The Deuce - The Final Season Review
David "The Wire" Simon's decades-spanning exploration of the birth of the porn industry in New York comes to its natural end.There are few writers out there who could put together a character-driven look at the early days of porn in NYC, tie it into the Taxi Driver-esque horrors of pimp-enslaved prostitution back in the 70s, and fashion pornography as almost a way of taking back control for the vulnerable streetworkers being exploited out there. But if anybody was going to do it, it had to be David Simon, who took audiences on an epic voyage through the crime, drug trade, law enforcement and bureaucracy of Baltimore and - in one memorable arc - took the similar topic of drugs and put forward a heavy argument for legalisation. Of course, as with The Wire, Simon never paints anything that clear-cut, and his lows and highs and lows pattern continues here with The Deuce.
As with The Wire, Simon never paints anything clear-cut
After a '71-set first season painting the horrific situation some of these prostitutes are in - stuck between abusive pimps and violent tricks - whilst hinting that the emerging porn industry may be a potential way out, the '77-set second season continued and almost satisfactorily concluded the escape plan, seeing a few former prostitutes finally break free of their prior lives, with one even becoming a successful adult film director with a genuine vision. Of course life - and real history - seldom provides those kind of happy endings, with the third season jumping forward to a New Year and new decade, ushering in 1985 with the death of professional porn, the birth of amateur porn, the proliferation of cocaine, and the scare of AIDs.
The Deuce enters its final season signalling doom for just everybody involved. We've seen Maggie Gyllenhaal's Eileen go from vicious tricks to pioneering director, but the porn industry has evolved and she's struggling with the rough amateur scene that has become so popular, refusing to go 'backwards' when she feels she's so close to making something approaching art. Emily Meade's Lori has similarly gone from an even worse situation - under the strict hand of Gary Carr's volatile pimp - to being a bona fide porn star with a mainstream contract at the same studio that Traci Lords worked for, but cocaine has the best of her now, and she's all set to diva herself into oblivion, with her new 'premium' contract calling upon her to do increasingly extreme things just to keep her in the game.
James Franco's beleaguered bartender Vincent, having expanded his mob-backed operations in bars and clubs, is also struggling as the NYPD crack down on the proliferation of cocaine, also torn between the increasing chasm between him and his activist girlfriend (Margarita Levieva), and the increasing closeness he has with his estranged wife (Zoe Kazan). His twin brother Frankie, who spent the last couple of seasons being a degenerate gambler, appears to be somewhat ironically moving with the changes more easily, going straight into the amateur porn industry with gusto, but neither brother has a bright future ahead of them, with their mob backing now coming via John Gotti, who wants to see more profit, or else.
Meanwhile Lawrence Gilliard's Police Sergeant, now teamed up with fellow The Wire veteran Domenick Lombardozzi, is hoping to clean up the streets. And Chris Bauer's (also in The Wire) brothel-runner, Bobby, and Chris Coy's (from David Simon's Treme) gay theatre owner, Paul, both have their own concerns, with the AIDs epidemic affecting both of their lives.
There are also some familiar faces amidst the additions this season, including House of Cards' Corey Stoll and Long Kiss Goodnight's David Morse, who just so happens to be another David Simon vet, this time from Treme. It's an excellent cast, although Gyllenhaal and Franco pretty-much carry the whole thing, with everybody else a perfectly-chosen addition to their heavy lifting.
Obviously, it's not The Wire, but nothing since that Simon has done has matched up to that piece of genius, and if you want quality drama, he's one of the best writers in the business
Considering the controversial subject-matter - how often do we get a high quality, script-and-character-driven production, which maintains a high standard for 3 seasons to come to a natural pre-planned end, all based on the porn industry? - David Simon has done another impressive job putting together strong adult programming for HBO. Obviously, it's not The Wire, but nothing since that Simon has done has matched up to that piece of genius, and if you want quality drama, he's one of the best writers in the business. If you've watched the first two seasons of The Deuce, then this is a must-see, and with Sky/NowTV also putting up the box set for the last season, there's time for a catch-up too. It's not an easy watch, or a conventional one, but it is recommended.
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