“Raison D’Etre” – meaning, a reason to live, starts off five years after Season One left off. Times have changed – for some of our characters, for better, and others, not so much. But first, we have two options to refresh our memories, the clip below and our reviews.
We’re caught up to date and still, some of our players are in bed with the johns while others are still in bed with the Mob down at The Deuce. The year is 1977. Disco, drugs, illegal activity & vices of all sorts, bars, alcohol and bribery are alive and well in New York. The lines between legal and illegal have become blurred – depending on who you are and what you do for a living; it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, the premiere episode is all about setting the stage for the action that will eventually unfold. Who’s going to come out on top and who’s going to perish? This is New York and the streets are a harsh and unforgiving teacher. We can’t wait for what it reveals as Season two plays out.
Frankie and Vincent: twin brothers, invested in bars, booze, babes and booths. Frankie is trying to be a legitimate businessman, a small business owner who wants to be successful. But Frankie is still a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda guy, getting mixed up in one dumbass scheme or another. Can you blame Vincent for being ticked off? His twin brother is an impulsive loser. He steals $10,000 from the place she manages (Show Land) and blows it all on a ring for an adult entertainment actress and exotic dancer he’s in love with. As for Vincent, he is managing the Hi-Hat (actually, his girlfriend Abbey is and the Hi-Hat is becoming a scene for punk rock) whilst also owning and operating a pleasure coin booth dive, the French Parlor. Yes, it’s a cash business and yes, business is good – but I felt sorry for the janitor in the background, forever cleaning up after customers. Vincent has branched out to become the owner of another hotspot, Club 366 (a disco club where the booze flows and people are happy to spend big bucks). He’s picking up cash envelopes, paying his cut to mob boss Rudy Pipilo and making sure customers are happy and satisfied. We find Vincent looking exhausted but happy.
Paul, the former bartender from the Hi-Hat and very attractive man (with ties to the gay nightclub scene) has now come into his own and has quite the successful establishment called Paul’s (how’s that for simplicity?) It appears that for many of the characters, success has been achieved and times are good. And then there’s the law. Cops taking bribes is nothing new. The higher ups do less work, dilly dally and waste time (not to mention taxpayer dollars), while the actual good policemen and women are out there, trying to solve crimes, promote safety on the streets and decrease the level of criminal activity. Here’s looking at you, Detective Alston (pictured). Alston is on the job, investigating what looked to be a stabbing, but with his keen eye and a shabby hotel nearby, he quickly surmises the victim was just another man out to pay for some side action, while his wife was at the hotel room. Alston also looks frustrated – talking to his superiors gets him no Intel and quite frankly, no respect. Seeing Ralph Macchio as his superior officer grinds my gears. Is Alston the only one on the force who actually wants to solve crimes without taking bribes or sitting on his backside?! And newly elected Mayor Ed Koch is doing his best to clean up the streets with task forces in the hopes that tourism doesn’t dwindle.
Times have become tough for the pimps – I don’t care for them – but the working girls are pursuing their high school diplomas; (you can imagine how happy I was to see Abbey buying Darlene a drink at the Hi-Hat because she got her GED) taking night school courses to see if college is their thing or going straight from high school and into the adult entertainment industry. That’s where the money is and if it means you’re off the streets and having a bit more security, then these women gotta do what they need to do – hustling for themselves – which makes the pimps become obsolete. Larry, CC and Rodney don’t like what they’re up against and still try any means of control to abuse their power over the ladies left in their workforce. You definitely get the sense that Lori is sick and tired of CC and his possessiveness, and his lack of wherewithal on the set and out in the street. What happens to their relationship is anyone’s guess.
The one character that I was happy to see on the rise was Candy. She’s become a producer and amateur film director, while still occasionally acting in a scene or two. I like that she’s diversifying and trying to bring a female perspective to the adult (and male-dominated) entertainment industry. I like that she’s trying to bring a voice to what that industry could be – more movies made from a female perspective, where there are other artistic scenes of images and stills intercut with the adult themes, but it gives you an idea of what the female is experiencing while being pleasured. Harvey gets what she’s trying to do but is blunt with his assessment – less art being inserted into the frames and more explicit shots. It’s hard for a woman to carve out a place, especially in the world of adult entertainment and prostitution. Knowledge is power. Sexuality is power. Navigating through the 1970s as a woman was tough enough; seeing the women of The Deuce taking back their power and sexuality in this episode gave me hope that perhaps women like Candy, Darlene and Abbey will be on to bigger and better things.
But we know from history that Mayor Koch is out to clean up Times Square, excuse me, The Deuce. It is a task as NYC is alive, raw and vibrant in 1977. This clip helps drive that point home.
What will happen to all of our players? There is plenty of time to find out as The Deuce plays out Sunday nights at 9:00pm ET.
Next week: Confronted with the changing realities of prostitution and porn, C.C. (Gary Carr) doubles down on his assets, while fellow pimp Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe) eyes a new opportunity. Growing creatively frustrated, Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) turns to Genevieve Furie (Dagmara Dominczyk), a onetime porn director who’s graduated to slasher films, for filmmaking advice. After a customer is mugged outside his bar, Paul (Chris Coy) is approached by Matty the Horse (Garry Pastore), a rival of Rudy’s (Michael Rispoli), who promises Paul the mob protection he deserves. Following a nostalgic road trip to Coney Island with Vincent (James Franco), Abby (Margarita Levieva) attends a street outreach meeting and recognizes a familiar face from Times Square.