Well, I am a degenerate.
I can be a nitpicky viewer, and last time I pointed out the lack of heroin in The Deuce’s fairy tale of New York. And what do you know? We get an overdose this time around, though I won’t say who. About midway through the episode, I started wondering where the violence went, and they satisfied my curiosity. Not that I want to see working girls get beat up, but the new parlor game doesn’t mean we’re watching Pretty Woman. And the ugly reality comes back, right on time.
The pimps aren’t big on this disruption of their business model, taking the girls off the street and into parlors and pornos. CC goes to see Fantasia, and Reggie Love takes it out on his girls. Lori finds it freeing and points herself out in the “Wad Shooting Galleries” where men watch films. “Can I have your signature, Ms. Monroe?”
Paul and his boyfriend talk about a “big-budget sex film” that is most definitely Deep Throat, so we’re on the cusp of the porno explosion. Eileen finds that high-priced call girls get treated just as dirty as the streetwalkers when she takes on a new clientele. This reminded me of Megan Abbott’s other ‘70s project, the comic book series Normandy Gold from Hard Case. Fans of The Deuce and her other work should check it out. I just picked up Issue #5, so the collected edition should be out in a few months.
One of my favorite characters, Stretch the cook, gets more screen time this episode. He’s straight out of a Pelecanos novel, and what he does this time around makes me want to know more of his background. Let’s just say that fans of A History of Violence will find a lot to like in him.
The show deftly moves all its checkers toward king. The 14th Precinct gets a new boss, McDonough, who asks Officer Alston for a tour of his turf. With the Knapp Commission looming, we get to see the two who will clean up the bad apples that have been rotting the whole bunch. He comes out of nowhere, but the scene plays naturally like he’s a silver-haired angel of impending doom. The corruption has been weighing heavily on Alston. He’s spilled his guts to Sondra Washington because he knows what he’s doing is wrong. Getting along to get along, talking graft so his fellow cops will trust him and have his back.
There’s now a Public Morals Taskforce that wants to clean up the Deuce, and it’s just as corrupt as its forebears. There’s so much money in vice that everyone wants a bite. The mob boys talking about last week’s discovery of their porno booth collector skimming half the take sets the tone for the rest.
Forcing vice underground where it can’t be watched or regulated rots the foundation from underneath. Vinnie is about to get a big wakeup call because he can’t keep his hands clean of the sex parlor even though his brother-in-law Bobby is running it for him. Andrea shows up to work there, and Bobby pays her to drink with him at the counter instead of hooking. A little bit of fantasy, but it will be nice to see the look on Vinnie’s face when he finds his ex is working in the same world he inhabits and how he reacts.
The porno thread is more palatable, with Eileen coming into her own, assisting Harvey with direction, giving the actors motivation and lunch breaks, and shining up Lori’s headlights for her closeup with Cecil B. DeMille. Gyllenhaal has killed it all season, and her face when her high-priced john runs from the post-coital bed to vomit in the hotel bathroom is worthy of an Edward Hopper painting. Her tired smile as she helps Lori finish a scene speaks volumes.
Harvey the director gets some of the funnier scenes, and there is perfection in how he won’t give Eileen the reins on the set. He tries to get into her pants in that shy-guy passive-aggressive way, asking about her like he cares but not giving her what she needs. He’s the kind of guy who probably wonders why the girls don’t go for a “nice” guy like him, and David Krumholtz (a long way from 10 Things I Hate About You) plays him pitch perfect.
Last but not least, I want to thank whoever wrote the awful “Lackawanna” joke in this episode. Having lived near that extinct railroad line all my life, I appreciated it.
See also: The Deuce 1.06: “Why Me?” Episode Review
Thomas Pluck has slung hash, worked on the docks, trained in martial arts in Japan, and even swept the Guggenheim museum (but not as part of a clever heist). He hails from Nutley, New Jersey, home to criminal masterminds Martha Stewart and Richard Blake, but has so far evaded capture. He is the author of Bad Boy Boogie, his first Jay Desmarteaux crime thriller, and Blade of Dishonor, an action adventure which BookPeople called “the Raiders of the Lost Ark of pulp paperbacks.”
Joyce Carol Oates calls him “a lovely kitty man.”