Welcome back to The Deuce where we walk the line between titillation and exploitation, it's the difference between a dance leotard and a booth with no plexiglass. Let's find out what's shaking on 42nd street tonight!
We open in the New York sunshine with AFFA nominee Lori (Emily Meade) and a nervous C.C. (Gary Carr), he's never been on a plane before. It's not the first time we've seen C.C.'s vulnerability, but it's the first time it's been funny.
Lori's going without him to L.A. for the awards show, ten bucks says she comes back with a new agent too!
IF she comes back.
We're over at Paul (Chris Coyne)'s bar where he's trying to talk Vincent Martino (James Franco) into investing in his new bar, I'd say all the used condoms on the floor mean he knows how to show everyone a good time!
*Except no way those guys were all using condoms: we get it, lots of sex was had, maybe just leave out some empty tubs of Boy Butter or something.
Paul and his boyfriend Kenneth (Michael Stahl-David) want only Vinnie's money, not the mob money backing him. Vincent agrees to help them out but he's clearly thinking it's going to be a problem.
We're on set with Darlene (Dominique Fishback), her pimp Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and several other nubile twentysomethings with no clothes on. Larry's trying to learn whatever he can about the business, but he's mostly just cracking me up.
Darlene notes that she's getting paid a lot less than her white co-star.
Gene Goldman (Luke Kirby looking like a young Paul Reiser) explains the Midtown Enforcement Squad's plan to a bunch of bored cops. They smoke and swear but mostly roll eyes until he gets specific. They're gonna shut down the massage parlours? And street trade? The NoTell Motels? Where will the sex go if not Times Square?
Officer Haddix (Ralph Macchio) cracks wise as Detective Chris Alston (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) listens quietly until the projector breaks.
Over at the Family F***pad, Vincent drinks with Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli), Black Frankie (Thaddeus Street) and brother-in-law Bobby (Chris Bauer) complain about the competition closing in. They're undercutting prices (Seven Fifty for a handie!) and using underage girls, Rudy tells them to hold the line while he checks into it.
Vincent casually mentions Paul's new business venture, Rudy coldly furious that Paul's shaking off his help after the recent protection against Matty "The Horse" (Garry Pastore). He says it's okay after but I afear things are going to get a whole lot more bumpy on Paul's side of town. May need more than condoms.
Chris doesn't think much of Gene's plan of attack, he's seen a lot of groups come and go saying the same damn thing. Inspector Deputy McDonagh (Ed Moran) warns Chris not to underestimate this latest attempt at cleaning up The Deuce, Mayor Ed Koch and his cohorts are looking at how much cash money is being spent in Times Square that isn't ending up in taxation coffers. "It's not morals, it's economics."
Officer Haddix is on the chopping block, does Chris want his job? Hmm, no thanks, he's happy out of the cesspool and swimming with the murderers.
Lori made it to LA, all ALONE! Wooooo! Order room service and Netflix and chill! Or whatever the 70s version of that is. Her swank hotel room is swank, all thick robes and chocolates on pillows.
Who wants to bet me that she's gonna stay??
Ohhh Officer Flanagan (Don Harvey) WAS having marital troubles, but he moved back in with his wife so what's he doing hassling his girlfriend Maria (Alejandra Rivera Flavia) who just wants to clock in for her shift at the brothel?
*Every day I realise I know so very little of the world
Protestors line the red carpet at the adult film awards, Lori loves her time in the limelight. Inside she meets up with Candy Merrell (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Harvey Wasserman (David Krumholtz) who's up for Best Director.
Ooooh we're got a revolution a-brewing at the Hi-Hat, Abby Parker (Margarita Levieva) is pouring and listening as former streetwalker Ashley (Jamie Neumann) explains her intervention plan. Also in attendance is CurlyForeheadFurrow (Sebastian Arcelus from House of Cards! Poor Lucas was always in a world of shite), he's the legal advice part. Their plan is decriminalization (couldn't agree more) and supporting those still on the street, including Arlene they're gonna meet later.
Just as I'm wondering if Ashley's all right being back where she was, Abby asks the same question. I mean, C.C.'s in town! And hangs out at that bar! I'd be terrified but Ashley just grins and asks if he's still around.
Just in case you didn't watch season one (really?), Ashley was C.C.'s bottom betch until Lori came along and she finally found the wherewithal to bail when most of the street trade chilled.
Harvey isn't enjoying the awards show as much as Candy, where are the naked people? He saw more junk in the men's room! Performers brought their moms, though, Candy thinks it's fine. Harvey thinks it's shame: they don't need to be embarrassed about what they do for a living!
It's partytime in Club 366, Frankie Martino (James Franco) and Vincent make my teeth hurt until we're saved by George (Ari Kappatos), who's pissssed that someone is undercutting his drug-selling business. Since he's kicking back to Vincent, he's expecting Big Mike (Mustafa Shakir) to take out the trash. Big Mike does just that.
Abby meets up with Ashley to do the stroll cleanup, Church bus rolling out!
At the awards show afterparty, we hear Shana (Larisa Polonsky) talking about a parody of Westworld, but with sex robots, SHE CAN SEE THE FUTURE!!
Lori is schmoozing solo, meeting Greg Taylor (Ryan Farrell) who's a big fan of her work and is scouting talent. Lori wins her award! Congrats!
We getta meet Arlene (Maria Dizzia whom I HATED in Orange is the New Black but am still happy to see her face, does that make sense?), who's not saving souls on the mean streets of New York, those don't need saving.
Maria and Jessie are the first to enter the bus for warmth and tea, Jessie hands over a picture of her son "for the board." There are a lot of pictures of kiddos on that board, I think it's an alive baby celebration!
Harvey wins too! Before he does, he tells Candy it's because of her work.
Officer Haddix pops by to warn Vincent about the Midtown Enforcement Squad, they'll be by at 1 pm tomorrow. Haddix will take a cut too, something booze-shaped probably.
Harvey is too drunk and too coked up to be dealing with the beautiful Shana, she drags him on the dance floor but he brings up his wife, wooo!
*This is the bar I've set now: if married men at least *mention* they're married, I'm impressed.
Candy makes her pitch to Nate Malone, who can't raise that kind of money but can hook her up with a studio connection! Alexander Pullman is big time and Nate is her intro.
Arlene likes to introduce herself to any new faces on the street, Abby joins her but Ashley stays in the van.
I am worried about Ashley.
Greg and Lori are having a lot of fun at the party and in the limo after, this must be coming up to the 80s coz all I'm seeing is blow.
Back home C.C. is watching TV in a shithole being quizzed by Melissa (Olivia Luccardi), pissssed.
Gene Goldman and his Midtown Enforcement team move into their new office, but it's empty save the Midtown Hooker (Stacey van Gorder - imagine the years of theatrical training, the classes, the upkeep, the auditions and when you make it onto TV, your role doesn't even have a name, just Midtown Hooker. You deserve a name, Stacey Van Gorder) and the Midtown john (ditto Mark James Fernandez) who's just lost her best customer.
"Well. It's a start" says Gene, cracking me up.
Darlene explains the wage discrepancy between what she's making and the white girl made for the same scene, Larry's gonna sort it out. That's what he's FOR.
Roger (Method Man) can barely stumble, being walked by Chocolate (DeShawn White) into the diner where Chris and his wife Letitia and the entire cast is waiting for...who? Leon!! (Anwan Glover) is out of jail! Roger does not share in the joy.
Candy's meeting with Alexander Pullman (Rick Holmes) goes really well until he asks what role she'll be playing in Little Red Riding Hood. Too old for Little Red, right? Candy swallows that (because she's still pitching and we know how these things go, don't we?), she'll be directing only, just behind the camera. Woah woah woah, he doesn't know about that.
Tell her what, he'll write her a cheque for ten thousand right now and a piece of the action if she services him while he writes it. Candy's face.
I maybe cry. She maybe cries after in the bathroom.
Because he wasn't even interested in her, it wasn't anything about the sex given that he just talked about how impossibly old she is. He had leverage over her and used to to get his rocks off in two ways.
Paul and Kenneth have their own place! Vincent handles the shakedown at his place and Bobby deals with his family. His son has been suspended for fighting (a TEACHER) and is probably reacting to not having any time with his dad. Fran (Diana Bologna) is mostly here to look aggravated and yell at Bobby as he's walking away, I guess.
Larry approaches Bernie Wolf (Stephen Gevedon) for a role but Bernie hasn't been talking to Rudy in the pits and doesn't understand that interracial porn sells better than ANYTHING. Bernie insists "it's not racism, it's economics."
Frankie steals the take from Irene (Roberta Colindrez) again, really, again? Shay (Kim Director) comes in schnockered for her shift in the booth, this probably will not go well. She's barely upright but I think Irene has a crush...
Darlene isn't enjoying her airplane scene with a side of racism, she bails mid-shot and Larry comes with her.
That's the second set of male genitalia we've seen this season! It's hardcore up in The Deuce!
Mafia Meeting Time, The Horse isn't about to let Rudy push him around Midtown. He pretends to apologize for taking aim at Rudy's "swish" but Hodas is Rudy's real problem, what with the undercutting and underaged girls.
Candy gets home, I love listening to her messages! One is from Harvey with some more names of people she can't talk to, but THIS IS NOT HIS DEAL, HE'S NOT HELPING. I love their working relationship, he's so supportive because he knows he's getting her for pennies on the dollar. Plus no way he had to blow somebody for seed money on any of his films.
I hate watching people gamble, which is what Frankie is doing with the take he stole from Irene. He wins an apartment, I think?
Rudy's at Club 366, why is so-smart Big Mike working there? He loves the party and so does John Belushi, drinking in the corner. Rudy warns Vincent about Hodas' guys coming after Paul and moves on to firing Frankie. BOUT TIME.
Lori has had it with C.C.: won that award for acting! She's done tricking!
*watching between fingers*
Okay, he smashes the award, not her, whew.
Frankie did not win a Midtown apartment, he won a massage parlour. Mazel tov!
Tommy Longo (Daniel Sauli) pops round to see Bobby, who can't even hear him with all the sirens in the background. One of the competing parlours is going up in flames.
Abby eye-cuddles with CurlyFurrowedBrow until C.C. bursts in asking for advice of how to deal with Lori. Abby kicks him out but we get CFB's name, it's Dave!
Oh and in walks Ashley and time stops.
C.C. is a frustrated and violent man who's been cut down to size by both of the women he used to control. He's also sniffing a lot.
He leaves with a minimum of fuss, Dave asks who he was and Ashley's "Nobody" is perfect. Oh, but her name is Dorothy, as she just explained. We're out.
I feel weird about how much I anticipate C.C.'s violence, it's become almost creepy on my part. Oh look, he's about to go off! In the first season, they layered the violence with vulnerability and built a complex character, now his violence is teased more than the sex is.