I was prepared for—nay, expecting—this week’s episode of Luck to crawl toward its conclusion. It was going to be a photo finish shot with one of those Civil War-era cameras that required you (not you, personally, but people who were alive 150 years ago) to stand motionless for five minutes to complete the exposure. That’s how slow Luck had been moving. But then Michael Gambon—dear, sweet, gentle Michael Gambon—gave us the first truly astounding “holy shit” moment of the series when he crowned young Nathan Israel with a glass ashtray.
For hours on end, the cruel minds behind Luck had left its violence-starved audience (me) fiending for a hit of brutality. Gambon’s Michael Smythe mercifully opened the spigot, much to the dismay of his business associates, and the drama should only escalate exponentially henceforth. Israel was Ace’s protégé, and it’s clear that he both cared for the (probably) deceased and can be quite ruthless when the need arises.
Elsewhere, characters make decisions purposefully against their hearts’ wishes. Rosie, still unsure of her standing with Walter, hires Joey Rathburn to represent her despite the protestations of her Cajun boy toy, Leon. Walter, in response to pressure from Rathburn to start use Rosie for his big horse, opts to use the newly on-the-wagon (but not for long!) Ronnie Jenkins instead. Cool-Guy Jerry and the considerably less cool Lonnie both break away from the Four Amigos in favor of poker and solo horse investment, respectively.
The onslaught of rifts present in this episode present an artificial warm-up to the penultimate and final episodes of the season, which promise to pack more heat than the first two thirds of the show’s initial run. To be sure, Luck has turned a corner, but it is unclear whether the impending excitement will represent a sufficient return on time investment for the first part of the season. There is a fine line between subtle storytelling and stagnation, and, for the first five episodes, Luck was dancing in Stagnationville. That appears to be changing, but it isn’t certain how long this string of good Luck will hold out.
Character Power Rankings
1. Jerry – No Change
Jerry stays on top by default again, but his return to gambling will likely end poorly for him.
2. Renzo – Up 2
He continued to show his loyalty to the guys when he offered to join Jerry’s cheering section at the poker tournament. He’s the only purely likable character remaining.
3. Michael Smythe (Michael Gambon) – No Rank
Although this was not Smythe’s first episode, it was the first in which he made his presence known. His actions will be the catalyst that sets the series into overdrive for the final two episodes, and, good or bad, he deserves some recognition.
4. Rosie – Down 1
Rosie gets screwed over by Walter because he values his horse over his relationship with Rosie. The sympathy bump that would carry, however, is negated when she hires Joey Rathburn as her agent.
5. Marcus – Down 3
Papa LaBeouf took a bye this week, more or less, so this is simply a drop due to inactivity.
6. Turo Escalante – No Rank
Turo Escalante, back from the dead! To quote another HBO character who’s an asshole, “Sometimes it’s good to be human.” Escalante takes care of and pity on a small boy whose uncle is neglectful. In an episode where everyone’s agitated, Turo surprisingly keeps his cool.
7. Chester “Ace” Bernstein – Down 1
He’s striking up an adorable old-person romance with the considerably-less-old Joan Allen, so that’s cute. I expect him to exact some sweet, sweet vengeance on Mr. Smythe in the coming episodes.
8. Jo – Up 2
Along with Turo, she helps the kid have a fun day at the races. Plus, she’s more pleasant than most of the racetrack trolls.
9. Leon – Down 1
Another horse, another bad step. That boy’s got no luck to him.
10. Lonnie – Down 1
Ol’ Lonnie-boy goes rogue (topical HBO reference!) and tries to snag his own horse. Predictably, it backfires when the horse he claims ruptures a tendon mid-race and is unable to run again.