That’s not her only payoff. We finally find out what’s caused this resentment between her and her father, a revelation prompted by Harvey’s casual use of the word “fag” which she pushes back on: “I have a brother.” And then, she visits him in the institution – a scene, like Paul’s arrest in episode five, that reminds us of how gay people were treated in society, not that long ago (“Mostly meds for me now,” he tells his sister, “I don’t think the shock treatment is something they want to do anymore”). “The world is changing,” she tells him, as he tries to insist, for his own protection, that he’s not really not gay after all.
Meanwhile, who pissed in Vincent’s Cheerios? He’s suddenly – kinda out of nowhere, honestly – grumpy as hell, acting weirdly better than the businesses that are making him comfortable, up to issuing a “respectful” fuck you to a gangster, which is still a fuck you. (Rudy takes it in stride: “He’ll come around.”) Then comes the bad news about his ex-wife from his sister, giving us (aha, look) a return to the pool hall, for a scene with a very different outcome. If the first one was emasculating, the second one revels in tough-guy masculinity; he goes to work on the guy who hit his ex. But if it gives us a momentary thrill, it passes quickly; it’s an empty victory, and one only accomplished with a mob guy on his elbow. And Abby, of course, sees right through it (“Who’d you do that for?” “For my wife. Who else?”). This is not exactly my boldest prediction, but: if he does move in with Abby (and that’s a big goddamn if), it will not work out.
And anyway, all of this is just a lead up to the sudden, scary, and troubling death of Ruby, jeeringly dismissed as “Thunder Thighs” all season, but one of the show’s most nuanced, heartfelt, and sympathetic characters, so of course she has to go right out the fucking window. If it feels, in retrospect, like an obvious move schematically – killing Reggie Love is one thing, he was a motherfucker, but Ruby was someone everybody dug, so her death can feel like an “end of innocence” – there’s no denying its visceral effect. All season long, we’ve seen the danger of this work, resulting in physical and emotional violence. Now, someone’s dead. People gawk at the body on the sidewalk, and then go back about their business.
Meanwhile, across town, the “stars” come out for the premiere of Deep Throat, which functions rather like the Hi-Hat opening in episode three – as an event that brings much of the cast together. And then, as on The Wire, we have a lovely end-of-the-season musical montage (this one to Ray Charles’ “Careless Love”), to situate and reposition these characters as they head into a brave new world, one where a pornographic feature film will become the talk of the country, a social event, and fodder for Johnny Carson jokes. That is where they’ll be when we meet them again. Can’t wait.
One last batch of leftovers:
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: