The Deuce (S02E02) “There’s an Art to This”
“There’s an Art to This” has character development but less action than the season 2 premiere of The Deuce, focusing on characters building upon hard work as they strive to make their dreams come true.
Spoilers abound, so be sure you’ve watched the episode before reading further!
Eileen (Maggie Gyllenhaal) meets trailblazing female director Genevieve Fury (Dagmara Domincyzk) who advises her how to make her adult Red Riding Hood film. Fury overcame the male-dominated film industry, achieving modest success. She shares tips and knowledge earned painfully with Eileen, from funding to hiring crew.
Larry hopes to break into porn himself as an actor or producer but his inability to give up control makes that dream hard to achieve. He can’t take direction, won’t work at others’ schedules and refuses to relax control.
Best Supporting Actress nominee
Lori is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award from the Adult Film Association of America, (AFFA) essentially the Porn Oscars. C.C.’s only interest is in making money so he resists her wanting to go to the Los Angeles award ceremony. Lori is awed and dreams of becoming a serious actress.
After Lori meets with agent Kiki Rains (Alycia Reiner) Kiki offers to help her but points out that C.C. will bring Lori down, inevitably. Will Kiki turn out to be a pimp of a different sort, polished, connected but still keeping Lori under her thumb? Lori’s story leads to finally leaving C.C. this season, I hope, so we’ll see the agent again I feel certain.
Abby and Vincent try to recapture the magic of their early relationship as Vincent takes her to Coney Island. They spend too much time working or on other interests. For Abby, helping other women like the striking strippers from “Our Raison d’Etre” is what makes her happy. Cleaning up after errant twin Frankie keeps Vincent busy all the time.
Vince and Abby’s trip around the important places of Vinnie’s life is tense. They want to be together but the age gap and different interests get in the way. Abby leaves for a secret women’s meeting instead of going to dinner with Vincent. Her season one fascination with Vinnie has aged out, killed by routine and bridging their many gaps.
Abby and Vinnie keeping big secrets from each other reinforces the fragility of their relationship. One person keeping big secrets from a partners weaken the partnership inevitably.
Change is in the air
Change hits all the characters hard in The Deuce circa 1977. Young women like Brenda Peterson (Kyra Adams) go to New York specifically to work in porn films now. She meets C.C. at the bus station but rejects his spiel outright.
Brenda is far from the young women who ended up in New York in season 1, star-struck and naive, easy pickings for pimps like Carry and C.C. She already has an appointment at the Gotham Agency for Modeling and Filming, knows her career path and goals. Unlike Lori, Brenda is no sucker and not about to get enslaved to a pimp. She won’t fuck on film as a gateway to getting better parts. Brenda is a realist but she still wants to be part of porn.
Clutching the ladder
Established porn actors like Lori now feel the newcomers nipping at their heels. Lori’s hard work and success have helped others enter the industry, women who have the potential to surpass her. Lori is unnerved seeing the newbies on set but feels reassured when she is nominated for an AFFA award as Best Supporting Actress. She is ambitious and hungry for greater successes. Lori is no longer “This Year’s Girl” but she wants to climb higher. Can Lori be successful with C.C.’s toxic control and bad decisions alienating the porn industry and possible mentors?
Wolves and other predators
Characters who are used to being in charge and holding power are challenged constantly. Their world order is changing forever but power slips through their grasp. Larry and C.C. are confronted daily in small ways by the women in their control, the film producers and the mob. Vincent is no longer indispensable since Frankie and Paul are also run successful businesses for the Gambino family.
Porn is all about the business
Porn is more business than show now with awards ceremonies, standards within the industry plus more sex businesses in The Deuce. One peep show operator removed the Plexiglass from his peep booths, charging $1 a feel. He, not Vincent and Frankie, is getting the bulk of the afternoon traffic just by removing a pane of plastic. Every operator tried new tricks to grab a larger market share of the business.
Freedom may cost Paul too much
Paul’s dream is a Nick and Nora Charles type supper club but he is caught between the Pipilo (Michael Rispoli) faction and rivals. After a beating outside his club, Paul pays paying double protection to the mob. He wants his new club to be free of mob money and ties, but going solo is higher risk. Angering his former mob patrons from 2 families is outright dangerous. Paul may be “free” this season, but that freedom will likely cost him more than he is willing to pay.
Predators find easy victims
More predators than ever before exist now in The Deuce as the symbolism of Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf get several nods in “There’s an Art to This” A few characters remain clueless or have just given up altogether.
Bobby (Chris Bauer) has a secret second family now while ignoring his first family most of the time. Bobby’s focus is Bobby and his second family, so he misses power plays all around him. Bobby pays for his oblivion as season 2 continues.
Shay (Kim Director) remains strung out or coming down in both episodes this season. Heroin is her chief coping tool despite Irene’s (Andrea Martino) attempts to help her.
Ashley advocates for sex workers and is based on the West Coast. After her season 1 escape from C.C. with Abby’s help, the two reunite at a women’s group. Abby breaks off her date with Vincent to meet Ashley and her women’s group. Ashley’s dream is helping prostitutes escape to better lives with resources and her support. Ashley’s return to The Deuce shows us how lucky few characters get their dream. She will have to avoid C.C. and the other pimps who would tell him she is back in The Deuce.
Change everywhere, power shifting, new opportunities for a few characters all show how the porn industry nears the end of the boom days in New York. How long before boom turns to bust and the industry moves to the West Coast and Sunny L.A.?