And then there’s Leon, kind Leon, den mother and diner proprietor, who turns away when the pimps strong-arm the girls (a not-infrequent occurrence), and seems likely to do so again, until, well, he doesn’t. It’s a beautifully constructed sequence of events; looking the other direction when faced with terrifying man-on-woman violence is a precedent established in the aforementioned closing scene of the pilot, and (as in life) the violence occurs so quickly, it feels over before it’s even started. And the girl in question’s response is, to put it mildly, complicated – it’s not the “my hero!” moment he may have been looking for.
The other element that’s particularly noteworthy this late in the first season is the show’s willingness to indulge in long threads, which are now paying off. The most obvious example, of course, is the move of prostitution from the streets to the massage parlors; as Alston notes, that’s “been the plan for a long time now,” and we saw the beginning of that plan all the way back in episode three, with the meeting between Rudy and the city lawyer, chopping up and marking off real estate in the lower ‘40s. But even this episode’s overdose was carefully planned – that was the girl who was zonked out at Leon’s when Candy was looking for a fill-in actress last week, and the one shooting up in the john at the Hi-Hat even before that. If the two-girl cash-lift operation seemed like a colorful detail last week, this was when we saw it go sideways, with eventually deadly consequences. And, in a similar set-up, we can pretty safely predict trouble for Bobby, if he can’t get this crush on one of his employees under control.
And oh yeah, with all that going on, there was more porn production in this episode. Eileen’s eventual ascension to the director’s chair is even clearer, first in sharing “trade secrets” with Lori about a trade she’s just learned herself, and then in just straight taking over acting coaching for her scene when Harvey appears able to do no better than “We can pretend, can we not?” She is, unsurprisingly, good at it. And, in a show where it’s easy to focus on the grimness, the sheer joy on Lori’s face, the thrill in her eyes as her own image is bounced back at her from that machine, is perfection.
A few other things:
Listen to film editor Jason Bailey discuss “The Deuce” every week on “The Deuce Rethread” podcast, via the DVR Podcast Network. Subscribe here or listen here: