October 15, 2017: The day The Deuce made good on its promise to be a show about porn. So far, the show has been about the path towards porn, not porn itself. It's been fascinating every step of the way, but my patience wears thin, especially because Candy/Eileen (Maggie Gyllenhaal) also desperately wants to make pornography. Come on, David Simon! Let Candy make movies!
But before we get into that, there are some important shifts happening in the Deuce. The tectonic plates are moving, making a corridor just narrow enough for the birth of an industry. We know the winds are a-changing because Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli) is about to get in on the ground floor. For starters, he has his brothel, which will be run by Bobby Dwyer and Frankie (James Franco). And, he's all of a sudden concerned about making a cut from the profits of pornographic film. He knows the porn industry is waiting in the wings, and he wants to get in on the ground floor.
The brothel proves hard to launch at first. Vincent (also James Franco, but slightly less deranged) solicits the pimps in a barbershop, asking for women. This "boutique for sex work" needs sex workers. The men aren't interested, though. After all, if they hand over their women to Bobby Dwyer, they are effectively losing their jobs.
In lieu of the Deuce women, Rudy sends his minions to his cousin's place out by the airport. It's called "Happy Landings." (Nice.) Happy Landings is a brothel of sorts, too. The women don't stalk the streets; they sit inside a workplace and wait for their customers to arrive. Vince cuts a deal to "borrow" these women for a soft opening. I found it oddly sweet that their manager requests transportation to and from the new brothel. ("After eight hours of fucking? You take the A train to Brooklyn.")
The brothel is one way for women sex workers to get off the street. (We're also sinking into winter now, so the streets are very cold.) You can make movies, like Candy's doing. Harvey (David Krumholtz) made good on his word, and he's working with Candy on porn films. Interestingly, Harvey calls Candy Eileen — he's not a customer. They're colleagues.
In episode two, we witnessed amateur porn. (The potato soup as cum will cement that forever in my mind.) This episode brings us porn as an actual film set. There's a director of photography. There's a lot of waiting around. When Harvey has to call cut because Candy's co-star came, she isn't allowed to move. The shot is set up — if she moves, she'll mess with the meticulous lighting.
It's still porn, though. When Candy asks for direction in her role as "Mrs. McGillicutty," Harvey says, "You bang the shit out of each other and then everybody cums." This is slightly more glamorous than the work Candy used to do, but it's still paid sex. This is never more clear than when, after her co-star comes, Candy has to ask production for a towel to wipe herself up.
The most important factor in this shift, though, is the police force. As Officer Alston (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) explains to Sandra (Natalie Paul), the police force is doing end-of-year cleanup. After months of allowing business to proceed as usual, providing the prostitutes all had their vouchers, the police start cracking down on the Deuce. The Chief instructs his staff to start making every arrest they can. They are to arrest the pimps on whatever charge they can come up with. Bail for the women, we learn from Larry Browne (Gbenga Akinnagbe), doubles. Even the cars are vulnerable; if the police can't get the pimps on a drug charge, they can accuse them of parking violations, and tow their cars.
Alston does just this later in the episode, to which Larry says, "Y'all done gone crazy with this shit."
It's this that really drives the women indoors. The pimps — Larry, Rodney (Clint "Method Man" Smith), and Reggie Love (Tariq Trotter) — head to Vincent, driven by the police crackdown. They need their women to be making money. But they can't do that right now. So, they offer up women for the brothel: Reggie gives Melissa (Olivia Luccardi) and Shay (Kim Director), and Larry offers Darlene (Dominique Fishback), while Rodney offers Tiffany (Danielle Burgess) and Ginger/Bernice (Andrea-Rachel Parker). We have our staff! The men will pay $100 rent to Vincent for the rooms in the brothel. In exchange, the women get a safe place to practice their work.
The brothel has its own problems, of course. It's still in its youth. The first women to try it out — the Happy Landings ladies — complain that the lighting is too harsh, and that the rooms aren't real rooms. The walls are fake, and they don't go high enough to match the ceilings. The brothel is supposed to be fancy. Ostensibly, it's an upgrade for these women. But it somehow feels cheaper than the lurid city streets. It's claustrophobic. Black Frankie (Thaddeus Street) guards the door like a police warden. And, as one girl points out, the rooms are more like stables.
The other shift that's happening is the pimps are losing their grip on this industry. They move their women indoors, where Black Frankie and Bobby Dwyer will protect them. Do they even need pimps anymore, if they can just work indoors at the so-called "pussy palace"? Pornography also takes power away from the pimps; it's downright painful to watch C.C. (Gary Carr) lash out when Lori (Emily Meade) takes a gig in a movie without his permission. C.C. is always manic. This time, though, he seems desperate. When he marches into the film set and bangs his cane (the pimp's gavel), he's scared. Because, look! His girl Lori, who might one day be his wife that he can take to Paris, is making moves without him. It's only a matter of time before he's phased out, and Rudy Pipilo has control over everything.
This episode devotes a lot of time to explaining how Rudy exerts his power. Mike (Mustafa Shakir) and Frankie (James Franco) are tasked with finding out how much money Rudy makes from the adult video stores in the Deuce. Turns out, Marty Hodus (Saul Stein) is stealing a bit from Rudy. This is obvious, and all pretty banal stuff for a show about the porn industry, but it does give us this innovation of the "masturbatory." Mike, after having gone to the video store, draws up an idea for a stall where men can watch porn and masturbate. (Frankie names it the "masturbatory.") So, more change on the horizon: Porn is coming, and it's about to be even easier to digest it.
Before we move on, an ode: Mike is a very funny character, and the only reason I was willing to tolerate this episode-long scavenger hunt.
It feels like this innovation is moving very fast, but, sadly, it's not moving fast enough for Candy. Harvey informs her that he won't need her again for a month. During that hiatus, she won't be able to make money. Really, she needs royalties for her work, but Harvey can't provide those. He comes to her after hours to offer a solution: She can work for a madam as a high-end escort. It's not movie work, but it's something. During this encounter, Candy reiterates what she said in the beginning: She doesn't want to be a sex worker anymore.
"I looked up the word prostitute in the dictionary once," she says. She's not an idiot, she says. She knows what she does for a living. She wants to stop doing that for a living, she says. Candy wants to make movies.
Somebody please let Maggie Gyllenhaal make movies.
The Winning Deuce-Bag
This week's award goes to Candy's mustachioed co-star Peter (Cameron Cowperthwaite), who decided to keep on pumping even though Harvey called cut. He got "carried away" and decided to splooge in Candy.
Also, "You taste like pussy" is far from powerful dirty talk.
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