Sunday, October 7, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Deuce' - Lori and Darlene Struggle With the Demands from the Pimps in 'All You'll Be Eating Is Cannibals'

HBO's The Deuce - Episode 2.05 "All You'll Be Eating is Cannibals"

Temporarily flush with cash, Frankie is tapped by Candy to be a co-producer on "Red Hot." Lori eyes a plum role in the film, but still feels the burden of C.C.'s yoke. Big Mike and Black Frankie hit a gambling house in the Bronx. Bobby finds himself stigmatized after a surprise raid. Paul encounters resistance to his elaborate renovation plans. Out of rehab, Shay is convinced to move in with Irene. As she and Abby deliver on their promise to provide medical care to sex workers, Ashley decides to confront her past.

The city's relationship with the pimps is changing. There is no longer as much tolerance as there once was. Sure, they still command a lot of attention in this life. They still have the freedom to roam this city and do whatever they want. Their relationships with the girls is just as abusive and toxic as ever before. But "All You'll Be Eating is Cannibals" really puts that understanding in stark perspective as well. These pimps are guys who are always trying to control the woman working for them to make them think that this work is all that they deserve in life. They are continually undermining them and making them fear that they should never aspire for more. Even the sex workers who have moved up to new and better opportunities still have these doubts in their minds. Dorothy is absolutely terrified whenever she sees C.C. She is tongue-tied when seeing him while hitting the streets to resolve a conflict. She sees herself as a stronger person now. Someone who can actually make change in this world. She is part of a group trying to improve the living conditions for women in the city. She is setting up this free clinic with Abby in the hopes of getting the women the health care they need and is so often overlooked in this profession. She is giving back because she knows just how cruel and demeaning this work can be. She feels the need to stand up for herself to prove to C.C. that he was wrong. She could go so much further in her life. And yet, he still has that confidence and swagger that makes it seem as if she is one step removed from just failing back into the seat of a car to have sex with a stranger for money. That's the control that he still holds over her. He tries to walk confidently knowing that she could never change. He continues to see her as Ashley. She is his property. She disappeared for awhile but is back now. She is no different now than before. She still stands up to him in saying that she wants him dead. She wants to be the one to kill him. But that too may only serve as proof that she will forever be stuck in this toxic world of the Deuce. Those are the themes prominently on display throughout this hour.

The pimps walk around feeling entitled to everyone in this world. They want a piece of every little business that is going on. They are running girls and providing a service to the various businesses in this area. They believe they should be compensated for delivering a product. They want to keep everyone in line to ensure that there is no breakdown of the system that is working to their benefit. Kiki has already approached C.C. about her offer to work for Lori as well in getting her more porn shoots. She just wants him far away from the set when she is working those jobs. It's an arrangement that Lori supports completely. She sees acting as her future. She doesn't believe she will have to keep tricking in order to support her life. It's a job that C.C. continues to force onto her. It's a way for him to continue controlling her actions. He sees the value in taking his pleasure from her and then depriving her of her dreams. He only brings up this new deal after he has sex with her. It's him essentially marking his territory. It's him putting in the effort to ensure that Lori remains faithful to him. She feels a connection to him and understands that she is his no matter what. Even if she tries to run away and do something different, these feelings will echo throughout her life. She aspires for more. Instead, C.C. hits her and condemns her for thinking that she could cut him out of the process. She wants to be a successful actress. She has this opportunity to star in Candy's big film that she is putting so much attention onto. Kiki sees value in hiring Lori as well. But during the audition, Lori shows up with a bruised face and the idea that Candy cannot understand what she is going through in her life because she made drastically different life choices.

There was such a vital distinction between Candy not working for a pimp and Lori choosing to rely on that relationship. Lori wanted that protection. Even though she was working that same job, she wanted the safety of knowing that someone would protect her should anything ever happen. Candy just chose to be more careful herself. That didn't always protect her. She was in many perilous and dangerous situations last season. But it also afforded her the opportunity to make this full transition to the porn world. She wasn't indebted to anyone else in this world. She could continue saving money to afford the life that she wanted. Now, she has goals and ambitions. She wants to make this movie and be able to afford an apartment she can live in with her son. Lori doesn't have that luxury though. She thinks it's foolish of Candy to suggest that she can just make another decision now. It's not as easy as that. She sees herself as a part of C.C. He controls her. He will determine what future opportunities will come her way. If he wants her to continue selling her body to strangers, she will do that. He wants to keep her in line the same way he has always done. He doesn't want to hear her perspective on things. He wants to remain on set to keep an eye over everything to ensure that no one is working against him. He is very aware of the world around him. But that's what makes him seem so suffocating to Lori. She no longer feels as if she has an identity in the world. She was so empowered by her time alone in Hollywood. She was recognized for her talents in this profession. She returned home only to suffer more abuse. She returned home with the idea that none of this is actually hers to enjoy. Candy supports her and encourages her to feel strong with her own sense of self. But that's also so difficult at the moment because of how demanding and humiliating C.C. can make her feel. He is a powerful premise throughout this world.

Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that these new opportunities will lead to better lives for any of the main characters. There is the suggestion that Paul is going to get out of the mob's control by launching this upscale gay nightclub to great acclaim. Candy envisions her masterpiece also being shown in the legitimate movie theaters with audiences worldwide appreciating its crossover appeal. Even Irene believes her obsession with Shay is going to lead to a better and healthier life for her. And yet, all of these stories may just be the individuals deluding themselves into believing something incredible is just waiting around the corner. Irene believes Shay shares these romantic feelings as well. But it also seems as if she is just taking advantage of the offer to feel free for a moment before she once again falls into the same routine as always with Rodney and drugs. Paul believes this new establishment will be so transformational to the neighborhood and beneficial to his community. But he's also choosing not to really accept the kind of hatred that is targeted at him from the outside world. Nor is he choosing to seek comfort from Kenneth as his partner. Instead, he doesn't want to compromise his values. He wants everything to be perfect no matter how much it will cost. When Kenneth disagrees, Paul instead gets pleasure from elsewhere. It's just defeating to see him escape to that random sex with a group of strangers. Candy holds the same views as well. She is so desperate to get the financing together for this movie. But she ultimately doesn't care about the budget restrictions or the proper permits. She is going to shoot this movie no matter what because it's her masterpiece. That ignorance also forces her into a partnership with Frankie expecting him to essentially be a silent partner. She sees a producer as someone who just puts in money in the hopes of reaping the financial reward should the project be a massive success. But Frankie will not respect Candy on the set. He will always be pushing for his ideas which is bound to led to more tension in that world.

And finally, Darlene is completely thrown when someone confronts her about her actions and her taking Larry's focus off of his responsibilities as a pimp. She is trying to create a better life for herself as well. She is a star in porn. Plus, she is going to night school in the hopes of getting a degree. It's her actually putting in the work to make a better future for herself. She has the opportunity to go on a nice and genuine date with a seemingly good guy. She turns him down because she sees Larry as her boyfriend. He's her man who will take care of her no matter what. She understands him better than anyone else in the world. He will protect her because he cares about her. They are in this business together. But this is not a healthy relationship in the slightest. Darlene still finds herself turning tricks and having sex with men with twisted perversions. This time it's just creepy for her because the guy wants to have sex with her while watching one of her porn films. That's so demoralizing. It makes it seem like she is nothing but an object of attraction and fantasy. It's a kink that only she can deliver in this moment. She feels above all of this. She deserves something better. But she still actively chooses this life as well. She sees herself as being better off than many of the other people out there working the streets. That's the perception that she gives off. And now, it's making the other girls working for Larry feel unsafe. He isn't protecting them because he sees them as disposable. Darlene is the only girl who means something to him. As such, that makes it seem so destructive should he ever discover what she's been doing at nights. He sees the value in pushing back against the conventions of society. He wants to prove that he is so many different things in life. But he will still be an abusive pimp when the time comes for it as well which is absolutely defeating and destructive.

Some more thoughts:
  • "All You'll Be Eating is Cannibals" was written by Richard Price & Carl Capotorto and directed by Zetna Fuentes.
  • This really hasn't been an active season for Vincent as a character. Right now, he is only interested in maintaining the peace while just barely understanding everything going on in this world. He is a part of a system that has been very lucrative for a couple of years now. He doesn't want to rock the boat even though his partners all wish to expand their interests and fight for their beliefs. He just doesn't believe in anything as passionately as they do.
  • Scheduled raids are the way the police have conducted business in the Deuce for years. It provided ample warning to the mobs and businesses in the neighborhoods to ensure that they didn't lose anything too special in the transaction. But here, it's a surprise when Bobby's massage parlor is hit because no one really knew that it was coming. It was a surprise orchestrated by Alston with the support of Goldman. As such, this could be the birth of a new style of policing in the neighborhood.
  • Of course, it's also significant that the press is there for this raid. It means blasting the identities of the johns, girls and managers of this parlor for everyone watching the local news. It means that Bobby's face is seen on television. He returns home to a family that is embarrassed of him. He wasn't protected. He will only bring more shame. He doesn't want to hear any of that though. He doesn't wish to confront his vices and abuse even though it surrounds him everywhere he goes.
  • Big Mike and Black Frankie get a significant story this week in which they decide to rob a high stakes poker game. They are given some good information about what to expect. They make sure that Rudy has no connection to it whatsoever. Of course, there is one complication in the driver of the car being drunk. But that doesn't impact the final score at all. In fact, all of this proves that they are very interested in this line of work while Vincent doesn't care to know what happened at all.
  • Candy hired a male writer to draft a script for her movie and then is surprised when the big bad wolf is the star. She has a very specific perspective she wishes to share with this script. It's not something that can easily be understood by the opposite sex at this time. That's what makes it more meaningful when she actually gets another woman to write it. That means something. But again, she does so not really caring about the financial headache of it all.