restaurant! An empty, empty family restaurant. Who else is wandering around out there?
We cut to the professor (??) being rode hard by the attractive student Abby (Magarita Levieva) of the suggestive pencil licking earlier. He's barely done moaning when he's regretting his life choices, what if someone found out?!
Now we're back in Kim's family Korean restaurant where Vinnie is bribing his side piece with drugs so she has the energy to "meet" him later, a couple of mobbed up guys at the end of the bar draw his eye. Vinnie's brother Frankie is into them for $30,000 (compound interest), surely Vinnie can take care of that for him?
Candy gets home to her apartment, bone tired. I've never seen sheer exhaustion portrayed so well. She pulls off her paraphernalia and listens to her messages, one is from her mom, who says Candy's (really Eileen) son has been asking about her.
Her apartment didn't look super fancy, but it looks a lot better than Darlene's, and safer too as we see Darlene violently attacked by a huge guy as she arrives home.
Vinnie leaves his first job (barman in Brooklyn) to go take his wife out for dinner (I thought that was his side piece, she looked young) but his boss Rudy (Michael Rispoli) isn't having it: he leaves, he doesn't come back. Vincent goes.
Ah, so that huge guy violently attacking Darlene was a client; she gets an extra 20 for the bruises and we get an extended scene of full frontal micro-peen.
Thanks, The Deuce!
Vincent gets home to find his mother in law again, wife gone. He tracks her down playing pool without pants and drunk, BUT shooting with those mobbed up guys he couldn't kick out of the bar. Andrea (Zoe Kazan) is amenable to being hustled out the door by her arm, but one of the thugs (James Waterston) isn't so ready. He wants to humiliate Vinnie a little first. Andrea stays, Vinnie goes, with all the emasculated bile rising in his throat.
ALSO: the redhead Vinnie was flirting with at work Ellen (Amber Skye Noyes) was absolutely not his wife, but must be some kind of side piece. And co-worker.
It's night time in New York now and hookers and their pimps are everywhere. Candy mills about while Darlene tries to explain her face to Larry. He'd like a word with that john before the next party starts, please and thanks. Watching him growl "you HURR me?" was a near-religious experience.
Prime time on the block means a stationwagon full of young boys out for a birthday "date" for a friend means it's time for Candy to party! Her command of her sexuality and the situation is glorious to behold, but I was very happy to see Stuart the birthday boy get out of the car rather than her get in.
Watching Stuart (Russel Posner) follow Candy up the stairs to the hotel room was a thing of beauty, he so hesitant, she so tired and a little bored.
And now we're into the sex. Part of the problem is that Candy looks like a blonde Orphan Annie in her wig and she has Maggie Gyllenhaal's big eyes and rounded cheeks, so it's...jarring to watch her lick her fingers to make her nipples erect.
No kissing allowed, none of that stuff! And he'll need one of these jimmies, don't worry, Candy will put that on for you.
Side note: I know that sex workers actually do the putting condoms on with their mouths but spermicidal jelly and latex makes me want to watch through my fingers.
Annnnd just like that, Stuart is done for the night, atta boy Stu! We also saw his junk, so we now have peni and bewbs neck and neck, so to speak, in nudity.
Stuart is sad.
Stuart feels ripped off.
Stuart would like five minutes and he'd be ready to go again.
I'd been wondering earlier if Candy was a teacher in her everyday life, and now we see her give Stuart a lesson about life, let's call it Sex Work 101. What does he do? Stuart goes to school, but his daddy sells cars. Does Stuart's daddy give an easy customer a lower price on a car than a more difficult, time-consuming customer? Candy's face is slightly terrifying.
This is Candy's job, Stu. She's here to work, she's not here to make your birthday amazing, she's there to make you come, and you have, so GTFO. He's got a personal cheque from his grandma, will she take that?
HE ASKS FOR REAL.
No, normally she wouldn't, but for Stu: okay. Stopping in the middle of her second start with a "local bank, right?" made me laugh.
Don't mess with a woman at work, yo.
Vincent went home and packed a bag, where's he going? To Times Square so he and his brother Frankie can play Parent Trap on everyone, woo hoo! Let's see what wacky hijinkx our twins can get up to!
He stops at a dance supply place...I'm confused...and then we see him at Kim's restaurant watching a server walking around in a leotard handing out free drinks. He's trying to save this joint, by commodifying the asses of his female brethren. It's like poetry, really. Good old American ingenuity!
Meanwhile, Abby's been hanging out with her like, so immature roommates that don't even read and stuff, even though they're in school like she is. Boooorrring, she's like, TOTALLY more mature and stuff. It's her turn to buy the speed, too bad there are cops everywhere looking to make a sting.
Abby asks to call her dad, but I have a feeling Officer Flanagan (Don Harvey) is toying with her.
Larry can't believe the amount of people packing Kim's place, those leotards and heels sure bring them in! Now you just need to add a fluffy tail...
Larry's female associate wants to know how much these women are making, but he's not about to let his share go astray. He's a sporting man, and this isn't fair. Selling sex is one thing, but selling just the suggestion of sex stinks to him. Either put the kitty on the table or it ain't right.
The thug from the other night is back, he's impressed with the ladies in tight outfits! I like how he and Vinnie banter, it's very much like two guys who have to play their roles, but it's nothing personal, fellas. Frankie is cut off until he pays up, capiche?
Officer Flanagan drops Abby (who is very, very pretty) off with Chris from earlier, as a student of NYU she's obviously very smart. Does she know how stupid it is to be caught scoring speed in Hell's Kitchen?
It's a slow night on the streets, nobody wants a date and Candy's friend seriously needs to tuck her underwear up inside her short shorts. There's more competition now, CC's turned Lori loose on the stroll, I don't know if the other ladies are gonna like that, but they seem friendly, once Lori starts handing out cigarettes.
Which I LOVE! Show us other body types, do it! And tuck in your ginch.
The girls give Lori the rundown: stay away from Larry Brown, his girls all have Daddy issues. "Don't we all" says Lori (AND VERONICA, but only when it comes to Game of Thrones. I think) and who's Candy with? Just herself, which means she has to be careful. Lori needs pimpin', though, or else she gets lazy.
This right here is why I am not against sex work. Sex work is work, ladies, and yeah, human trafficking is wrong and I'm not saying I am a fan of that. But women really, for reals, realsie reals do what they want with their bodies. And if they want to sell timeshares on their privates and give most of that money to a dude so he can keep them safe and fed: who am I to tell them they can't make that choice?
Guess who isn't being charged with buying drugs in Hell's Kitchen and instead is being driven back to NYU by an out-of-uniform Officer Flanagan? Good thing Abby is also very smart, even though pretty seems to be getting her real far.
Oh hey, the boys are getting the band back together!
It's like Orphan Black but with way more racial slurs and peni.
Some funny banter betwixt the brothers re: Andrea, aka Vinnie's estranged wife. Long story short: she's a penis porcupine. In walk Officer Flanagan and Abby, who eyes up Vincent before sitting down like she's in a sewer, there's just the one bar in Times Square!
Lori's doing great on her first night in the big city, she got $100 off a three piece suit, aww, does that make you nostalgic, Ashley? CC's not ready for them to call it a night, one more ladies, up and at them! "Before the sun catches us all" ought to be the title of this episode and I shall make it so.
Larry is waiting on Darlene, who's upstairs watching A Tale Of Two Cities on TV with an elderly john. I thought he was just a trick, but instead I wonder if he's seeing himself as Pygmalion as he watches her cry. "There's a book?"
Abby and Vinnie are getting along famously at the bar, she explains about objectification (when you treat women like objects to sell booze, like that) and he pretends he doesn't understand. Someone must have told him it was cute. A drunk Flanagan takes off while Vinnie and Abby make their moves as Ellen watches in pain.
Darlene doesn't understand why Louis (John B. McCann) doesn't want sex, but knows she's probably in trouble for staying up in the room so long, so she asks him to advance her next week's fee. He does so reluctantly and then she's gone, racing home to get to not get hit.
Abby makes it back to NYU, but not in time for the final exam. She sees her friend inside, they all pretend they don't know her and she leaves, looking happier and lighter with each step.
Candy has gotten cleaned up in her Eileen gear to go see her kiddo, she seems nervous but ecstatic when she gets hands on him.
Vinnie and Andrea meet up to discuss co-parenting techniques, okay, talk about who cheated the most. Andrea doesn't understand why Vinnie can't just join her father's crew and end up a made man or something. Plus he leaves her alone 7 nights a week, even if it's to work you can see how that wasn't going to work out in his favour. Can't they just kiss and make up?
But no, like Candy he has to leave his kids behind to make his living, but unlike her he leaves without actually touching or saying anything to said kiddos.
It's pouring downtown, so Ashley slips into the bar to find CC, she doesn't want to work tonight. He says everyone's got to work (while sitting at a bar sipping booze) then suggests they go do something fun together, alone.
Ah so I jumped the gun I see, Vinnie still digs Ellen, enough to have sex with her in his crappy room, anyway. I don't know exactly why we needed to see all of that, but hey. Humping's aight but James Franco's giant manbush was high-larry-us.
A woman screaming sends Vinnie down the hallway; CC has a straight razor pointed at Ashley's privates because she's clearly forgotten what she's supposed to be doing. I was worried that was what he meant when he said alone, but sometimes I lack faith in humanity. He's explaining the facts of life to Ashley very clearly, starting with a cut along her armpit. He doesn't care if she's, wet, cold, or on fire: she's to get CC his money regardless.
Vinnie stands in the hallway, frozen and unsure what to do, but when he hears CC coming he rabbits to his door, where Ellen's terrified face stops him from entering. We hold our breath until CC goes by and then we exhale as we are oot.
Well that should have reminded me of Vinyl but other than wondering if they shared the costuming, it was completely different. Wow I liked that. Especially the bit at the end; it's easy to see these pimps as flashy, sexy, fun guys. They gently guide their women with food, clothing and sex, get out there and get money, ladies! Some even feel like they need pimpin'!
But they're not running a democracy and however fly that gold jumpsuit is, it's just window dressing on a very dangerous individual. Ellen's face frozen in fear, Vincent afraid to move: this is what shows you so clearly what we're looking at.
Because Vincent wasn't afraid of those mob guys, he knew he had to back down, but he wasn't intimidated. CC and his ilk are a different story entirely.
I loved the feel of the show, the constant grind of sex work and the griminess of Times Square in the 70s is captured perfectly. The music doesn't overwhelm, rather it accompanies, like when "you've got cheating on your mind" plays softly in the background while Vincent and Abby flirt in front of Ellen.
I didn't like everything; I'm not a fan of the joint Franco scenes, it smacks of gimmick and the timing was off. In fact, everything Vincent does on this side of the river seems wrong and I can't figure out why. 100% will keep watching, though, it's out of sight, hep cats!