Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Deuce: It's Hard Out There For...Everyone

David Simon gave us The Wire, arguably the greatest television series of our time. In that show, he spent five series painstakingly exploring different aspects of Baltimore, from the drug trade, to the education system, to the police, to observe how all of these areas intersected and led to crime and disenfranchisement. So it makes sense that The Deuce, his series about the seedy Times Square area in 1970s New York that was overrun by prostitutes and porn purveyors, would be a meticulous look at exploitation, corruption, and good old fashioned capitalism.

There are multiple storylines that converge over the course of the first season's eight episodes. We start with the "traditional" pimps and hookers, watching how experienced prostitutes get through their day-to-day existence as well as seeing how the pimps scout girls fresh off the bus at Port Authority who can be lured into their dark line of business. However, we are also introduced to the somewhat unconventional Candy (played to perfection by Maggie Gyllenhaal), an independent hooker who prefers to watch out for herself and keep all her earnings instead of relying on a pimp to handle her finances. Her storyline proves particularly fascinating over the course of the season as we watch her struggle to figure out how she can transition out of her uncertain lifestyle and find a more stable career in the adult movie industry.

Then there's James Franco, playing a double role as Italian twins Vincent and Frankie Martino. Vincent is the most responsible one, trying to run a bar and move on with his life after being tied to an erratic wife for too long. Once he gets financing from the mob, he is able to own his own establishment and make his business dreams come true, but as he quickly discovers, that patronage comes with a price. In the meantime, his much more corruptible brother has no qualms about engaging in all manner of shady deals and helping the mob advance their ambitious agenda to transform the Deuce. We also have the NYPD patrolmen, Chris and Danny. While not particularly corrupt themselves, they take their orders from headquarters, and as they patrol the streets and deal with differing instructions from week to week, we quickly learn how the NYPD might be in cahoots with the mob, and the people on the street are mere pawns in a vast endgame to transform Times Square from a seedy intersection to a booming adult business.

The Deuce unfolds carefully and intriguingly, bringing in a host of characters from all walks of life and demonstrating how they all have their unique part to play in a clever conspiracy of greed. The fate of multiple people hangs in the balance, and it is only as you hurtle towards the first season's climax that you realize just how much they are puppets and the people at the top hold all the strings. Much of this show is dark and brutal: the women aren't treated well, the men are terrible, and just as often the women are terrible to each other and the men try to help. But if you take a step back, you will end up in awe of society's interconnected grand design. Seemingly unrelated spheres of influence can become enmeshed to have a ripple effect through multiple realms and you marvel at the ingenuity of human beings whilst simultaneously bemoaning the many ways in which they use their power for greed, instead of good.

No comments:

Post a Comment