Monday, February 20, 2012

The Televangelist: 'Luck,' Season 1, Episode 4

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 9:36 AM

Seriously, if ONE more person tells me Im fat ...
  • HBO
  • Seriously, if ONE more person tells me I'm fat ...

Perhaps the best episode of "Luck" yet, Episode Four focused on several stories of talent that could all be brought down through one fatal flaw. It was engaging and heartbreaking and complex. But most importantly, we saw Rosie topless.

Rosie is, in fact, the only character in "Luck" currently on the upswing. Returning to ride Getting Up Morning to a stunning victory, the beauty of which left me close to tears, Rosie's fortunes appear on the rise. Getting Up Morning's journey - from the botched gate start to the fantastic ride that not only caught up with the pack but lead him to surpass them - was one that would have made most viewers look around achingly for an oxygen tank. "Luck" has proven that nothing can be taken for granted - fortune rules all. Sometimes a couple of guys will actually win a Pick Six, and sometimes a promising racehorse will snap a leg and be put down on the track. Fate is little more than a coin flip. So as Getting Up Morning began his drive to win, one couldn't help but feel a sense of foreboding. His nostrils did look awfully red ...

The looks on the faces of even the most hardened of racegoers during his run told the story - this horse is something special. The beauty of his ride was captured perfectly with a myriad of slow motion shots at all angles, set to a score in full crescendo, as if we were being guided by a passionate curator, "look! Behold! The grace and beauty of this magnificent creature!" Was Walter the only one to wipe away a tear? If I'm going to be obviously emotionally manipulated by a show, let it always be so glory-filled as that. There is a reason why a horse was the subject matter for what would be the creation of motion pictures.

It wasn't all rosy for Getting Up Morning, (you see what I did there?) of course, as Walter stealthily wiped his bloody nose after the race. Horses noses bleed, it's not particularly uncommon, but with racehorses it can suggest anything from an infection to hemorrhaging blood back into the horse's lungs that, critically and coldly put, slow them down. After Jo's reassurance (about which she kept mum to Escalante, her unexpected lover), Walter felt free to invoke the Ghost of Delphi as he emoted over his love for the horse and the horse's Heir Apparent. Getting Up Morning appears to be a the kind of animal who genuinely adores the game of racing, and Walter, with his true passion for horses, his kindred spirit.

But as Getting Up Morning's Achilles Heel is uncovered, so too are those of Leon and Jerry. My friend Chandler said of Jerry, "I want to love the guy, but I just know he's going to break my heart." That's Jerry in a nutshell. The madcap adventures of the Four Amigos could be tedious or too close to parody, but in last night's episode they relied on their quirky family dynamic more than ever to keep the pack together, something that is both entertaining and resonating. At one point, Lenny even suggests that he could put his winnings back into the pool to help fund Jerry's gambling, which Marcus quickly shoots down. "You don't make him whole by giving him money." Jerry is absolutely going off the deep end in his poker feud, and only after Marcus brilliantly fakes ER-worthy symptoms are Lenny and Renzo able to convince him to snap out of it and refocus on what's important. As the three worried men later grilled their dinner and wondered if Jerry was at risk because his bathroom had a window, Marcus reminds them "he's not a prisoner!" No, not technically. But he is sheltered and protected, to a certain degree, by the bonds of his friends.

Leon, on the other hand, isn't so lucky. Despite having a relationship with Rosie (a definite plus!), his recovery from starvation-induced illness has been met with disapproval from Escalante and Joey, both of whom comment on his weight gain. Is it any wonder Ronnie takes to the bottle like he does? Leon is having to run the city in a trash bag to try and drop weight because some fat men tell him he's too fat. But the reality is that he has to make weight or he doesn't have a job. He can't contend with the height of his frame, so his only hope is to take as much off of it as he possibly can. Meanwhile, a belligerent Ronnie is at the lowest point of any character, turning to drink and drugs with abandon. I was happy that Rosie got to ride Getting Up Morning, but I do hope for some kind of redemption for Ronnie even though his current trajectory seems bound only for tragedy.

Miles from the track, we have Ace, whose world seems entirely disconnected from that at Santa Anita. I'll admit that I don't fully understand the game he's playing with Patrick Bateman Junior (as a spy for Mike?) but despite the story seeming to be in its own orbit (I have little doubt it will eventually more obviously connect) it's entertaining as heck to watch. Ace appears to like being in control, but also appears to be veritably shaking with inner rage at almost every turn. When that anger does burst forth, it has spectacular effects. Mike (Michael Gambon, a.k.a. Dumbledore) is everything Ace is not. Lavish, unrepentant, cavalier and verbose, he's the sort of blindingly rich, English-accented charmer one has come to expect as a villain these days. But would we want anything less? Ace may not yet be our outright hero, but Mike is definitely setting up to be that deliciously malevolent mustache-twirler we love to hate.

Ace is on a vigilante revenge plot against Mike that is unfolding slowly and deliberately, but to rush it would be to extinguish the incredible tension that Ace carries around with him at all times. Yet as a strange kind of harmony to this we have Clare LeShay, who Ace appears to, quite surprisingly, have a bit of a crush on. Though he realistically laments to Gus that "attraction it out of the cards" for him, presumably given his age (although that has never stopped anybody else), he wants to give her the money she needs and help her as his outlet of affection. Before he and Gus slip away into slumber for the evening, Ace looks near the verge of tears. Have we seen a glimmer of his heart? Is he lonely out on the proverbial prairie with only his trustee sidekick Tonto for company?

I'll admit to being skeptical in the first few episodes about whether the show would take off emotionally, but Episode Four absolutely assuaged any doubts still lingering like the eyes of Naomi the card dealer on Jerry's face. We worry about what may come next, but we also can't wait to find out.

Musings and Miscellanea:

— I still hate the title sequence. The song is fine on its own, but I just can't stand it in this context. Convince me I'm wrong!

— "Both hands on the wheel, girl! For Christ damn sake" - Walter.

— Shout out to my friend Betsy this week who pointed out, via Twitter, "I don't know what would get something an Oscar in Sound Mixing, but Luck certainly doesn't have it." Couldn't agree more. I thought it was just my screener discs (which are sometimes rough cuts), but I'm disappointed to know those kinds of bugs made it to air. Unfortunate.

— I loved seeing Rosie in the empty women's locker room with her mute valet. It clearly meant so much to her as a woman and a professional.

— Ace and Gus are my new favorite bromance.

— "That's an 8th grade asshole observation" - Ace

— I also like the little moment of Rosie and Leon rewatching the race on Leon's laptop. For a show that seems kind of timeless, it was a nice little nod to modernity.

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