Things that are done in this world: Parks and Recreation, jokes predicated on "that's what she said," and Candy on The Deuce. I decided earlier that episode two was just an exercise in watch Candy's patience erode. Episode three maintained the same pattern. Episode four does not let us down. My prediction: Season one will just be a series of Maggie Gyllenhaal I'm-so-fucking-done reaction shots. And I'll love every minute of it.
Part of what makes Candy exhausted in this episode is the prospect of another life. She goes on a date! She meets a divorcée named Jack, played by the cherubic Will Chase. Jack approaches Candy in a record store and does some cute mansplaining about his favorite records — some things never change, eh?
The result is one rather tragic date. It's tragic because Candy won't — or can't, depending on how you see it — tell Jack what she does for a living. He's just some normal, suburban dude with a mustache. After their date, Jack gets to go home and sleep. Candy has to go home, grab her wig, and head out to the streets. Even without the wig, Candy is playing a character. Even Eileen is a façade.
Among other terrible things that happen to Candy this episode: A mouse nests in her hair as she gives fellatio in a movie theater, and a customer dies mid-fellatio. This really does seem to push her to the breaking point. In what of the show's most affecting scenes so far, Candy retires to Ruby's (Pernell Walker) home, where Ruby asks, "You going to retire?"
They share a drink and discuss Nicky, a character we've never met and probably never will. They speak of her in the past tense. Nicky loved suede. Nicky either died or left the business — from the way they eulogize her and her leftover suede coat, my money's on death. Their discussion of Nicky adds some stakes to this whole operation. You can die in this line of work, certainly a reason to want to escape the game.
Porn is a reality now, too. Paul (Chris Coy), the resident gay character for now, runs into a friend at the Hi Hat who's currently working on a "Fire Island fuck film." He's a serious actor — Vincent (James Franco) recognizes him from a commercial he saw once. This is an allusion to Boys in the Sand, a 1971 pornographic film that marks the beginning of porn's heyday. Boys in the Sand takes place entirely on Fire Island. This speaks to the level of caché porn had at the time. In the '70s, porn was glamorous. You could be a handsome commercial actor who wandered into pornography, and you'd still be a handsome commercial actor.
We learn a lot about Paul in this episode. We learn that he has a boyfriend, a stuffy lawyer type who won't hold Paul's hand in public. Paul used to work at the Stonewall Inn, the iconic gay bar in the West Village. He wants to open his own bar, but Vincent sure enjoys having him around. In perhaps an all-too-cheesy moment, Vincent tells Paul that everyone, regardless of sex, gender, or orientation, is welcome in his bar. Vince misgenders one of the bar's patrons, citing an Adam's apple, and Paul gently corrects him. There's also a moment when Vince pokes fun of Paul for smoking Parliaments, a decidedly "feminine" cigarette. Again, Paul gently stops him in his tracks. Vince has a good heart, but he's still an idiot from Brooklyn.
Or, in the words of Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli), he's "good with all kinds of people." Rudy seems to think he's landed a golden egg in Vince. Vince is good, he's honest, and he amenable to just about everything.
Or, in an even better comparison, Rudy says, "Meeting you is like meeting a woman with big tits and an ass you can set your drink on." What a lovely way to put it.
This episode brings Vince back to Brooklyn, a place we haven't seem him in a minute. He belongs in the Deuce, despite his heavy Brooklyn demeanor. He goes to visit Bobby (Chris Bauer), who's still recovering from his heart attack. Then, Andrea (Zoe Kazan) shows up. Kazan still looks like she wandered off the set of Girls, even in her '70s-era jumpsuit and gelatin mold. ("It's diatetic, or something.") But still, Andrea's presence reminds us that Vince isn't perfect. Yes, he's good with people and honest with his money, but he left his family. That includes two kids!
"I'm just a man no better than any other," he tells Andrea. That's actually pretty accurate. Vince isn't a good guy, per se. He's just not actively cruel.
Beyond Paul and his boyfriend, we have more evidence of queer life in this episode: Melissa (Olivia Luccardi) and Barbara (Kayla Foster) are sleeping together. Melissa works for Jerry/Reggie/Jimmy Love (Tariq Trotter), while Barbara works for Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe). They spend time sleeping with each other instead of picking up guests, which means they have to make excuses for poor profits at the end of the night. Barbara's excuse is that she's on her period, which leads to one of the show's funnier discussions. This is how we find out Rodney (Method Man) likes period sex! (More accurately, he "doesn't mind a little ketchup on his hot dog.")
This is exchange is funny — much of the show is secretly very funny — but it also feels like a nod towards the reality of women's experiences on the Deuce. Yes, you can't work when you're on your period. Or, you have you double down on blow jobs. (But what if there's a mouse?!) Ruby explains that she once used a sponge to sop up her period blood, but then she had to fish it out of her vagina with pliers. At this point, Larry Brown stops eating his potato salad in disgust. Ugh, women. Aren't they just disgusting?
It's moments like these — honest moments of women acting like women — that make Sandra Washington such a useless character. She's trying to infiltrate the community. She wants to understand why they do what they do. But the sex workers of the Deuce do their own explaining. This episode, Sandra teams up with Alston (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) after being brought to the courthouse with the rest of the women. He, like her, wants to understand the the Deuce. He's also frustrated that the police chief has instituted a "no go zone" right atop the boundaries of the Deuce. It means he has no power in midtown. This actually makes him a great partner for a reporter like Sandra, who just wants to observe the Deuce.
Sandra is almost more useful as a love interest to Alston. Alston is isolated at his job. He seems to be the only who cares about the ramifications of crime. His partner Flanagan (Don Harvey) is a certifiable asshole. He deserves an ally, although Sandra's not exactly a great one. She wants a story. He wants a partner. This won't end well.
Sandra wants to understand the prostitutes; Abby (Margarita Levieva) wants to save them. This storyline feels useless, if only — again — because it's already evident that they don't need to be saved. After meeting Darlene in the bathroom, Abby purchases a bus ticket for her. She wants to send Darlene home, to an aunt in the suburbs who can "take care of her." This also won't end well.
But, lest ye forget, Abby is also a major love interest in this show. She's Vince's one-and-only! Trouble is, they have little to no chemistry and nothing about their relationship makes sense. They finally consummate their relationship in this episode atop the pool table in the Hi Hat. It's pretty banal sex — if Vince really is a "good guy," he would've gone for cunnilingus, just saying — and the most exciting part is when he magically tears off Abby's leotard and tights with one fluid motion. Tights are difficult accoutrements, Vince. They take at least five minutes and a few swear words to remove.
I was also disappointed in Abby's exchange with Bobby Dwyer. He tells her he'd "give his left nut" in exchange for a night alone with her. This is a creepy thing to say.
In response, Abby gives a feeble, "Oh really?" For a smarty-pants schoolgirl, she's not great at retorts. I, for one, since you've asked, would have said something like, "That's so funny because I would give my left boob for you to go away."
Bobby's in trouble, though. His construction workers aren't interested in losing 5% of their check just so they can get the money early. One worker says as much — he'd rather wait till Monday then lose $24 for no reason. He points out that he already pays taxes; why is he paying yet another fee?
This brings out the Sopranos of The Deuce. After hearing about this, Rudy sends his men to beat up Bill Schmidt, the construction worker who started it all. It's the first we've seen of serious consequences with Rudy. It's freaky, but it's also a reminder that not everything with the mob is warm-and-fuzzy bar giveaways. Yes, he likes Vince, but that doesn't mean he's not dangerous.
That's the thing about the Deuce. It's fun, and often quite funny. But it's quite dangerous. The Hi-Hat especially is an increasingly dangerous place. Vince already has Mike (Mustafa Shakir) to protect the place. Then, he hires Frankie, a gunman, to provide ammo. And, of course, there's official protection in the form of the police. They start charging Vince $200 per week in exchange for "protection," i.e. they won't raid the bar and arrest everyone inside.
But there is a better option on the horizon. Rudy Pipilo wants to find a way to "clean up" the Deuce. He also wants to profit from the sex trade. So, he reveals his plan: He's going to make a sex oasis, a boutique whorehouse where patrons can enjoy coitus in private. And he wants Vince to be in charge of it. The sex trade is changing — or at least changing hands.
The episode ends with a slow clap for Candy, the lady of the hour. After being harassed at Leon's diner, she gets up without a word and starts shuffling out the door. She's tired. She's done. The patrons of the restaurant — Vince, Frankie, Larry Brown, Rodney, and all the rest — get up and begin clapping for Candy. Because honestly, she freaking deserves it.
The Winning Deuce-Bag
This week's award goes to Jack, Candy's date, who talked about his divorce on the first date. Doesn't this guy know first date etiquette? Then, he admits to cheating on his wife. Bad move, dude. Worst of all, when Candy asks for a top off of red wine, he says, "Are you sure?"
Yes, she's sure. She's going to need more red wine if she's going to make it through this godforsaken date. Only a deuce-bag would question a lady's right to another glass of wine.
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