One strongly recurring theme (or a constant — after all, I haven’t seen every series yet) of characters in HBO shows is that their character arcs have downward trajectories. They enter the series (speaking in sweeping generalizations now) largely unencumbered by life-altering problems, and, as the series progresses, that changes. In shows like this, there are few stories of redemption where a character’s lot improves from where he was at the beginning (notable exception: Bubbles on The Wire). So it comes as no surprise that this is happening to the characters in Luck.
Cool-guy/degenerate gambler Jerry is (pretty predictably) the latest victim of HBOitis. He’s back with Lester, who is Hannibal Lectering him out of his duffel bag of money at the poker table. When he moves to Lester’s restaurant in Chinatown for a real game, Jerry continues to fall deeper and deeper down his rabbit hole. This is necessary for the world that David Milch and Michael Mann have created for Luck. It is one where no one worth a damn would exist, at least not as a spectator. Jerry needs the greatest flaw because he’s too intelligent and charming to stay at the bottom.
Surprisingly, Marcus, Renzo and Lonnie push aside this gloom and doom for a brief, spectacular moment to rescue Jerry from his addiction. This display of friendship is unusual because the other characters seem completely devoid of affection for each other. These four men, despite their collective ineptitude and general unpleasantness, are a family. They’re all they’ve got, and that’s at once depressing and reassuring against the bleak landscape of Luck.
The other constant of HBO series is that main female cast members shall appear topless. It’s all but a commandment. You know, sort of just for shits. In this case, after Rosie’s triumphant return and thrilling victory on Walter’s horse (featuring ludicrous camera angles), she has a Cajun connection with Leon the jockey. Even if Leon can’t make weight or never rides a horse again, he’s got to be pretty pleased with himself. But the point, if there is a point, is that HBO routinely marks its territory with the breasts of its main characters.
HBO trends aside, Ace continues his undetermined machinations in the underworld with the help of Dennis Farina and the Boy Wonder. This time he plots his dastardly scheme with the help of a particularly sleazy Michael Gambon on a boat. Until these plans take a more clear form, Ace and The Greek are going to continue to dwell at the back of our minds as the show’s least compelling characters.
Character Power Rankings
1. Rosie – Up 3
She’s the bright light in the center of the show, and she actually wins her first race at Santa Anita. This time she earned her rank.
2. Walter Smith – No Change
He’s still gruff and likable, and he’s a little happier now that Rosie is back and winning for him. Even so, the stench of despair hangs on him so much as to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3. Marcus – Up 7
TWIST! Last week he was just an asshole, but this week he’s a hero who saves Jerry’s life (sorta).
4. Renzo – Down 1
Renzo didn’t have as strong a role in this episode as previous, but he still helps in Marcus’ plot to save Jerry.
5. Lonnie – Up 4
Again, he helps to save Jerry from the fiendish Lester, but I still don’t like him. He’s just too dumb.
6. Jerry – Down 5
Jerry’s fall from grace is spectacular, and there’s no sign he’ll get back on the horse (ha. ha.). If he does, it will be as a direct result of his strong support.
7. Leon – No Rank
He’s working his tail off. And he’s banging Rosie. Bonus points.
8. Turo Escalante – Down 1
Escalante’s a jerk, but that’s nothing new. He gets a slight drop for another standard performance.
9. Chester “Ace” Bernstein – Down 4
If I’m reading the poster correctly, Ace and The Greek are supposed to be the main storyline, right? This is not yet the case, and that’s disappointing.
10. Joey Rathburn – Down 2
He’s become a raving lunatic with top jockey Ronnie Jenkins joining the lotus-eaters on the beach, and it’s getting harder to watch.
Dropped from the rankings: Gus “The Greek” Demitriou