Sunday, October 15, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Deuce' - Police Crackdowns Radically Change the Neighborhood and Help Vincent's Business in 'Why Me?'

HBO's The Deuce - Episode 1.06 "Why Me?"

An end-of-the-year crackdown by police in and around The Deuce sparks Vincent and Bobby. Candy tries to persuade Harvey, her adult-film director, that she can do more than act. Rudy witnesses a pivotal lower-court ruling on obscenity, and enlists Frankie and Big Mike to protect his interests in the peeps. Alston tries to convince Sandra that he's not just a "source."

Vincent and Bobby don't know the first time about running a massage parlor. They aren't pimps. They've had to take over this business not knowing just how successful it is going to become. They've done so because they've been given multiple good opportunities from Rudy. He clearly knows something and respects how Vincent runs his business. But Vincent and Bobby have no idea how this profession is played. The world is changing. They just so happen to be on the forefront of that. They have no idea that is even happening either. They don't seem aware that all of the traffic is being pushed indoors with their establishment also located in the safe zone. They don't know about the struggles on the pimps right now. They start this episode making their pitch to them. It doesn't go well at all. The pimps laugh them out of the room for the suggestion that they need to pay in order to use the massage parlor. Vincent and Bobby don't do a great job at selling this business. And yet, they need to start earning a profit. They get some girls from another establishment to get things up and running. Over time, the pimps start to change their minds. But it's only because of the events of this episode. It's only because of the new enforcement that is happening around this city. In some ways, it's getting more difficult to be a pimp and sex worker. In other ways though, more opportunities are being introduced which makes it very exciting for them. This is a year of great change. The season has established the world of these characters. And now, it's a world on the brink of change. Changes in the laws of the land will affect their everyday lives. For some, that is freeing. For others, it is so destructive.

It's the end of the year and the police are really starting to crack down on prostitution in order to hit their quotas. It's nothing new for them. They cheer on the fact that they will be paid for overtime. But this enforcement is different. The safe zone is still in effect. But they are being much more aggressive with their actions as well. They are cleaning up the streets. It's something they have the capabilities to do but have never had the desire before. Now, the orders are coming from downtown to make this area uninhabitable for prostitution. They don't even have to be all that legal in arresting the girls and their pimps either. They can just round up the girls which increases the fees the pimps have to pay. That's a huge blow to their business. Meanwhile, the cops are impounding the pimps' vehicles for minor offenses. The war is escalating in this community. Rudy is the one coming out on top. He's the gangster far removed from life on the street. He has goons to do his bidding for him. He's the one with his eyes on the bigger picture. He's the one actually engaged with what's happening downtown in the courts. He's encouraged by the fact that judges are no longer fighting a war against pornography. He's still waiting for the dam to burst and collect revenue that way. But right now, it's a time for experimentation to see just how far people can get away with things. It's all just a business decision for Rudy. It's not personal for him. He's just interested in whatever will make him the most money.

As such, the pimps need to do business with Vincent and Bobby in the end. That's the decision they come to. They hear the pitch with a fresh perspective. Their business has been damaged on the streets. Now, they see the value in going indoors. Larry lays out the options very bluntly. The girls can either go work in the massage parlor or they can do movies. Going out on the street is increasingly seeming like a failed venture. It's no longer profitable to be doing things the way they have always been done. As such, Reggie and Rodney are ready to try out the massage parlor on a trial basis. Larry seems convinced as well. They are now supplying the girls for Vincent and Bobby. Their new business is up and running with a connection to the local community. There is the opportunity for it to be a success and profitable for everyone involved. Bobby believes he has done a great job in creating this new living arrangement. He's sticking to the rules and laying out how things will work on-site during business hours. Sure, he's already being shaken down by the local police for money to protect the business. That's a hiccup. But Bobby sees himself as a caring boss who will fix whatever problems arise. He believes he has thought of everything to ensure the girls' safety first and foremost. He wants to create a nurturing environment for them above all else. In the end though, the show reveals just how tragic this new place is as well. Darlene doesn't want to act in movies because it's permanent. She continues to hold out hope for having a normal family one day. She doesn't want to be haunted by her past. And yet, it's so absolutely chilling and devastating to watch as she's all alone in her room at the parlor. The construction details were to ensure the girls' safety in case a john got abusive. But from Darlene's perspective, it highlights a feeling of being alone while invaded by an act of intimacy she has no control over. It could do real psychological damage. She's trapped in this world with no better options whatsoever.

Meanwhile, Candy is still just getting established on the porn set as well. She made the deal with Harvey in last week's episode. She was done with walking the streets selling her body to strangers long before the police crackdowns began. She has formed a connection with Harvey. She wants to do more in this business. She doesn't just want to be the actress in front of the camera. She's very good at that. She's professional in a way that is respected on the set. She helps when a problem arises and she understands what's necessary to keep the film looking natural in the final product. She doesn't get carried away. She understands that this is a job she needs to do for money and not enjoyment. She has a family to support. She's still operating under the belief that this new venture will be lucrative enough for her that she can support her son once more. She wants to spend more time with him than just the fleeting minutes when her father is out of town. There's a close call for her in that regard as well. Her father almost walks in to see her again. She's able to escape before that happens. But the feeling of being discovered is so crippling to her. She needs this job to work. She needs to earn a living this way. She's curious about how all the behind-the-scenes stuff works. She wants to learn from Harvey. She wants to continue being an integral part of this business. That makes it so devastating when it's clear that this may not be a stable job for her either.

The future is in the movies. This show has always been billed as the rise of porn in the 1970s. The show is clearly building to that moment where pornography is legal. But right now, there's very little for Candy to actually do. Harvey can only make so many movies at a time. Right now, Candy is just an actress. That's good for a couple of days work. She's invaluable when it comes to getting Lori to the set to fulfill a much needed role. But that brings with it a new set of problems. Everything is running smoothly in this operation until a pimp is brought in. Lori is still working for C.C. He's still very controlling and demanding of her life. Lori was Candy's only option in the moment. She needed her. But it's a decision that basically bankrupts the production as well. Everyone on the crew takes a hit because C.C. demands to be paid as much as possible. It's a devastating blow to this business as well. Just because things are trending in this direction doesn't mean they are successful right away. Vincent and Bobby found their success at the massage parlor. It was a business plan they just needed to adapt to their location. Meanwhile, things are changing with porn. Candy wants to be at the forefront of that industry. But now, Harvey has no work for her to do. It'll be another month before he can get another shoot up and going. And so, she has to face the bleak realization that she'll need to return to the streets. She vowed never to do that again. Harvey wants to help. But his solution is still an arrangement where she sells her body for sex. She doesn't want to be a prostitute. She has grander ambitions in life. But Harvey left the phone number for her. He wants a better future for her too despite the economics of his business. But this decision ensures to keep Candy in her same exact position in life not being able to fulfill any kind of promise she has made for herself. And that is just so brutal to see occur.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Why Me?" was directed by Roxann Dawson with story by Richard Price & Marc Henry Johnson and teleplay by Marc Henry Johnson.
  • Alston is a part of the corruption on the police force. He's perfectly fine with what's going on with the new enforcement of rules. And yet, he still sees himself as noble and just as well. He sees that something else is going on with more corrupt officers. He wonders what they are up to. He just has no idea that they are giving warnings that it's better for the girls inside than on the streets.
  • Of course, Alston is still providing information to Sandra as well. He just wants to be more than a source with her. In the end, he's ready to deliver a big story to her. He's ready to blow the lid off the corruption he's seeing. But it also comes as the lines continue to blur between them. They are just out enjoying jazz together. It's a date and not a meeting between reporter and informant. 
  • Vincent is continually surprised and questioning why Rudy keeps giving him more business opportunities. He wants to know what's so special about him. Rudy notes that Vincent is loyal and honors a deal. He trusts that much more so than the other people he is allegedly allies with. He sees everyone as corrupt and respects that Vincent is better than that. It's just a plot beat the show has done before.
  • Rudy also needs to borrow Frankie and Big Mike for a little while. He needs them to follow a couple of his business associates around whom he believes are stealing money from him. That suspicion is proven to be true. It also produces a much more active story for Frankie. That's surprising and new. Of course, it's still not enough to make him a fully realized character in the scope of this show yet.
  • Candy's family dynamic has been well defined at this point. As such, it's very surprising when she just randomly mentions a brother who is also estranged from the family. That shows that there are still depths to her that have yet to be explored. She's not close with him either. So there must be a story there that is worth playing out.
  • It's a pretty low-key week for Abby. She and Paul bond a little bit while they are running the bar. She asks about his arrest. She gets to see the brutal reality of this world from his perspective. And later on, she has sex with Vincent to help him deal with the stress of his new business. She even shares her taste in music with him.