Luck – “Episode Three”Posted: February 12, 2012
Luck’s first season is nine episodes long. So if we chop that up into thirds, this week’s episode marks the end of the season’s first act. So while the name of the game is still “setting things up” (sounds like a pretty crappy game), don’t expect it to last too much longer. I enjoy a little bit of downtime as much as the next guy, but I’ve got that itch. The one that says the show needs to show someone getting brutally murdered. If for no other reason than to take my mind off of Walter’s soul-crushing depression over what happened to Delphi. That stuff gets me every time.
At this point in the show, Ace is still working on the fringe of the action, setting up stuff that will come later. But when his parole officer sees Ace in the gym and hears that the hotel has closed it down just for him he says, “People make adjustments.” He couldn’t have been more right. Ace is a person people live in fear of. The best example of this comes when he visits the board of his company that trades stocks and makes Ace money, I guess. As soon as he marches in that room and starts barking orders, you can kind of see everyone’s sphincters instinctively clench, just waiting for him to get the hell out of there. Nathan Israel, the only one of Ace’s lackeys who may turn out to be not much of a lackey at all is the guy he takes notice of. And Ace invites Israel back to his hotel to grill him and ultimately offer him a job. There’s something I really like about the fact that Ace is a mover and a shaker, out in the world doing big things after being locked up for three years. But every time he hooks up with Gus he turns into just another old guy, taking the piss with everyone he comes in contact with. The two of them falling asleep while talking to each other at the end of the day isn’t really doing much to help things.
One of the things I love about David Milch is illustrated really well in the opening credits of that great cop drama, NYPD Blue. In the middle of this loud, clanging drum beat, everything gets quiet and we hear these very calming synthesized strings and, I don’t know, an oboe or something. What I’ve always taken from that is that in the middle of all the craziness we’re seeing on screen, there are moments of great beauty, when everything else just kind of falls away. We saw the same thing this week with the four shitbirds, after they buy Mon Gateau from Mulligan. After Turo runs down this laundry list of expenses (it turns out owning a horse costs a lot of money), Renzo asks if they can pet him. Now, I know I’m taking this way overboard, but there’s this sense that walking up to this animal and petting him is some sort of cleansing ritual. Almost like its innocence rubs off in some small way on those who surround it. Even Turo drops his hardass act for a few minutes to watch, and hands them all carrots to feed the horse, telling them all to make sure and keep their hands open when they give them to him. It was a nice moment. But of course, it could never last, and it isn’t long before Marcus is calling everyone an asshole and Jerry’s back at the poker tables, losing money to Chan.
It’s only now, six years after Deadwood’s gone off the air, that I realize how truly unique its dialogue was. And six years on, we see that Milch hasn’t completely been able to shake off that voice. In a way, Walter is this show’s Swearengen; the old man who’s given to spontaneous monologuing, either when he’s alone or in front of an audience who can’t really respond to him (just replace the whores with horses (and yes I realize what a cute turn of phrase that was (don’t worry I’m going to kill myself))). This week we hear him rehearsing his pitch to Rosie, asking her to come back to Arcadia to ride Gettin’ Up Morning, after turning her down when she asked after the job in last week’s episode. Then, Walter was all about Ronnie Jenkins riding the horse, but after taking a fall in a race and breaking his collarbone, he’s out and Rosie’s in. Which I suppose is just as well, as we see Ronnie take to DRUGS to deal with the pain.
It’s funny, the things that will humanize a character. Turo Escalante is obviously a mid-level player at the track. He shows deference to people like Ace and Gus, while thumbing his nose at everyone else. But in this week’s episode, we get a a chance to see the man at home. See where he spends his free time. And then we see Jo, the woefully underused vet from the track, and hear Turo utter those four words that really put us inside his head, let us know who he is: “Want to do it?” He’s a person. He wants what I want. It turns out there’s a little bit of Turo in all of us.