The Deuce: “I See Money” Season 1 Episode 4 Review

Photo Credit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3fko_C017s

Halfway through the season and The Deuce is solidifying itself as a show made up of small moves. As the season moves along, devoid of a true unifying overarching narrative, the series is settling into something that’s always engaging and incrementally rewarding. The biggest challenge moving forward is how the writers will turn that into something sustainable.

“I See Money” is as much about place-setting as the three episodes that came before it. Through Vincent running his bar, we learn what the cops’ involvement in the scene consists of. The point that The Deuce illustrates here is that money was flying every which way. Between the mob, the cops, extra security, and yes, even a “high-stakes” poker game in the back, where money is going is a lot of the focus here, presumably to set up the rules that’ll lead to shifts in power, and those rules being broken.

But even while the show does its homework, it’s still rewarding to see how the huge ensemble converges on this watering hole and bump into each other. From Vincent buying Candy a drink to Darlene showing Abby how to fix her shoes, the surplus of character beats on display in any scene at the crowded Hi-Hat help makes The Deuce, despite all its grit and grim, a bizarrely warm show. Coincidentally, that’s kind of a great metaphor for New York City itself, a character all on its own I’d argue David Simon has had a violent love affair with.

What plot there is in “I See Money” mostly belongs to Candy. What’s become ostensibly clear here is how done she is with being a prostitute, and the men who run New York’s sex work industry. While out during the day, she gets asked out on a date. Hesitant at first, she eventually takes the opportunity to wash away everything complicated about her life and reinvent herself. It sort of immediately dooms any prospect of a stable relationship, but it’s not like Candy was interested in the man anyway. She ends the episode being mocked by most of the male community on the Deuce after resuming her post immediately after getting home from her date. Hopefully the show will move Candy into a new filmmaking career in one of the next couple episodes.

“I See Money” also takes to some time to flesh out Paul, Vincent’s gay bartending buddy. Working uptown in the queer-friendly Hi-Hat, we learn how much he yearns for a spot of his own downtown, presumably near or on Christopher Street, the site of the Stonewall Riots. How Paul’s journey to open a bar mirrors Vincent’s should be fascinating if only because the template for out-in-the-open gay bars was only just starting to be written back in the early ’70s. He’ll face his own unique hurdles when off the Deuce, but watching this likable figure go through them once again points the series in an exciting direction.

So while the fourth episode of The Deuce doesn’t do much that’s really new, it’s continuing to build its world in exciting ways. Many of the characters are still downright lovable, and that’s going a long way. But one has to hope that the series has some more grandiose moves on the way. Luckily, there’s still a whole ‘nother half a season to go. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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