“Seven-Fifty” takes us to sunny LA but the shadows of The Deuce have a long reach.
“We should be proud of our perversions,” Harvey tells Candy as they drink their way through the AFAA Erotica awards. This certainly speaks to the room and The Deuce. If last week was about people gaining control, this week, “Seven-Fifty”, was about how little the women in particular actually have.
It seems like New York shows (Mad Men, Sex in the City, Seinfeld) always have the LA episode. There is something about taking those New York characters and putting them in the palm tree context that is too tempting for writers to ignore. In this case, Lori’s AFAA Erotica Award nomination has her bound for the warmer coast, with Lolita sunglasses and sans her keeper C.C. who just can’t make himself get on the plane. When she arrives at the plush hotel, she seems almost shell-shocked, not just because of the swank surroundings, but because this may be the first time she’s been alone in years. Left to walk the awards show carpet solo, she seems timid and scattered, darting inside. Lori is turning out to be one of the more captivating characters this season as she is enticed to step outside the cage C.C. has made for her. A win for Best Supporting Actress certainly helps pry those bars open a little wider.
While Lori considers her worth, Candy certainly knows her, as does Harvey, who tells her his Best Director nomination is as much hers as his, just moments before being crowned a winner. Of course, he accepts the award, leaving Candy, once again a spectator, behind to applaud him from the sidelines. Later, when she meets with a promising investor, his interest comes with a price that puts her not only back on screen, but back exchanging sexual favours. Her reaction in this sequence, including her bathroom aftershock, is nuanced. She does not hesitate nor break down; instead, subtle shifts of body language tell everything we need to know about her disappointment. Disappointment, not in herself, but in the predictable single-mindedness of most men. She’s made a smart pitch and yet she’s still stuck in the sexual object loop. However, she seems determined to break that loop one check at a time.
Back in New York, everyone seems to be trying to break the massage parlour racket. Alston sees the city’s plans for cleaning up; nothing new for the jaded police force. It’s pretty telling when the new headquarters for this clean up has a prostitute servicing a customer in the back. Besides, the massage parlour business may have other issues besides the threat of police clean up. Competitors are popping up all over the place with lower prices (the seven-fifty of the episode’s title) and ages. This clash leads to arson of a rival massage parlor, ordered by Rudy, who may also still want a piece of Paul’s supper club. The mob subplots are supposed to provide an underlying tension to the show, showing how deep the corruption runs with both organized crime and the police force. I often find these scenes harder to invest in, in part because I am not particularly interested in most of these characters and they often feel slightly like a rip off of Casino and Goodfellas. Plus, the Frankie is a screw-up but Vince will fix it is getting a little tired. Supposedly this week’s theft puts an end to that.
Finally, rolling back into town with her golden statue doesn’t have the impact she anticipates on C.C., Lori who only sees it as an opportunity to raise her hourly rates. “Don’t forget what you are,” he snarls after breaking her award. I am terribly afraid Lori won’t make it out of this season alive. Unlike Ashley, the former prostitute who got out with Abby’s help, only to return last week as part of the outreach Abby is working within the mobile outreach unit. The final scene of “Seven-Fifty”, with C.C. asking how to reign in one of his girls, only to be faced by Ashley, now Dorothy, indicates much of where the series seems to be headed. Little by little it seems the lives of these characters are shifting, or are they just an illusion that will eventually come crashing down? My guess is a lot of the second.