Delicious irony creeps into parts of The Deuce this week, David Simon & George Pelecanos’ charting of the formative 1970’s American porn industry, when principles are mentioned. A john gets annoyed with Emily Meade’s trick turner Lori for where she chooses to have him drop her following oral sex and makes the point that its not about money, it’s about the principle. Money may be the root of the sex industry but the men who seek out street women expect a level of code, if not a moral one.
‘The Principle Is All’ continues playing with these ideas as it furthers the narratives in play of its ensemble cast and drills down steadily into the themes of aspiration vs cold, harsh reality. Simon’s show continues to be about people in the gutter looking up at the stars.
Much like the pilot episode, pornography is on the back burner but not forgotten, drip fed mostly through the continuing development of Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who discovers an enterprising filmmaker is shooting people having sex and making money off a live audience (principally of men), only to then remove the hardcore obscenity and sell them to fleapits.
Candy has already had the germ of an idea to make money through selling porn legally and this continues pushing that dream, but it runs counter to the world she lives in; the filmmaker without realising pours cold water on her desires to learn how making films works and she continues balancing trying to be a decent mother while watching people get stabbed in front of her on the streets she works. Right now, she just walks away. She’s hollow, awaiting a spark.
The same can really be said of Abby (Margarita Levieva), college dropout cum city drifter, who finds herself drifting from stuffy interview to soulless job to men who rob her after sex, before she seeks out James Franco’s aspiring bar owner Vinny and finds her place. Abby is coming down the other side of the mountain; she could have had the middle class life, wholesome job, steady academic career, but she has a darker, more intense side that’s pulling her into a world where Mobsters lurk behind respectable businesses, and by the end most of the ensemble find themselves in Vinny & twin brother Frankie’s bar in the deuce – hookers, pimps and crooks alike. The bar looks set to become a focal point to bring all of these disparate characters and threads together.
Simon continues suggesting the growing difficulty brewing between hooker and pimp, not just via the unpredictable C.C. (Gary Carr) and his hold over Lori, encouraging her to seek out a higher level of clientele even if it suggests personal risk, but also the slightly strange relationship between Darlene (Dominique Fishback) and her pimp Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe).
She is a little different from the rest; she reads Dickens, she would rather spend time with lonely old men who just want to watch old movies and snuggle with her, and there’s a level of quiet aspiration lurking within her too – indicative of how the pimps making money from exploiting these women on the harsh New York streets are likely to grow increasingly incensed by the changing times around them.
The Deuce continues to be atmospheric, layered and filled with characters growing more interesting and varied by each episode. It even manages to touch on social and political commentary, with a labourer angrily chewing out a dropout student for speaking out against Vietnam, which to him is speaking out against the greatness of America. Sound familiar? This show may be set in the 70’s, with all its quirks, styles and settings, but in many ways its a world as seedy and grey as our own.
The Deuce airs every Tuesday in the UK on Sky. Let us know what you think of the season…