Paul Schiraldi/HBO
Ray Rahman
September 17, 2017 AT 10:00 PM EDT

The Deuce

type
TV Show
genre
Drama
run date
09/10/17
creator
David Simon
performer
James Franco, Maggie Gyllenhaal
broadcaster
HBO
Current Status
In Season

We gave it an A-

Somewhere in the middle of this episode, James Franco No. 1 says one of those lines that make me love The Deuce. “Hey, their money spends, and at the end of the day, they gotta drink too — just like anyone.”

He’s explaining to the mob guys why he’s so friendly to the prostitutes and pimps on the street and lets them cavort at his bar. It’s sort of a guiding principal for the show: Times Square functions as a kind of equalizer, putting everyone — barmen, cops, mob guys, hookers, johns, businessmen, Jerry Van Dyke — on the same plane, even if just for a minute.

Anyway, on to the show.

The Streets
Unlike the first episode, the porn industry really comes into play this week. It’s starting to seep into every corner of the lives of our (anti)heroic pimps and prostitutes. Increasingly, the women are being paid more and more to be filmed during their time with their johns. That, it turns out, is because those johns have their eye on the bigger prize: selling the tape to to the dime-slots at the local sex shops. Some of them even want to sell them as tapes — a.k.a. porn.

Most the pimps and their girls don’t mind, because they charge a little extra for video. But Candy sees the inequity here: They only get paid once upfront, while the people selling and showing the films get paid every time it shows. Shouldn’t the girls get royalties?

So she looks into the world a little deeper when she fills in for a friend on the set of a, um, Viking porno flick. She’s there to act and get cold clam soup thrown on her face, sure, but she’s also there to learn. She takes it all in: the cameras, the lighting, the set design, other things. She even starts asking questions. You can see things moving in her head: She could do this…right?

Elsewhere, C.C. stabs an “undercover cop” who “arrests” Lori. In reality, he’s just some creepy perv who was planning to kidnap her and do who knows what. It’s a small anecdote designed to demonstrate to Lori — and perhaps to viewers — why the pimps’ system was developed in the first place. Someone’s got to protect these girls…right?

The Bar Boys
Vinnie and Frankie are having breakfast with their brother-in-law, a construction foreman named Bobby who’s played by Chris Bauer, an actor’s who’s basically built a career off playing construction foremen. (Fans of the Simon-verse will also know him as The Wire’s Frank Sobotka). Frank is telling him about why he chose working at Mr. Kim’s over the corner bar in Brooklyn. The answer is easy: more independence and, more importantly, much more money now he’s got the bar girls in leotards. That last tidbit excites Bobby a bit, despite the fact that his wife is in the kitchen and doing their dishes as they are talking. Husband of the year!

When Bobby does show up to the bar, Vinnie stumbles upon a new money-making opportunity. Bobby and his men in the construction crew get their paychecks at the end of the day on Fridays, which means they can’t cash them until Monday morning — a huge inconvenience when you want to spend the weekend getting drunk. So, what if there was a service that could cash their checks for them in person every Friday — all for a mere 5 percent cut? That’s the idea that pops into Vinnie’s head, which he pitches to Tommy Longo and his boss, Rudy Pipilo. Rudy doesn’t like the idea — he loves it. And so begins a new partnership, one between a working stiff with a smart mind who just wants to help out his brother and a mob guy who seems like an essentially good fellow but is definitely a dangerous man.

It doesn’t end at their new check-cashing business. Rudy ends up giving Vinnie a whole new assignment in the form of a declining gay bar. Rudy wants to “give” it to Vinnie (again, for a cut). It’s the ultimate dream for Vinnie: build a place up by himself, a bar he can call his own.

As a side note, Rudy and Tommy have a revelatory conversation with Vinnie about the state of Times Square. It’s like water in a puddle right now, not moving at all, says Tommy. “Stagnant,” Rudy clarifies. “We just need to get the water moving.” In other words, it’s time to clean this place up and get all these pimps and prostitutes off the street. It should be a place where a guy and his wife and maybe their kids can go see a show without having to worry about seeing a bl– job in a phone booth.

How’s all that going to happen? Well, Rudy’s got some low-key investments in the area, some “business interests” (such as Vinnie’s new bar). And besides, the cops seem to be doing surprise stings on the pimps and their girls more and more often, making sure the streets are a little less lewd. Could these two events be happening…hand in hand?

Abby

Abby drops out of school, because she’s too smart and cool for your establishment education, man. Find out next week on episode 3 — The Deuce’s thrice!

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