Bitch, and ye shall receive: Where Luck’s pilot lacked astoundingly in character development, the following episode compensated by cutting the horseshit—except for one (amazing) scene.
The episode opens with Ace (Dustin Hoffman) bristling at his new reality in which he must micturate (take that, van Alden!) into a cup in the presence of a familiar-looking, jowly black gentleman. His “shy kidneys,” as Mr. Jowls puts it, remind us that Ace, despite his name and jail time, is only half a criminal. This split presents a conflict that could blossom into a compelling character arc (à la Nucky Thompson), or the show makers could just leave us twisting in the wind.
Meanwhile, behind Door #2, Lucky Jerry is losing his shirt to an obnoxious Texas Hold ‘Em player named Lester (who is tragically not Lester Freamon), and we’re shown why Cool-Guy Jerry hangs out with losers like Renzo, Lonnie (oh boy, is Lonnie a loser!) and Papa LaBeouf. That is, he just won this wad of cash, and the first thing he can think to do is blow it playing poker. His strongly implied gambling addiction has thus far been his destruction. It could end up being his financial salvation, too, but I wouldn’t bet on it. This is HBO, after all.
Lonnie and Renzo are also blowing through their cash in ways deemed unacceptable by Papa LaBeouf (Marcus), who is treating their miraculous pick-six win like the Lufthansa heist in Goodfellas. Renzo plans to fidget his way through horse ownership, which he fails to achieve because he loses out to Garth Brooks (or something). Lonnie, on the other hand, plumbs the depths of his tremendous stupidity by changing his wardrobe and elevating his vocabulary to suit his newfound wealth. His inflated confidence and arrogance nearly lead to his demise, as he is taken in by a pair of cougars (well, they would be cougars if Lonnie were younger) who he thinks are interested in his penis. In fact, they are interested in killing him, but not before a truly disturbing, truncated sex scene in which Cougar #1 says she’s going to take out her bridge and describes Barack Obama as “our lying Muslim president from Kenya” for no apparent reason.
The third and most likable plotline involves the even-sexier Rosie and her desire to be more than just exercise girl-and-trainer with Walter. Even though she decimated the field on Walter’s top horse during practice, Lou Brown Walter tells Rick Vaughn Rosie that she’s too unseasoned to start the tiebreaker game against the Yankees begin her jockeying career at Santa Anita. Ultimately, all the Irish accents in the world can’t convince Walter that she’s ready, and he decides to send her off to an agent at a lesser track.
This episode marks a considerable improvement from the pilot, but it still lacks a strong sense of cohesion and direction. The main character, Ace, is embroiled in what remains a convoluted criminal enterprise with The Greek and various other interested parties. A good show doesn’t spoon-feed its viewers, but it does show them where the food is.
Character Power Rankings
1. Rosie – Up 3
What can I say? I’m biased, and she’s taken a strong Maggie Fitzgerald turn. Let’s hope Walter doesn’t euthanize her.
2. Chester “Ace” Bernstein – No change
He’s become more developed, but he hasn’t become appreciably more interesting or compelling. He remains old Dustin Hoffman, not Ace Bernstein.
3. Jerry – No change
Jerry ends up showing the mouthy Lester off by winning a $25k hand of Hold ‘Em. He is also immune to Marcus’ fretting over wild spending, which means the other characters hold him in high regard.
4. Walter Smith – Up 1
He won’t let Maggie Rosie race at the top levels, but he still so gruff and likable.
5. Gus “The Greek” Demitriou – Down 4
His time at the top was brief, but that’s unsurprising. He simply is not a large enough character at the moment to warrant top seeding.
6. Renzo – Up 1
He wants to buy a horse for his friends, and he doesn’t become a colossal dipshit like Lonnie. Both of these play in his favor.
7. Joey Rathburn – Up 2
He’s less irritated than in the previous episode, and he plans to help Rosie land a jockeying gig somewhere, although it seems more likely that Rosie will land at the top levels through a magnificent plot twist.
8. Turo Escalante – No change
Leon’s role in minimized in this episode, so he’s not as harsh a character. That said, he’s still a pretty unpleasant customer.
9. Marcus – Down 2
Methinks the gentlemen doth protest too much. Seriously, Marcus should change his name to Buzz Killington (or Papa LaBeouf!). He and his minions won the money legitimately, so his desired level of secrecy is just overkill.
10. Lonnie – Down 3
He’s just dumb. Super super dumb. His idiocy may have ended up killing him, and it wouldn’t be that much of a loss.