Watching last night’s series premiere of Lone Star got me thinking about a passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which quite by coincidence, I read for the first time in my life just last week: He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced — or seemed to face — the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
And while I’m sure it’d be considered blasphemy in certain English lit departments to draw comparisons between one of the all-time great twentieth-century American novels and the pilot episode of Fox’s ambitious new drama, I’d argue that at least when it comes to flashing his pearly whites, Lone Star‘s Bob Allen (James Wolk) is positively Gatsby-esque. That montage of our slippery (anti)hero out on the road, duping potential investors into signing over their savings to get a piece of some mythical “rock,” was fueled by a grin so easy, so open, so disarming, that it trumped any words which accompanied it, or any stack of singles (covered by a couple of strategically placed hundreds) that he’d later store so theatrically in his briefcase.
Talk about a tricky concept, though: For Lone Star to work, you have to get caught up in Bob’s charm, succumb to whatever long con he’s taking you on, no matter who’s going to get hurt in the process, or how lovely they are. For the moment, I’m more worried about Bob’s wealthy Houston wife Cat (Adrianne Palicki), who seems a little less generic-saintly than his middle-class bride-to-be Lindsay (Eloise Mumford). Cat will toss back a breakfast shot at 10 a.m. (at least if it’s to test her brother’s idea for a hangover blocker); she’ll skip a charity event for an impromptu roll in the sheets; and she’ll dish party gossip with delightfully vicious glee (“You know how the human body’s supposed to be 70 percent water? Chicky over there? 80 percent silicone, 20 percent Merlot.”) Lindsay, meanwhile, is less well-defined at this point. She quite possibly has a halo tucked under those lovely blond tresses, but then again, she’s honest enough to admit that she enjoys seeing her man throw a punch to defend her honor. (Here’s hoping that goofy ex of hers doesn’t keep stopping by to act all good-ole-boy-like, right?)
Yet as compelling as Bob’s “I love yous” are — didn’t you adore the hotel fake-out where he gave that sultry divorcee “two good reasons” he shouldn’t cheat, and neither one of ’em was a reference to a Carrie Underwood song lyric? — we have to remember that at any given time, there’s a cellphone and a wallet tucked inside his briefcase, and not even the world’s most powerful rubber band is going to be able to contain the betrayal and hurt his wives will feel when the truth comes out.
Next: When is a 95-cent soda worth $50?