Sunday, October 21, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Deuce' - Vincent and Candy Come to Big Realizations About Their Lives in 'The Feminism Part'

HBO's The Deuce - Episode 2.07 "The Feminism Part"

Trapped by his own success, Vincent envisions an idyllic rural life with Abby. Candy is frustrated by her mob backers' misogyny and weighs telling her son, Adam, what she really does for a living. Shay reverts to form, to Irene's dismay. Joey falls in love. Darlene deals with unexpected news. Lori hits a roadblock in her quest for adult-film stardom. Alston faces a dilemma involving his old partner, Flanagan. Paul and Kenneth arrive at a crossroads.

Some hard and difficult truths are finally dawning on people throughout this hour. Vincent is realizing that he can't leave his mob-backed businesses without ruining the lives of many people he cares about. Candy accepts that the ambitions she has for her film mean she has to tell her son the truth about what she does for a living. Irene learns that things were never real with Shay. She was just going through the motions before returning to her old routines. Alston is seeing just how abusive his friends on the force can be outside of the job. And Paul and Kenneth realize that they've focused too much on the opening of their bar and not on their relationship. All of these stories build to big revelations and massive changes to the lives of the characters in the Deuce. That shakeup is monumental. Everything seems fixed around the idea that Vincent may want to leave the city and start a new life elsewhere. He just decides to abandon his post when things aren't going according to plan in his latest meeting with Rudy and Tommy. He just gets up from the table, buys some drugs and walks away. He gets into a car and just starts driving. Eventually, he no longer needs the drugs and just dumps them on the side of the road. What he finds at the end of this journey is clarity and a possible new place for him to belong. It's him actually aspiring to the life that he abandoned at the start of the series. He got into bed with the mob knowing exactly what kind of business they do and the potential consequences of doing something wrong. And now, he has enjoyed a season of success where he hasn't had to worry about a whole lot. That is changing now because he is remembering just how abusive and horrifying the actions of his mob bosses are. He finds peace but that takes him back to a quaint place in the northeast that Abby abandoned a long time ago. She found her purpose in the city. She's not going back to some kind of rural life. As such, this episode should also make the audience realize that Vincent and Abby aren't a good pairing at all. Sure, they understand each other and are jealous whenever the other looks at someone else with sexual desire. But they hold different views as well. Vincent only comes to regret his work with the mob because Abby is forcing him to open his eyes. He wants to be a better person for her. He wants to be the man that she deserves. And yet, all of this remains complicated for him because life is incapable of giving him an easy victory. If he wants it, then he has to work hard in order to achieve it.

Vincent doesn't tell anyone that he is going on this impromptu trip. The mob wants him to manage another bar. He no longer wishes to be the supervisor of the massage parlor and peep show. Those are businesses that he can no longer support. He sees how the women are being treated. He is just as culpable for those who have died and been arrested working in this profession for Rudy. He has enjoyed a comfortable life because he is making money from all of these businesses. He is living his dream as the owner of the hottest club in town. But he's cruelly oppressive to people in order to achieve and maintain this dream as well. He stands here because he is stepping on someone down below. He was called out for that fact and it rattled him significantly. He wants out of this business. Him expressing that desire also means that Bobby and Abby would probably be out of jobs as well. The mob would likely replace them with people that they can trust. They have simply created too many problems. Bobby has had arrests and family drama while Abby has been provoking serious conversation in the neighborhood about the treatment of the girls in these professions. Sure, it's appreciated that Irene is trusted enough to keep the peep show going. She is in charge and not creating any problems whatsoever. She just grew too attached to one sex worker who is now back on the streets getting high. Rehab didn't stick for Shay this time even though Irene paid for it. That's a consideration that the mob probably wouldn't support because they want to know that their investments mean something. They took a chance on Vincent. They trust him to oversee all of these businesses. To them, it's sudden and unexpected that he wants out of the illegal trades. Moreover, they think it will be so easy to win him over again simply by bribing him with a new car. And yet, that's the exact decision that may make it clear to Vincent that he will always have a target on his back and not feel good as long as he is in this business.

Vincent sees this quaint life in Vermont with extreme desire. He sees a town that isn't too big or too small. It is just right for his dreams. He has already made a connection at this bar that he works at for a night. He just randomly stopped in this town for the night. He wanders into the bar. And then, it holds the potential for a completely new direction for him to pursue. It represents a life that Abby doesn't want. It's actually something his old family could appreciate. He abandoned them years ago. So, he wouldn't be living the dream of having an idyllic life as a family with Abby in a massive house working a respectable job. Instead, he returns to the hustle and craziness of the city. It's in his first interaction with Rudy and Tommy upon his return that he gets shot at because of his connections to the mob. That's such a stark moment at the end of this hour. No one is injured in any major way. Tommy even suspects that Vincent was the target of this attack and wants to know who could hold a grudge against him. However, it may be easier to see this as an escalation of the mob war that has been simmering in the background for most of the season. The two sides have burned down each other's properties. They have been attacked and provoked. The world continues to change and each side is dealt significant blows. And now, a move is made against Rudy. He is in the backseat and survives this ordeal. But it's perilous nevertheless. It should be an eye-opening experience for Vincent. This is the life that was waiting for him back in New York. Abby didn't miss him. She was more than capable of moving on. She can continue her activism while still being a sexual being. In fact, it doesn't feel like a big deal when she hooks up with Dave. That's how she spends her night. She doesn't know what's going on with Vincent. Nor does she care all that much. This hour proves just how independent these characters are. Despite that, they are still understood by those closest in their lives as well.

Elsewhere, Harvey knows that Candy will make a scene when the mobsters who are financing her movie don't want her to be a part of the negotiation. He sees the value of this film. He knows how big it could become. In fact, everyone is able to buy into that idea. They love the idea of a woman directing a raunchy film. They love having rising star Lori in the lead role. They even enjoy the initial cut of the film. The additional funds are just for some minor reshoots and the promotion of the film. This is the way that business is conducted. They need to raise money in order to even get into the theaters. That means having this very careful negotiation with the mobsters. These are very sexist individuals who see Candy as nothing more than a marketing strategy. They can show her off as the director and star of this film. And yet, they will cut her out of the room as soon as the conversation turns to money. That's Harvey's responsibility in all of this. He's the one who understands all of the players involved. He knows that Candy has the potential to lose it on these guys and risk the entire investment. She keeps it together. But that moment is also very illuminating for her. She didn't think she had to talk to her son about sex just yet. That would lead to another conversation about the things she has done for work all of these years. They have a much more open and honest relationship now. And yes, she does bring him down to the set when no one else is there. She understands that she has to do this right now. Otherwise, she risks him finding out in some horrifying way that will only destroy their relationship. However, it's also clear that she is protecting him from some aspects of this job. She isn't being entirely truthful. She doesn't offer the real explanation for why he can't see her film. She just says it's a rough cut. He will never be able to see his mother's work though because it's inappropriate given the things that she is doing both in front of and behind the camera. All of this will ensure that it remains a complicated subject moving forward in their relationship.

And finally, it's just devastating to see how casual death is treated in the Deuce. When a dead women washes ashore, the story of the investigation immediately shifts to her being Flanagan's girl and still holding his watch that was a gift from his wife for their anniversary. This hour highlights how Alston and Flanagan socialize with each other outside of work. It shows just how casual this relationship can be even though Flanagan is an abusive individual who only gets worse when he drinks. He is trying to be controlling of every woman in his life. He complains about his wife when they are simply out bowling. And then, he pleads with Anita about how he is different than all of the other men who have fallen in love with her over the years but refused to leave their wives. It threatens to become a very stereotypical story. It builds to the uncomfortable tragedy of Flanagan killing this woman because he is so enraged with her. He paints himself as a victim who is just trying to protect himself from a woman trying to claw his eyes out. That's not exactly what happens though. She is trying to escape this situation while he is trying to prove that he is different from the rest of the men she has encountered. And yes, he is different from them because he succeeds in killing her. That's just heartbreaking and so unfortunate. He carries out the consequences himself though. He kills himself because he can't be arrested for this crime. That would ruin his life. He doesn't want to put his family through that. That's all that everyone seems to be considering as well. Alston manipulates the facts of both of these cases in an attempt to release Flanagan's pension to his family. Nothing he does will make that happen though. So, this is a tragedy in every sense of the word. That is all too common in the Deuce as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Feminism Part" was written by Will Ralston and directed by Tricia Brock.
  • Vincent's relationship with the mob has thrived for years now. He has cultivated relationships with others who also benefitted from it. However, Black Frankie and Big Mike are probably the only ones whom Rudy and Tommy would still trust if Vincent decided to walk away. They have proven their loyalty in the past by always coming to Rudy with opportunities to make money. They have actually followed through on their promises as well.
  • Paul has had a stable relationship with Kenneth throughout the season. They went into business together. They were so loving when the bar opened. But now, it's clear that they are working on two different schedules with Paul continuously presenting as someone who cannot be caged. There is no stigma attached to him sleeping with Todd again. And yet, it still leads to a very amicable breakup - with Kenneth also leaving the business partnership.
  • Larry is so excited now that he has found his new calling as an actor. Of course, he is still acting as a demanding pimp as well. He still has girls working for him. He is still abusing those relationships. But he also doesn't notice that Darlene is pregnant and that she doesn't want to have the baby at all. Instead, she has to look to other sources for support. Swift action is taken to ensure that she doesn't have to deal with this moving forward as well.
  • It was always going to be a bad idea that Bobby brought his son to work with him. The parlor is not an appropriate place for underage individuals. That never bothered him when it came to the girls. So, it shouldn't be a shock that he brings Joey here. He expects his son to work and earn a living just like he has always done. Instead, Joey romanticizes the whole notion and eventually gets his heartbroken.
  • Kiki is a much better agent for Lori than C.C. will ever be. She goes to her client asking for her permission before negotiating on her behalf. She brings in this massive opportunity and makes sure to get Lori's blessing before moving forward. C.C. is controlling all of the time. There is also no way that he will allow her to sign an exclusive contract that will prevent her from doing any other work during the six months it will take to film these three films. He needs to keep her in line and indebted to him after all.