Oh the mid-season stretch, with its desire to slow things down and focus on narrative or emotional building blocks. If someone asked you what happened last night on "Luck," what really is there to say? The drama was muted (save for yet another heart-pounding race), and beyond that the focus was on friendship and male bonds, with a few other stray relationships thrown in for kicks. But was it not riveting all the same?
Ace's planetary orbit is finally starting to rotate closer to the rest of the story as well, with Pint of Plain's first race (a possible faux race, but Ace knows the tricks of the track and doesn't let Escalante run a scam with his horse). Because of Ace's insistence on a top jockey, he pays Escalante to pay Joey to pay Leon what Joey called a "retainer" (but that Ronnie rightly terms a "kiss off") not to ride. And so the ripples in the pond begin to expand. Tangential to this we see Joey's breakdown in a series of voicemail calls to his (Ex? Estranged?) wife. Joey is a man down on his luck because his "talent" is going off the rails (other than Rosie, of whom we got a quick shot to recall her existence during Pint of Plain's paddock warm up). Ronnie is shooting pool to distract himself from drinking, though we see him later drunk at the track. Leon is still recovering from his falls — off of a horse and off of a steam room bench — and has not yet gained the confidence of the trainers, whether because of his natural gabbiness or his unstable emotional and physical health. Either way, Joey is at a loss both in how to better manage his troublesome clients and also with what that means for himself and his future. If you manage men who can't make anything of themselves, what does that say about you?
Elsewhere, the Four Amigos continue to be a warm, light-hearted joy on the side of such heavy offerings. Their buddy system is a rather inspiring portrait of friendship. The latest display began when their quasi-friend Cagle came to them for money, after having been fired from his security job for loan sharking. "Where is the justice in that?" Marcus sarcastically comments. While Marcus brushes him off, Jerry acquiesces to a lunch with a guy who admits to having shat in the streets (don't be so down on yourself, Cagle - that kind of behavior can apparently get you an Academy Award nomination for writing!)
Jerry, knowing what it's like to be down on one's luck, gives him $1,000 to get on with his life. Marcus scoffs at the gesture to such a degree that as he cough worsens, Jerry tells Renzo and Lonnie to take him to the doctor. They do, of course, even going so far as to partially dress him with a tenderness and care of something stronger than friends - family? Later, on valium, Marcus decides he is queer for Jerry, which Jerry handles with exceptional grace, explaining to Marcus that this is actually just what good friendship is, something that Marcus has never experienced or known about before. And like all good friends, Renzo and Lonnie are listening in to every word in the other room, not wanting to be left out. Their reactions to the information isn't sophomoric or even joking, it's just a little confusion and then acceptance, followed by dinner.
I know that the word "bromance" is one that should rightfully be stricken from our lexicon. After all, why do we need to create a verbal heterosexual shield around two men who are close friends without having sexual components to the relationship? But having said that ... I really dig the Ace / Gus "bromance." The conversation that those two shared about Clare LeShay (wondering why she didn't turn up) was, in spirit, exactly the same as innumerable conversations I've had with girlfriends over "why didn't he call?" It was so perfect, with Ace grumbling that he suspects she has emotional problems, while Gus postulates perhaps she was in traffic or in an accident or lost her phone. Ace even works out some of his strategy with Gus, "I think I'll ask her to the race," which he follows through with later when Clare does appear. Despite her hesitation, she later accepts. What is interesting about Ace's approach is that he's not a smooth-talker or a charmer, he's very direct and matter of fact. But there's something about him that is sincere, and hints at a very deep vulnerability. I found myself nervous to see Clare's response to his overture, and then enjoyed watching their chaste courtship at the race, including afterwards when Ace asks Gus to take Clare home so he could sleep next to his horse. Personally, if I was going to get thrown over for a horse, that may have been the only situation in which it would be ok.
We've seen the bonds between man and horse in weeks past, with Walter and Getting Up Morning (a shade of, one presumes, Walter and Delphi), and even Escalante showing favoritism for certain mounts. But in the end we are always reminded that it is business before all else at the track. This week Pint of Plain had the misfortune of being sliced by the rogue shoe of the horse in front, though it appeared to be but a flesh wound, and PoP went on the ride to victory with too much consequence - thankfully.
Every race seen in "Luck" gives me heart palpitations. Every race is tinged with danger and the possibility of something deadly serious happening to horse or rider or both. From the safe distance of the stands or our TVs, we can remove ourselves from the rollicking ride and focus on just our interests - where is the horse we want to win? Why isn't he in first? Why isn't he being taken on the outside? The frightening and exhilarating camera views from the jockey's (and sometimes horse's!) perspective are illuminating, and seriously raise the emotional stakes. When you watch, say, NFL football from your bird's eye view, it's easy to see that there was, in fact, a receiver open down field, or that the Quarterback could have done a short pass to that Tight End. But when you are in the seat of that Quarterback, with mere seconds (if that) to make a momentous decision while a gang of three hundred pound guys come hurdling at you wanting to bury you in the turf, what you see and how you respond become extraordinarily different.
In the end this was an interesting episode because it wasn't a "building block" kind of narrative, which we've had a lot of in recent weeks just to establish the world of the show. Rather, it was one that focused on relationships without actually furthering them in a palpable way. Jerry and Marcus and the rest of Foray Farms are friends - deep, good friends - and always will be. The same is true of Ace and Gus. The romantic relationships will come and go, but maybe what we should take from this is one other kind of friendship - that between man and beast. Perhaps it's all summed up in that moment when the doctor asked Marcus if he had anyone to talk to about what he's going through, and he responded honestly, "I have a horse."
Musings and Miscellanea:
— "If you can't advance a conversation, you aren't required to speak." - Ace
— So Marcus has been bound in a wheelchair since age 11 when he fell out of a tree. It's in those kind of small details that we begin to really know these characters, which I love. It's delayed exposition.
— We had had a little time off from shadiness at the track, so I was glad to see another reference to something like a fake booking / scratch where someone like Escalante could profit from "helping out" the track with a false name (even though the intention was to run him one way or another).
— I loved the fight between Jo and Escalante where he kept referring to her as Judge Judy until she corrected him that "that guy who is not a doctor but says he'll solve all of your problems" is actually Dr. Phil.
— "I guess you've been getting my checks because I haven't heard your dulcet tones screaming your as off at me" - Joey. This rant made me think a lot about the dialogue in "Deadwood," using a word like "dulcet" and juxtaposing it with the profane.
— How cute was Ace sleeping in the barn?
The Cheetah (and Pink Pony and Gold Club back in the day ), together with…
@ Socialized risk, privatized gains "Friends in Cobb have told me that the stadium site…
Can someone, anyone, please point me to where by act of legislature Atlanta HAD to…
Dave: I believe people who have a mental history should not be able to purchase…
Jeezus. I am starting to rethink the family trips to Zaxbys. I wonder how much…
Eighty baseball games, forty-one hockey games... this mayor sure knows how to bring activity to…