8.9

Luck Review: "Episode Nine" (Episode 1.09)

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<i>Luck</i> Review: "Episode Nine" (Episode 1.09)

There is an element of horseracing that is only addressed head-on in this, the final episode of Luck. That is the point during the race when the jockey should break the steady pace he or she has been maintaining and run full speed to the finish line. In each case—with both of Turo’s horses and Walter’s horse—that moment arrived in the final stretch of the race. During Rosie’s run of Mon Gateau, Renzo’s mother complains that “that girl jockey” could at least try to catch up with the rest of the pack.

Ultimately she is impressed with Rosie’s work as she rides to a convincing victory. This is Luck. The first few episodes did not make it out of the gate with as much speed or excitement as HBO shows typically offer, but from the moment Michael Gambon’s Smythe chose to break, the season (and series) has been racing toward the finish. Most important, this is the episode where we (I) finally gave a shit about every storyline and plot element.

The first narrative focuses on Ace and Gus reliving their past as masters of the long con. (Joking, sort of. But I would totally watch a remake of The Sting starring a young Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Farina assuming it was also half an hour shorter than the original). Really, though, Bernstein is running for his life from a series of vaguely British heavies summoned by Smythe while Gus uses his Spidey Sense to detect and foil the assassins’ moves. Somehow, the moderately ancient Dennis Farina manages to strangle a much younger hitman, and Ace lives to fight/love horses another day.

On the track, it’s Derby Day. The mildly anticipated showdown between Walter and Turo over who is more full of piss and vinegar (and who has the better horse) has finally arrived. It turns out it’s Turo by a nose in both cases, but that’s largely beside the point. What stands out in the main race as well as Rosie’s early run is how gorgeous the cinematography is. The races aren’t as beautiful as the rowing sequence in The Social Network (really though, what is?), but they come awfully close.

Ultimately, the season finale provides enough closure that it can function fairly well as a series finale as well. We’ll never know what becomes of Ace’s deal to buy the racetrack, his romance with Claire Lachay or his feud with Smythe and his cronies. Whether Jerry destroys his life with gambling, Walter wins big or Leon ever makes weight will all remain mysteries. But I’m OK with that. Even though the series built great interest toward the end, it never reached the point of compelling addiction that so many other HBO shows have.

Final Character Power Rankings

1. Jerry – Up 3
Cool-Guy Jerry finishes the series on top. He successfully selected another lucrative set of picks for him and his boys, and he had sex on a pile of money with his super-hot girlfriend. So yes, he gets the top seed.

2. Rosie – No Change
She wins her race and remains beautiful, redheaded and Irish. The odds were in her favor from the outset.

3. Gus “The Greek” Demitriou – Up 3
Ol’ Gus displays some pretty awesome criminality in this episode, and that garners favor in my book.

4. Chester “Ace” Bernstein – Down 1
Along with Gus, Ace keeps his criminal cool even with his life in danger.

5. Turo Escalante – No Change
Turo shows in this episode why his reputation as a trainer allowed him to be a total asshole. His horses win both their races. Also, he’s no longer an asshole. Bonus.

6. Michael Smythe – Down 5
His various attempts on Ace’s life fail, but he’s still plotting and watching like Saruman (or perhaps the Wicked Witch of the West). Unfortunately we’ll never know if he succeeds.

7. Leon – Up 3
Maybe I’ve been watching too much Oz, but I half-expected him to respond to his demotion to a lesser track by murdering Rosie and then killing himself. That he didn’t do so showed great restraint.

8. Naomi (Weronika Rosati) – No Rank
She also had sex on top of a pile of money. So there’s that.

9. Walter Smith – No Rank
It’s true that Walter loses his race, but he’s surprisingly magnanimous about it. He did win a six-figure purse for second place, though, so he can’t complain too much.

10. Renzo – Down 2
Renzo’s interest level has taken a big hit in the final episodes, but he still deserves a spot for getting us through the first part of the season and being a likable guy.

Dropped from the rankings: Jo, Ronnie Jenkins

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