Rudy, meanwhile, is at the center of the episode’s most compelling subplot, following a scene concerning what initially appears to be about real estate development in the lower ‘40s, but lands on police declaring that area a “no-go” zone for drug and prostitution arrests – essentially, creating something akin to the fictional “Hamsterdam” of The Wire. What’s the story there? Who does that benefit? And how do they exert enough power over the police force to make it happen? Answers aren’t offered in this episode, obviously; as usual, Simon and crew are playing the long game. But it’s again striking that a Simon series is never just about its ostensible subject.
Meanwhile, are we all fucking terrified for poor Darlene? As with the pilot episode, she finds herself watching movies with aged client Louis – A Tale of Two Cities then, Mildred Pierce this time. Their scenes are lovely in and of themselves, underscoring the idea (not a new one, sure, but an important one) that for many johns, these encounters are less about sex than companionship. It helps that they’re both such sympathetic characters, and not just because she only takes the $20 out of his wallet; it’s the way she lights up when she’s talking about these movies. And for the briefest, briefest of moments, it looks like she and Larry (Gbenga Akinnagbe) might share that common experience, that joy even – “That tale of two cities,” he says, “that’s a good flick, I seen that.” But he puts the light out on her immediately. This is going to go to a bad place.
And Eileen/Candy is maintaining her keen interest in the world of hardcore, picking the brains of fellow sex workers who’ve dabbled. “You got bit by the acting bug,” one of them insists, but again, that’s not it; when she goes to a shoot, where guys pay $40 a head to watch a dirty movie getting made (and where, it turns out, there’s not even any film in the camera – the making-of show is the end product), she’s got her producer’s cap on. “The fuck is this lighting?” she fumes. “There’s no bounce.”
But when she sits down with the guy behind that shoot (the always-welcome David Krumholtz), and says, out loud, for the first time, “I wanna learn to make movies,” he rains on her parade. There’s no film in the camera because in America, in 1971, it’s just too risky; “You can do a feature if you make it educational, or whatever. But real hardcore…” And sure, they sell that stuff in Europe, and as she points out, “When do we ever leave a dollar for the other guy to pick up?” But for now, he’s not willing to take her on, and Franco – clearly, in this moment, an actor/director – holds on Gyllenhaal’s face for a good, long beat. She takes it very hard; this was something she was actually excited about, and knew she could do.
But this setback seems, if anything, purely temporary. The money’s not coming any easier. The tension between her and her mom is real, and her conversational jabs hurt. The answering machine messages are increasingly depressing. Thus far, The Deuce is not predictable, but I know one thing: Candy is not down yet.
A few more random thoughts:
Listen to film editor Jason Bailey discuss “The Deuce” every week on “The Deuce Rethread” podcast, via the DVR Podcast Network.