As Ace continues to exist in the background of the show discussing macro economic issues and things like derivatives, which make me feel like Leon in the steam room, the worlds of our other characters began to orbit closer to one another. The Four Musketeers/Amigos, who are truly like a dysfunctional but terribly close family (Marcus as the stern father, Renzo as the sympathetic mother, Jerry as the promising eldest son with a rogue streak, and Lonnie as the crazy uncle) have found a way to purchase their horse away from The Cowboy, and have even gotten Escalante, who knows the horse's potential, to train him. Now these bystanders, who have always profited from the sidelines, are completely immersed in the racing itself. Good luck, gentlemen. I'm sure it'll be anything but a smooth ride.
Aside from racing silks (and barn names), the foursome will be tasked soon enough with choosing a jockey. Of the three we've met, I can safely say that "jockey" is not an occupation any kid is going to want to put down as their chosen profession these days. Rosie, though talented, is unfortunately female, and gets unceremoniously dumped by Walter last week and shipped up to Portland. Because his chosen jockey Ronnie is injured (again - "I break this damn collarbone more than I get laid!"), Walter considers calling for Rosie to come back, but is crippled by his desire for her to do well for herself, something that is clearly not as likely to happen at Santa Anita, despite the chance to ride Getting Up Morning (a.k.a. Son of Delphi). In the next hospital suite over from Ronnie is Leon, who fainted in the steam room not as a delicate Victorian lady might (onto a couch or, better yet, a man), but onto slippery tiles with a sickening "squick!" of fractured skull. Delightful. The reason for Leon's fainting, though not made abundantly clear, is due to his starving himself to make weight. The lighter the jockey, the faster the horse can go. The issue, though side-eyed by the doctor, is treated as a normal peril of jockeying, and Leon is quickly cleared to ride again.
No one has it easy at the track, least of all the horses. A story came out last week about HBO's cagey response to two horses that have died on the set of the show. Though the AHA, who oversees animal welfare in productions (they are the ones who give the "no animals were harmed in the making of this ..." stamp of approval), has denied that the horses were mistreated, PETA is looking for answers. As a reader pointed out last week, horses can be irreparably damaged from a life of racing. At high speeds, a horses' stomach crushes up against its lungs, which can cause hemorrhaging. The fact that the show employs ex-racehorses is both noble and bound to have medical complications. As Escalante mentions in his breakdown of cost to the Four Musketeers, "$125 for acupuncture, and he's going to need acupuncture. If you knew what his legs felt like after a race you would be begging for it all day every day." Lovely.
As I pointed out in previous weeks, there are many occasions during "Luck" where horses are marginalized to something mechanical rather than animal. But I thought it was a lovely moment last night when, after Escalante's diatribe, Renzo asks if he can just pet the horse. Escalante melts a little, even handing each man a carrot to give to their new horse, watching in a way that awakened in him perhaps some reminder of why he started out as a trainer to begin with.
There were some strange interpersonal interactions that took place ("Neighborhood Watch, somebody has been observed not getting laid!"), including Ace's sizing up and training up of the young man from his company who talks too much and lacks charm. Ace and Gus attempt to educate him in the ways of personnel, but his mixture of insecurity, confusion and arrogance leave him mostly befuddled.
A tangent regarding those scenes — for such a serious show, "Luck" employs some camera techniques that have become common in comedies; most particularly I mean the quick zoom. In the boardroom, for instance, during the awkward pause following the question "I suppose we want to get attention?" the camera zoomed in comically on a few of the other men's shifted-eyed expressions. The same technique was used several times during conversational pauses in a way that reminded me of both "Arrested Development" and "Modern Family." It's a weird documentary touch that wakes the viewer up out of the fictional world to consider "oh, I'm watching a TV show." Is "Luck" attempting some kind of documentary feel? It seems ill advised. The shaky-cam has its place for depicting realism, as "Friday Night Lights" has showed (although even that show overused it to the point of sea sickness at times), but for a show that is as heavy as "Luck," I'm not sure it's well employed here.
Despite my love of horses and respect for David Milch, this was the first episode that made me want to go ahead and watch the next one right away. "Luck" seems to be finding itself and becoming more engaging, which I think will be increased further if and when we see the return of Rosie, my bet for "underdog of the show" that we will all be cheering for by the end.
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Business advice from Ace Bernstein: Never answer a question with a question!
— Escalante and Jo? I didn't see that coming. And it was so realistically awkward!
— Nice little cameo from Joan Allen as Clare LeShay, who stalks down Ace on behalf of a nonprofit. From Ace's last mumbling words it seems that she will be back.
— I also loved the little moments with Bill Plascke, sports columnist for the LA Times and a familiar face to anyone who watches ESPN's "Around the Horn." I like that they never mentioned him by name - cool little insider moment.
— The Cowboy: "You ain't gonna flunk him just 'cause I was a half way fresh?" Jo: "No. That would make us both unprofessional assholes."
— I envy Ace - I wish my building closed the gym for me!
— "Put this on your To Do List: go fuck yourself" - Jo
— One day I hope someone will ask me what I've done for the last 24 hours and give me one million dollars for it.
— Do right-hand men of criminals dream of horses? Yes.
— I only had to run the DVD back during three scenes this week to understand what was being said. I yearn for the days when actors came from the stage and loudly enunciated their lines!
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