Despite some compelling moments, too many disconnected threads disrupt the normally stellar storytelling.
I was chatting with a friend about The Deuce the other day and we circled around to the men on the show. He noted that he has never been invested in the James Franco twins, Frankie and Vincent. A few episodes ago, I would have concurred with that. Something has shifted, however. The past few episodes I have been engaged with their storylines, and not just when more interesting characters are on the screen. Perhaps this shift isn’t sudden, but like everything on The Deuce, a slow burn. While Frankie is off playing producer, Vincent has been having a crisis of conscience. He’s never been a bad guy or even an impish screw up like his brother. Instead, he’s managed to navigate this seedy landscape with as much dignity as possible. He’s stayed with Abby, never trying to deter her from her path or idealism, even though much of it contradicts how he makes his living. So when she walked out on him a few weeks back, it made an impact. Vincent wants out.
If only anything on The Deuce was that easy. In “The Feminism Part”, Rudy’s thugs make it clear that there is no exit from this fast lane. After a trip to Vermont, Vincent looks like he might have found his escape hatch. It’s odd to see him in such a homey setting. How easy it is to forget that he was once married before he left domestic life behind. In another world, he could have been Jerry (Patch Darragh), a fun time guy with a wife, kids, and no mob threat in the background. But Abby is not interested in that life. It’s not clear if she’s even that interested in Vincent anymore after her tryst with Dave. Much as it seems like Dave and Abby are a better fit, Vincent, for all his faults, is more closely akin to what Abby needs. Such as his warning to her that Dave is in danger because he is upsetting the pimps. He’s spot on, as we see in an earlier scene where C.C. sets fire to Dave’s leaflet. Of course, Vincent might take his own advice as the episode ends with him being shot at by a passing car.
Despite his best intentions to get Red Hot some more funding for distribution, Harvey somehow manages to insult Candy as the potential mafia backers talk about her as if she isn’t in the room before dismissing her entirely. Their plan is to make her the face for the production, which would mean outing her real line of work to her son. She tries, even bringing him to set, but can’t go through with it. Like so many characters, she sells the half-truth, the part of her life that almost is, that could be real if reality weren’t so bleak.
I have avoided talking about the corrupt Officer Danny Flanagan (Don Harvey) in past recaps primarily because I find his story trite and uninspired. He is unhappy in his marriage, immoral, hard drinking, and keeps a working girl, Anita (Andrea Pimentel) on the side. So what? In “The Feminism Part” things escalate when, pushed to leave his wife, he grows violent, slamming Anita’s head against the car window. And because he is a despicable character, he dumps her body in the river. Alston pegs his ex-partner for the crime after noticing Anita holding his watch. Rather than turn himself in, as Alston suggests, Flanagan takes the easy way out via a bullet to the brain. While I am grateful for more Alston screen time, this plotline just never seemed to matter enough to be worth taking away from more interesting stories. Here’s to Deuce characters who won’t be missed.
It should probably not come as a surprise that one of these girls would end up pregnant–it’s probably more surprising it hasn’t happened until now (that we know of). That it turns out to be Darlene, who is working her way through night school and now must seek an abortion, is sadly the least surprising part. Nor is it any great shock that Lori has more troubles. Her three-picture deal looms before her, but with a C.C. and drug problem, her future may not be so bright.
Although “The Feminism Part” had some solid beats, it felt a little hodgepodge, like the season is still collecting its thoughts. With two episodes left, that’s not the best place to be.