Luck maintained the ramped-up intensity from the previous episode as it races toward the season’s (and series’) finish line. This week’s biggest event, however, happened off the racetrack and the set as HBO canceled the show when another four-legged cast member had to be euthanized. And—not to beat three dead horses—it’s probably for the best, as Luck turned out to be less of a draw than HBO had anticipated.
On the set, the storylines accelerated toward each of their premature conclusions. Ace and Gus finally show some of the muscle that earned their narrative thread top billing despite dwindling intrigue. Ace intuits that Smythe and his band of aged cohorts have offed darling little Nathan Israel. This revelation is followed by a strong visual confirmation that Israel didn’t simply suffer a severe concussion but has been hacked to bits and buried at the bottom of the ocean. It was a bizarre and jarring level of violence for a show that had, to that point, been almost entirely nonviolent (with the exception of Lonnie’s run-in with the cougarish scam artists).
Ace and Gus cut their umbilical cord to deal with Smythe and DeRossi separately and simultaneously. It is in these scenes where the casting of Dennis Farina finally begins to make sense again. Farina is a fine actor, and his quiet consultations with Hoffman’s Ace were not bad by any means, but where he shines brightest is as a mafioso-esque character. Ultimately, neither Gus nor Ace shed any blood, but it is clear that Michael Gambon’s Smythe won’t stand this passive aggression.
While the main storyline progresses at a breakneck pace, the minor arcs continue to chug along at a steady clip. While tending to one of Turo’s horses, Jo—who, as you’ll recall, is pregnant—takes a rear leg to the stomach and heads to the hospital with her assistant and recently befriended racetrack urchin in tow. This episode establishes that Turo’s brusque exterior has been softened both by the little boy that he and Jo have rescued from an indifferent uncle as well as by Jo’s pregnancy. On the other hand, Walter Smith continues to steel himself against the rest of mankind. He wins rights to the his Big Horse over the money-grubbing Southern gentleman who appeared in the previous episode to stake his claim. Despite the victory, the strain of this dispute and not blowing his last, best hope at everlasting glory is eating at him. Like Turo, though, Walter has a weakness in his armor—Rosie. She greets him with the news that Escalante has selected her to ride for Four A Stables on Derby Day, and he briefly relents in his hatred of all mankind.
Next week’s episode will determine more than whether Turo’s or Walter’s horse wins and who lives and dies among Ace’s criminal co-conspirators. It will establish whether the series’ cancellation came too soon or if it was a mercy killing.
Character Power Rankings
1. Michael Smythe – Up 2
Smythe shows he’s got balls—if not brains—when he hires a hitman to take out Ace. On some level, though, Ace had to expect this when he cut Smythe et al out of the lucrative racetrack casino plan.
2. Rosie – Up 2
Her star continues to rise as she’s gone from exercise girl to jockeying on Derby Day in less than one season. That success, however, might come at the expense of her relationship with Leon.
3. Chester “Ace” Bernstein – Up 4
I suspect Ace’s nonviolent box-out of Smythe was a calculated maneuver to pin all the death on someone else’s aggression. After all, Ace is smart enough to know that the man who killed Israel would also kill him.
4. Jerry – Down 3
Jerry and his friends were non-factors in this week’s episode. Although he remains as likable as ever, his character arc has been on an uninterrupted downward trajectory for a few episodes.
5. Turo – Up 1
Yes, Turo is becoming more likable, but it’s likely a case of too little, too late for Mr. Escalante. He’s moving forward, but other characters had a considerable head-start on him.
6. Gus “The Greek” Demitriou – No Rank
Gus finally shows why we should give a damn about his character. He’s a true lieutenant in this episode.
7. Jo – Up 1
Jo, along with Turo, has taken the little boy into her care. Here’s hoping her pregnancy isn’t in danger.
8. Renzo – Down 6
Same reasons as Jerry, but he’s not quite as interesting a character.
9. Ronnie Jenkins – No Rank
Ronnie appears to be getting his life back on track, and, as a bonus, he prevents Leon from destroying his life.
10. Leon – Down 1
Say no to drugs, Leon.