Monday, September 23, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Deuce' - Melissa Encounters an Unexpected Visitor While Candy Sets Boundaries with Hank in 'Normal Is a Lie'

HBO's The Deuce - Episode 3.03 "Normal Is a Lie"

Abby befriends a graffiti artist named Pilar and takes a surprising trip downtown. Candy sets a firm line with Hank when it comes to money. As Todd's health worsens, he reexamines his priorities and asks for Paul's support. Melissa is forced to face her past. Alston explores different strategies for getting a shady SRO owner to sell. Bobby pays Joey a visit on Wall Street as Joey's latest money-making scheme grows bigger. Tensions rise between Frankie and Rudy as a buyer complains about Frankie's product.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's The Deuce.

"Normal Is a Lie" was written by Iturri Sosa and directed by Tanya Hamilton

There are many people who judge and condemn those who make their livings doing shady work in the Deuce. That has always been a huge component of the show. Right now, Alston and Goldman are trying to mount a massive clean up effort to revitalize the neighborhood. And yet, they face incredible resistance from those whose selfish interests are all about the financial windfall that could come if the neighborhood were to ever experience an upturn. Those are the enemies to those people trying to map out the future. For most though, life is a day-to-day experience of survival. They are confident and strong in their identities. They don't feel shame for the lives they have created for themselves. They are proud of the work they do and create. The people who have issues with them are the ones who actually have the problem. But they are continually made to feel bad about themselves. Lori aspires to speak up on a porn set to talk about the poor working conditions. The director doesn't treat her seriously though because he only sees her as a woman selling her body for sex. It's a low art form for him. It's the life of someone who has gone through plenty of tragedy already and won't mind any more. Lori is confident and comfortable in this life. But there may still be the yearning for more. Opportunities could exist elsewhere. Sure, her partner is envisioning the creation of their own studio in which they would be in charge of what content gets made in this world. But she may be more interested in music. That's where she is driven to by the conclusion of this hour. She doesn't make it onto the stage. She is recognizable but she delights in that fame as well. She believes she has earned that respect and deserves to flaunt it from time to time in order to make things happen. Candy also believes she has created a better working environment. She sees herself as treating the women on her sets more fairly than anywhere else in the industry. It's the standard she wants for the rest of the world. And yet, the world is conditioning her to lower her standards otherwise she won't get the funding for what she wants to create. She is hopeful about luring investors to her next project. She doesn't want Hank to simply finance the whole thing. He extends that offer not knowing just how complicated her personal relationships have been in the past as a result of money. She has always strived for independence. It's almost an armor she proudly wears. It has done so much damage in the past too. She doesn't see her father as the reason why she was forced into this world. This was where she truly came alive. She built a bright future for herself as a director. But now, she doesn't have a relationship with her son, Adam. She doesn't even know where he is or what kind of trouble he has gotten into. This season may be forcing some of the main characters to reflect on the lives they have been living and whether it is enough for them. Vincent and Abby have long been dysfunctional as a couple. They are very upfront about what they have. But is it a dynamic that is still working and beneficial to both of them? Or is it more inspiring for them to chase their dreams elsewhere? They are happy with what they have. They each have money they can use for whatever they please. But it's still a relationship built out of complications. Abby experiences a new side of the city here. She is a bright light in a dim world. One where Todd understands that he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life working on things that don't matter. He now accepts that he is dying. His health is failing him. That forces things into perspective. Dying doesn't need to be the sole thing to do so though. For Melissa, it all comes from a knock on her apartment door. Her father has found her. He isn't angry or upset that she appears in porn. He is just grateful to know that she is still alive because he knows he's responsible for pushing her away. She has built a life in New York. She has abandoned whatever she had as Margaret. Russ isn't even sure what he is looking for in this moment. It's just important to see her and see what happens. It's clear Melissa wants that connection as well. It just takes her friend and neighbor to give her the right push. Sometimes that is a powerful lifeline. We all need people who understand what we need to do even when we are completely terrified. That too is a prominent part of this world. It's not all inevitable tragedy. There are human beings behind these stories. Sure, some of them are being set up for disaster before the series closes. But the humanity shines brightly in so many instances as well that highlight this as a vibrant world full of possibilities and the ability to feel confident no matter what. That is very empowering.