The Deuce: “My Name is Ruby” Season 1 Finale Review

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“It’s the Deuce,” Vincent says to a shaken Abby after the grime and grit of 1970s New York takes its latest casualty. The Deuce hasn’t necessarily been touting Vincent as its hero over the past seven episodes, but his heart is definitely more in the right place than a lot of the other men running the area. This line, however, coming at the very end of the season, signifies just how complacent Vincent is with the way things are. He may not like the sex industry, but he’s not actively fighting it either, and when something violent happens to one of their own, he shrugs it off. It’s normal to him. But it’s not normal to Abby. It shouldn’t be normal to anyone.

After business slows in her private room, Ruby makes her way back to the streets in the finale, but she’s one of the only people out there at this point. The industry went and changed right under her nose, and she might not have noticed. It’s never illustrated more plainly than when Eileen calls out from her cab window upon passing Ruby by happenstance, on her way to the red carpet premiere of Deep Throat. She’s looking at the life she left behind, and an old friend still living it, but she rides on to go mingle with the stars her industry is making. And so, Ruby is murdered, and with all eyes elsewhere, I’m not sure there’s anyone who, in their present mind, had a chance to stop it. She’s murdered trying to preserve her dignity, just as all these characters have been trying to do all season, right up to the closing credits of this beautiful, arresting episode.

Veteran TV director Michelle MacLaren—seriously, every TV fan should know her name; she’s directed 11 Breaking Bad episodes, four for Game of Thrones, and one each for Better Call Saul and The Leftovers—returns to The Deuce after the pilot to helm “My Name is Ruby,” which makes for a stirring thematic conclusion. Her view helped shape the series, and here she is revisiting the characters after so much has changed. She shadows Vincent’s face through most of the episode, as he bounces from his darker sensibilities to trying to do the right thing. Not even Vincent knows where he’ll land. Rudy says he’ll come around, and by the way he beats his ex-wife’s assaulter, with mob backup at his side, he’s not leaving the business anytime soon.

As for Eileen, MacLaren gives her all the light in the world, whether on set, sticking her head out the cab window, or engaging with industry folk at the premiere. With Harvey forced to miss a day after some car trouble, Eileen takes the moment to rise up and direct everyone on set. This self-promotion most certainly won’t be permanent, but having Harvey see how good she is with the actors, Darlene joining them this week, Eileen’s path is becoming clearer and cleaner.

She’s not the only one. C.C. and Chris both get a peak of what their futures could look like. For C.C., it takes running into an old mentor and former pimp. After a warm conversation at the bar, the older man walks off with a woman who appears actually happy to see him, something none of the pimps on the show have really gotten. With his “career” diminishing as the industry changes, it might just be time for him to settle down. For Chris, who’s seen talking to Sandra by both his partner and new captain, becoming a detective could be in the cards if he “keeps the dirt in-house,” as his captain puts it. This prospect ensures that Sandra’s story won’t spark any real change on the Deuce, but he could graduate from his beat, if the captain is to be trusted.

Sadly, we’ll have to wait for next season to find out where all these different faces affected by the industry might be going. But The Deuce still managed to make a powerful statement with its first finale by abruptly and cruelly wiping one of those faces off of the Earth. And that’s the Deuce, as Vincent puts it. But it won’t be forever. Big premieres like Deep Throat aren’t the norm for the porn industry now. For all the change that happened over season one, there’s still so much more to explore. Where The Deuce found the most success is creating lovable characters to ride the wave of change with. The wait to see more of Eileen, Vincent, Frankie, Abby, Paul, Darlene, C.C., Chris, Sandra, and countless others is going to be a brutal one, as the show has fully realized them. And we’ll remember the part the show has them play in shaping the world going forward. Ruby’s too. Finale Grade: A / Season Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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