I have a bad feeling about any show named My Name Is...and this episode of The Deuce is no different. I hope I'm wrong, let's roll My Name Is Ruby and keep our fingers crossed at the same time, shall well? It's the season finale of The Deuce!
We're with Frankie Martino (James Franco with slicked-back hair) at the grand opening (heh) of his new mob-backed business venture: peepshow booths. They look a lot like bathroom stalls, which makes allllll the sense. Shiny new coin slots even! Big Mike (Mustafa Shakir), who came up with the idea of booths, gets to christen the first booth officially with...a cartoon.
Every so often we getta see a bit of porn in the background and it's kind of endearing how much scrotum and pubic fluff we're seeing.
Oh ho, so porn auteur Harvey (David Krumholtz) is taking performer Candy Merrell (Maggie Gyllenhaal) with him to meetings with mobbed-up Matty Hodas (Saul Stein) now, is he? How long until she's a full partner? SOON, HARV. MAKE IT SOON.
Matty's been doing research on precisely what sex sells the best, he comes up with a no-brainer: lesbian sex brings in the most quarters. I guess that's DUH to me in this day and age, but maybe back then they didn't realise that all lot of men's brains (and women's too!) go into meltdown when female body parts start multiplying.
Candy wants more information: what else sells? Interracial particularly, but only with black men and white women, not the other way around. We could probably extrapolate, but I feel I would do the topic a disservice other than saying that racism and lizard brains mix to make a potent brew. What else is out there? Well. Bestiality. Not that Matty's into that stuff and he can't even advertise it, but there are dogs and horses and...just like that I remember Linda Lovelace's biography that I read while a teenager. She was in a couple of those specialty loops at the same time that Deep Throat was a hit. Huh.
Candy knows why those particular sub-genres do well, it portrays women as as sex-crazed as men are supposed to be, hey fellas, "they'll even f*** the dog if you're not looking." Matty appreciates the point of view Candy brings to the table.
The pimps are gathered somewhere other than Leon's (since he's probably in jail for shooting Reggie Love and all), having a street version of a memorial for their fallen comrade. CC (Gary Carr) and Rodney (Method Man) are talking about the women Reggie left behind but Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe) is thinking hard about his life choices. Is that all there is, my friend?
Journalist Sandra Washington's (Natalie Paul) has finished her story on The Deuce, her editor loves her story about police corruption and pimps and hos, he just cut all the parts to do with the police. Just another colourful look into everyday prostitution! They need someone to go on record if she wants it to go any further, and she doesn't have that.
Officers Chris Alston (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) and Danny Flanagan (Don Harvey) watch as Lieutenant MacSweeney (Sean O'Hagan) and another cop do their weekly pickup at the joint Chris and Danny are eating in; he takes a minute to warn Flanagan that there may be noise coming down. Maybe they should keep their heads down while it does. Flanagan knows that's the best way to get busted as a rat, though, everyone knows you need a flesh wound to pull that shite off. Chris suggests they "take what comes, but show no ambition."
Mob demi-boss Rudy Piplio (Michael Rispoli) christens the new VIP lounge with Suzi from the lounge, he doesn't dig the wall paintings but likes the mirrors on the ceilings (good idea Frankie!) and Suzi. He asks for...nah, I can't even paraphrase his request properly, so let's just say that apparently the seventies were a hella racist time.
Vincent Martino (James Franco with slightly less slicked back hair and a frown) doesn't like this business, he just doesn't. He just wanted to run a bar with women in leotards and make a lot of money exploiting the draw of T&A and transgender people, you know? You gotta have a dream, right? He heads back to The Hi-Hat to find it filled with a band and a lot of people digging the trippy music. Abby (Margarita Levieva) is in the thick of it, photographing and grooving, which irritates Vince even more.
Quick note: this is the eighth episode in which I have called Vincent Martino VINNIE and I am hoping it's not all wrong because WordPress doesn't do Find and Replace, ya dig? Y'all know who I mean, right? The Other Franco.
Vinnie seems out of sorts entirely, not liking the band, partially because the lead singer is in half-blackface and it's too clever for our straight-shooter. It might also be because Abby and barman Paul (Chris Coy) decided about the band without his input, who's to say? Big Mike likes the band.
Big Mike is our impartial observer on this show, he's like our canary in the coalmine. What he likes: the world will follow.
Sandra springs the need for a name to go on record on Chris in bed, where we see her boobs for the first time and I am very sad.
I CALL SHENANIGANS: Okay, I get that this is a show where people have sex for money and get money for performing sex acts on camera. A certain amount of nudity is not only expected, it could almost be considered integral to the plot. None of that applies to Sandra Washington, journalist, showing us her adorable rack in bed with Officer Chris Alston, NEITHER OF WHOM PERFORM THEIR DUTIES IN THE NUDE, unless they just made every single actress who would be appearing on the show sign a nudity clause and we were almost done this season with no Natalie Paul boobs. That right there was gratuitous nudity and you undermine your show when you do that, aholes.
ANYWAY, Chris is understandably reluctant, but willing to scope out what he can. She sparks up a joint and he threatens to bring out his handcuffs.
Candy yells her way into Harvey's office then stops when she realises he has company. Shana (Larisa Polonsky) is a housewife and porn aficionado from the midwest and she'd like to join in please! This is the second wave of porn performers now, not prostitutes but women out of the trade. Candy and Harvey are blown away by how mainstream their industry has become; Harvey has an invite to the red carpet premier of a dirty movie that night, you have to RSVP and everything!
At first Harvey thought it was just the gays, but he doesn't say "gays" and Candy tells him to watch it. She's got a brother. He apologizes, he didn't know, but neither did we.
Vinnie asks Abby to move in with him and I think she agrees, after they work out that he will take out the garbage and they will continue to bang whomever they want to. Sure.
Vincent finally puts his foot down when Rudy shows him the new space he's leased: it's gonna be like a sex megamart: one floor of peepshow booths, one floor parlour and one floor entirely for VIP.
Would I be out of line to ask about stripping? Have we left that out entirely? Because usually porn actors will headline at strip clubs in between movies, it's a big part of their income. Maybe that's later: get back to me.
ANYWAY: Vince wants no part of it, not one floor and he can't believe his whole family is wrapped up in the mob-backed p****y trade.
Fortunately for his family, they're already so firmly entrenched that they aren't going anywhere. Brother-in-law Bobby (Chris Bauer) even suggest he go hump himself, can you believe it? Pfft
We meet Candy's brother now, he's Patrick (Dennis Flanagan) and he is oh so fragile. He's been locked up in an institution for being gay, but the good news is they've stopped doing the electro-shock therapy, just drugs now. Aw man, watching Patrick insist he's totally straight while shaking like a leaf and Candy trying not to cry is heartbreaking. She does cry, then, she blames everything on their father and I have to wonder if hooking is one giant Eff You to her dad, but not for the usual reasons. Even after everything their dad has done to him, Patrick still wants his dad's approval. Families are hard.
Bobby from the massage parlour is at The Hi-Hat with his wife, Vince's sister, on a date night. He got her a ring and everything! Fran (Diana Bologna) is mostly there to spill news about Vinnie's wife being beaten up, in his home, in front of his kids. The implication is that Vinnie should go home and that's a toughie, since his wife was never home anyway when Vince was there, because she was out pulling trains at pool halls for made guys.
Bobby pressures Vinnie, who thinks it's rich that disguy with a mistress and TWO fancy rings that he bought for this ladies is giving him marital advice, but is still clearly shook about Andrea (Zoe Kazan) being knocked about.
Barbara (Kayla Foster) inherited Larry Brown as her pimp (unless she wasn't with Reggie Love, I sincerely can't remember) so she's watching him talk with someone late at night in the dark with trepidation. Is Larry Brown moving into drugs now?
At The Hi-Hat, Vinnie gets dragged down into the basement by Big Mike, who thinks they have a problem. Tommy Longo (Daniel Sauli) is in the process of "extracting information" from a skimmer, Black Frankie (Thaddeus Street) is holding a gun on him for motivation. Vinnie's freaking out, but Big Mike figured they're same team, right?
Vincent doesn't think he and the mob are on the Same Team.
CC sits in a fancy bar with Melissa (Olivia Luccardi) and Lori (Emily Meade) and spies an old friend at the bar. This is Ace (Clarke Peters) and he is CC's mentor. CC learned a lot from Ace about how to control women, the secret is to start with the mind!
I just met you Ace, so I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I'm going to have to say several thousands of years as being treated like second or third class citizens softened up his target market, he shouldn't take all the credit.
CC asks Ace why he doesn't get back into the game, it only seems tough out there, there will always be hos and they will always need a man to hold their money for them. A woman comes in to collect Ace and he's gone again.
Vinnie feels Tommy out for his status with the mob, is he a made guy, i.e., is he protected and can't be killed? Not really, but why does Vinnie want to know? Well, see, there's this pool hall.
Ruby (Pernell Walker), aka "Thunder Thighs" is back working the streets, she wasn't getting picked all that often in the parlour, but those that like her type always seem to find her on the streets. Officer Chris doesn't see anything other than Ruby's huge, beautiful eyes, which almost makes Thunder throw him a freebie, but he's spoken for.
He sees the cops on their pickup run go into another place across the street and hustles over to search their car while they're out of it, taking out a small notebook. This must be the record Sandra needs!
Vinnie takes Tommy with him as protection when he goes to beat up the guy who beat up his wife, sigh. It's a very different Vinnie walking through and out of the pool hall than when we met him at the beginning of the show. That time he left without his wife and with his tail between his legs, now his mobbed-up arse practically struts as he bashes two dudes with pool cues.
Still: he didn't say anything to his wife or visit his offspring or divorce her or ANYTHING useful whatsoever, except beating the shit out of a guy who beat up his wife. Because he had Tommy with him. Because his wife is his property that someone beat up, even if he didn't want her? It had something to do with him?
Sorry, what I MEANT to say was: yay avenging angel Vincent!
Barbara totally got busted on a federal rap for the drugs that Larry Brown had her pick up.
The shooting of the next movie is held up because Harvey's car broke down and he won't make it for the rest of the day. Everyone waits...for now...
Abby spies Vince's hand and asks what happened, for someone all gung-ho about an open relationship she sure doesn't seem to like to hear "my wife" come out of Vince's mouth, hey? She segues into talking about Paul's desire to open up his own bar, he wants Vinnie to back him. I say go for it!
McSweeney interrupts, has anyone seen a little book, about yay big? No? FINE
That book isn't as definitive as Chris hoped it would be, Sandra'a editors need someone on record explaining what the dates and numbers mean. Chief McDonagh (Ed Moran) watches all from afar.
Harvey's car is like super dead, so Candy takes over and we watch her work. She spots Darlene (Dominique Fishback) in the worst wig ever and wanders over. Is she afraid someone will see her in the movie? Darlene stares at her.
Darlene pulls off that janky wig and now I understand what Candy was doing with Lori last week! She was directing her! That's what directors do, they coax the best out of the their performers! They're part therapists, part coaches and part parent, getting the best out of every member of the cast and crew.
McDonagh pulls Chris aside at the station: he will be cleaning up the station and sweeping out all the bad, but he needs to know Chris will be keeping all their dirt in house. Can Chris tell him that? Because if he can, maybe Detective Bureau is within reach.
We're shooting housewife Shana on the set as Harvey shows up, just in time to see Candy work out that they need to let action direct the shot, which is apparently a technique driven by Hitchcock and Traffaut.
SIDE NOTE: Hitchcock was a psycho who tortured the actresses he could and drove out the others; IS EVERYTHING TAINTED? Must all power corrupt absolutely? Kevin Spacey, I mean, come on.
Harvey lets Candy finish directing the movie she started, then invites her to the movie premier with him that night - it's like she's his partner!
Larry Brown's trying to pretend he's not worried about Barbara in jail, but CC tells him to not even bail her out. No sense drawing a line between her and him on a federal charge, and anyway "can't be stressing on her. You a man, right?"
Course he is, in his boatneck leather tanktop with non-matching leather pants. I love Wardrobe on this set so hard.
Candy takes a cab to the theatre, seeing Ruby on the streets and excitedly waving but Ruby doesn't see her as she's getting into a car. I HAVE A BAD FEELING.
Flanagan watches Sandra and Chris fight in the car, looks like Chris is keeping everything in house after all and it was Flanagan who ratted Chris out to McDonagh.
Ruby wipes off her belly...erk...when the john decides to take his money back, since he didn't like it. Since we just SAW how much he liked it, we're worried for Ruby because this guy has a dangerous vibe. She backs off, especially when he mentions Rodney, is this guy watching the women? He makes to leave, calling her Thunder Thighs; she shouts "My Name is Ruby!" and he pushes her out the motherfucking window.
There is an eerie few seconds of silence, then a thud and screaming. Ah Ruby. I will remember you as I met you
An unwitting Candy meets Harvey outside the theatre, is this before official red carpet premiers? Because they're both gagged that there is a carpet on the sidewalk, just like Grauman's Theater! Okay, Fat Mooney (E.J. Carrol) is also there, so it can't be that fancy, so are Matty Hodas and CC and Lori. The latter two don't get into VIP, so CC angrily bails, but Lori just stares at the lead actress. She wants that. CC just wants the cachet that goes with having a movie star in his stable, he seems to think he really has something in Lori.
They never mention the name of the movie, never show the full title and never use Linda Lovelace's name, so I wonder if it's a copyright issue or a tongue-in-cheek thing, either way: we know wassup.
Ruby fell on the awning of The Hi-Hat, maybe she's okay! Oh. Not okay. Vincent bitches about the bar being closed and the awning being ruint, really, Vince? Abby and I think that's pretty fucking cold. Chris takes exception to CC joking and punches him, thank you, Officer. I couldn't have even thought it fast enough.
Rest in peace, Ruby.
Abby picks at Vinnie about his reaction to Ruby's death, no way that's actually about the fact that he beat up someone to avenge his WIFE'S honour, yeah? They have an emotional standoff and then Vinnie puts on music that takes us through the last few minutes of the show.
Barbara goes to prison and Larry Brown sits alone; Sandra checks her story in print to see the police part has disappeared for good, Chris is separate, Bobby is screwing Tiffany (Danielle Burgess), CC and Lori are doing blow while Melissa paces and Darlene shoots a movie under Candy's direction.
Vincent should be settled, waking up with Abby, but he looks conflicted. The massage parlour (super fancy!) is our last shot, Bernice (Andrea-Rachel Parker) negotiating with a client, STILL in that wig and very much not gone home. Hm.
So that's it, the first season of The Deuce come and gone, what did you think? On the whole I liked it very much, but I took umbrage with the sheer volume of gratuitous female nudity. I am totally pro-nudity in nude situations, but there was no reasons for some of those shots and a serious lack of reciprocity in some aspects *coughSandranotChriscough*. I don't need a tallywhacker tally sheet, I just need it to be part of the plot, yo.
They left out a lot of the sex worker experience, but I gather they had Annie Sprinkle advising so I will take their word for it that there was little drug addiction and hardly any rampant STI transmission.
Maggie Gyllenhaal was fantastic the whole way through, honestly, brilliant. James Franco didn't annoy me as much by the end, I'll give him that. Usually, we only get really layered characters when we're talking villains, and that we got for sure, but Franco did pretty well at making Vincent more than a one-note guy.
The PIMPS, though! I'm sorry, rarely will you see such a beautifully realised and complex role and here we had so many. Gbenga Akinnagbe's Larry Brown walking the knife-edge of cruelty and isolation, mixed with violence and pain, followed by Gary Carr's CC, who could have easily been a caricature but wasn't.
Dominique Fishback as Darlene was strong as well, as was Pernell Walker's Ruby, but I found Emily Meade as Lori difficult to watch. I didn't feel her performance was at the same level as the others.
ANYWAY: I will totally be watching next season, when we hit the 80s like a glitter-covered lube-soaked train! Cheers!