The winds of change can be felt in the penultimate episode of The Deuce’s first season, from the world of law enforcement to that of prostitution. Since the dirty cops on Rudy’s payroll forced the pimps to put their girls into the “massage parlors”, guys like Larry, C.C., and Rodney are going through a collective existential crisis in that they feel lost without being on the street, pushing their product. In C.C.’s own words, the pussy and money remain the same, but the pimp is extraneous. He had so much free time on his hands that he went to see Disney’s Fantasia the other night.
Not that you need feel too bad for these guys; the episode opens with Darondo’s “Didn’t I” playing in C.C.’s car as he drops off Ashley at the parlor, a somewhat melancholy song in which a man is begging his woman not to leave him, citing all the great things he did to take care of her. “Didn’t I treat you right, now? Didn’t I do the best I could? Didn’t I give you everything?” he asks. The track is about the end of a relationship and the desperation of the man just as this episode shows that the pimps are desperate to cling to their power and degradation over the female gender. And many, both men and women, are realizing just how BS a system it is. Ashley (Jamie Neumann) leaves C.C. with the help of Frankie and Abby while Leon, the owner of the diner where the pimps and whores have congregated for the last seven episodes, pops a cap in Reggie Love’s ass for mistreating one of the girls one too many times and not a moment too soon because Reggie was a total prick. The satisfying (and somewhat funny) moment not only closes out the episode on some nice character development for Leon (he’s mostly been ancillary, but we know he’s kind and protective to these women in what is his sanctum), but is a powerful sign of the changing times. The pimps should be shaking in their boots because they are indeed staring down the barrel of obsolescence. Abby is another example of shifting social morays and expectations as she brings Vincent to a party her parents are throwing, wearing a provocative dress just to piss off daddy. She’s got her hair down while every other woman has the uptight beehive hairdo of the ‘60s.
Still, like I said, it isn’t just prostitution that it’s in for a change. Pornography is getting the go-ahead to become more hard core, from the gay political statement Boys in the Sand to the upcoming Deep Throat with Linda Lovelace, which was one of the first adult films to actually have more attention paid towards its plot (a woman with a clitoris in her throat) and production values. Candy is tapping into this, aware that a porno won’t just come together if you put two naked people on a bed together and yell “Action!” More care needs to be put into the venture if you want it to be a believable success and her stepping in to direct, dress the set, and feed the actors on set this week is proof of that. Just an aside that has nothing to do with this line of thought: She replaces the ugly green sheet on the set mattress with a lusty red one, which Harvey refers to as a “red schmatta” (the latter is a Yiddish word for rag that anyone with Jewish grandparents of European descent is used to hearing).
The third pillar on which 1970s New York is built is, of course, law enforcement. Prostitution is dirty, but the cops are arguably dirtier, allowing blind justice to become just that. They’ll become sightless toward the exploitation of the human body for a price. Ralph Macchio is now shaking down the massage parlor and mispronouncing Au Revoir so the episode can help a title that essentially calls this time period a reservoir of bad behavior. But not all of them, mind you. A few are a bit more high-minded and interested in cleaning up the streets instead of leaning on their brooms as the filth accumulates. Enter Captain Peter L. McDonagh (Ed Moran), the 14th Precinct’s new Commanding Officer who recruits Officer Alston to his noble crusade of eradicating corruption. Why Alston (who, by the way, gets lucky with Ms. Washington this week)? Well, it’s because he’s got no rabbi, a piece of police slang I was unaware of until watching this show, but a cool piece of lingo nonetheless. In cop speak, a rabbi is a high-ranking member of the department who serves as a mentor and confidant to a younger officer who, in turn, can use the rabbi to get ahead. McDonagh is looking for a young black officer who hasn’t made rank and Alston fits the bill. I shudder to think what the good captain will do once he finds out his new protégée has been taking graft.
One more episode and we’ll see what happens with all these impending changes. Established institutions are being threatened and there’s no telling what a rabid animal will do once cornered. Tune in next week for the thrilling and groovy conclusion of The Deuce Season 1!
SONG PICKS OF THE WEEK:
- “Didn’t I” — Darondo (No specific release year on this one [although Wikipedia says 1973, which doesn’t jive with the 1971-72 setting of The Deuce], but you can also hear it in the fourth episode of Breaking Bad‘s first season, “Cancer Man”.
- “In The Summertime” — Mungo Jerry (1970)
- “Want Ads” — Honey Cone (1971)