The Deuce, ep. 5 – “What Kind of Bad?”
Directed by Uta Briesewitz. Written by Richard Price, Will Ralston & Chris Yakaitis.
Things began moving rather quickly in this week’s installment of The Deuce as Candy contemplated career change, Bobby went from union rep to “whoremaster,” and Sandra finally managed to score an interview with a real, live New York City pimp.
Speaking of that last one, I for one was very delighted but this episode’s grand display of Tariq Trotter’s philosophically-minded know-it-all pimp Reggie Love. The scene where Reggie, getting his beard shaved oh-so-delicately at the barbershop, soliloquizes on the brilliance of Motown and how Berry Gordy was able to make “a dime into a dollar” was a very special highlight. Oh, and Gentle Richie is always good. More Gentle Richie please, hippie-lookin’ motherfucker.
This episode, more than any so far, really delves into the philosophy behind pimping and whoring, and why someone would or would not turn to it. We see why — after Candy’s brutal beating at the hands of a john — a prostitute might possibly want somebody watching their back, even if that somebody is like Rodney, who casually and callously inducts 16 and fresh-off-the-bus country girl Bernice into the street life, as if she were a baseball player, or more accurately, a baseball card that can be traded to your friends for a card of lesser or equal value. Rodney (played Method Man, returning to Simonland from The Wire) duets at length with Candy in an excruciatingly long and awkward scene along 42nd street.
I spoke too soon last week when I said that Candy had been through hell — now she’s been through hell (I expect to be proven wrong again). Beaten and bruised, she tries walking the streets again but is pushily assailed by Rodney, who deploys every trick in the persuasive playbook to get her in his “stable”: he tries seductive, and he tries overbearing, carrot, stick, everything in between. Both Method Man and Maggie Gyllenhaal are fantastic in this scene, very sharply constructed by the writers. Gyllenhaal matches every one of Method Man/Rodney’s persuasive techniques with a different reaction — derision, vulnerability, anger, evasion. It’s fantastic work, maybe the show’s best scene so far.
Yes, now it seems Candy is ready to make the jump full time into porno filmmaking, approaching Harvey Wasserman now that the courts have ruled hardcore porn no longer violates New York’s low “community standards.” As great as Gyllenhaal is at playing a world-weary streetwalker, this reviewer for one is very glad Candy’s now moving on from that corner of the world, if only to spare the character the pain. But having firmly established Candy as a character at this point, Simon and Pelecanos are able to use her as the audience’s viewpoint character for a more thorough infiltration of the porn world.
Speaking of porn, we get another glimpse at the absolute grodiness of 1971 porno theatres as Paul spends a pleasant afternoon pleasuring himself in public before getting busted by an undercover vice cop. This has been Paul’s most substantial showcase yet, and Chris Coy certainly throws himself into the episode with abandon. Director Uta Briesewitz breaks from the show’s uniform directorial style during Paul’s sojourn at the gay dance club, employing an expressionistic approach complete with slow-mo that might annoy if overused but was very well placed here. The show has so far avoided falling into the Vinyl trap of “All Retro Style All the Time!” which can be exhausting, but opting for it in rare doses can be quite effective.
I could go on, talking about the increasing number of storylines and subplots, from Abby’s difficult understanding the street life, to Bobby throwing his blue collar Archie Bunker work ethic behind a new kind of whorehouse, to Officer Alston and his partner looking over their shoulder for internal investigations — it’s a David Simon show, after all. Suffice it to say, things are moving quickly on The Deuce, more and more quickly as sex begins to move off the streets and into the shops.