In the Fall of 2017, HBO introduced us to the first season of its critically acclaimed gritty-and-seedy drama The Deuce. “Set during the early 1970s in New York City’s Times Square, The Deuce, starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, gives viewers an up-close look at the gritty world of sex and crime, as the porn industry begins its climb to legitimacy, cultural permanence, and billion-dollar profitability.” Come February 13th; you can take home The Deuce: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray™ + Digital HD (and DVD + Digital HD) as it hits physical and digital store shelves everywhere. The Deuce Season 1 Blu-ray/DVD release is list priced at $59.99 and $49.99, respectively for its inaugural 8-episode season. Fortunately for you, Amazon has it for 40% less (see below.) Want it a little quicker? It’s available for digital download right now. Let’s dive into HBO’s The Deuce Season 1 review.
HBO’s The Deuce Season Review
From the minds of Creators/Executive Producers David Simon and George Pelecanos comes HBO’s The Deuce.
Per the Home Box Office press release: “Boasting a fine ensemble cast and executive produced by David Simon, George Pelecanos, Nina K. Noble and James Franco, The Deuce chronicles the rise of the porn industry that began in New York City in 1971-72, driven by the gradual legalization of porn and a politically motivated effort to “clean up” Times Square.”
“Seizing the chance to cash in on the nascent porn business are a vivid assortment of characters, including: Vincent Martino (James Franco), a bartender with vision and connections; Frankie Martino (Franco again), Vincent’s identical twin, a dangerously freewheeling counterpart to his entrepreneurial brother; Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a self-made, on-the-street sex worker eying a new career in porn filmmaking; pimps C.C. (Gary Carr) and Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe); young prostitutes Darlene (Dominique Fishback) and Lori (Emily Meade); midtown cop Chris Alston (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.); newspaper reporter Sandra Washington (Natalie Paul); mob capo Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli); disillusioned college student Abby Parker (Margarita Levieva); and others.”
• Episode 1 – Pilot
• Episode 2 – Show and Prove
• Episode 3 – The Principle Is All
• Episode 4 – I See Money
• Episode 5 – What Kind of Bad
• Episode 6 – Why Me?
• Episode 7 – Au Reservoir
• Episode 8 – My Name is Ruby
• Feature – Franco in the ’70s
• Feature – The Wild West
• Feature – The Deuce in Focus
• Features – (8) Inside the Episode
• James Franco as Vincent and Frankie Martino
• Maggie Gyllenhaal as Eileen ‘Candy’ Merrell
• Margerita Levieva as Abby Parker
• Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. as Chris Alston
• Emily Meade as Lori
• Dominique Fishback as Darlene
• Pernell Walker as Ruby ‘Thunder Thighs’
• Gbenna Akinnagbe as Larry Brown
• Gary Carr as C.C.
• Method Man as Rodney
• Chris Coy as Paul Hendrickson
• Natalie Paul as Sandra Washington
• Michael Rispoli as Rudy Pipilo
• Chris Bauer as Bobby Dwyer
• Format: Digital HD, DVD, Blu-ray™
• Rating: TV-MA
• Run Time: 508 Minutes
• Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
• Sound: Dolby 5.1
• Studio: HBO Home Video
• Release Date: February 13, 2018
Episode 1: Pilot
The series begins with Vincent Martino, played by James Franco, working in a bar in Brooklyn. After nearly being robbed and pistol-whipped after depositing the nightly take into a bank’s deposit bank, he arrives home to find his wife not there or watching the kids. This is a recurring theme in their marriage. Vincent, a pretty honest man, works multiple jobs seven days a week just to pay the bills, feed the family, put a roof over their head, etc.
Next, we’re taken to the Port Authority Bus Terminal where we meet a couple of pimps, Reggie Love and C.C., looking for new talent as people arrive in NYC. Sure enough, C.C. finds Lori, a gal from St. Paul, MN, coming down the escalator. He takes her out for breakfast and a chat at Leon’s diner, the place where all the pimps and prostitutes meet for breakfast daily.
We’re then introduced to Abby, a 20-year old English major at NYU who’s sleeping with one of her professors. Abby gets busted trying to buy some amphetamines in a police sting. The arresting officer lets her off easy. All it costs her is a drink with the officer at a bar Vincent manages. She ends up leaving ‘Officer Friendly’ and staying at the bar chatting with Vincent. The next day, she decides to skip out on her economics exam and ends up flunking out of NYU. She’s making a life decision.
Eighteen minutes in, we’re introduced to Frankie, Vincent’s twin brother walking around Times Square. Next comes Candy, the show’s central female character, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. She lives in the city turning tricks while her mother is raising her son in the ‘burbs.
Frankie owes a $20K gambling debt to the local mob which Vincent begins to pay off. Frankie is seldom seen in this episode. Vincent’s marriage is in tatters thanks his wife’s chronic late-night partying and decides to move out. He ends up at The Lionel Hotel in Times Square, a hotel frequented by pimps and whores, for at least 30 days. Vincent’s not perfect, as his wife reminds him of his cheating ways, but their marriage is essentially over.
We also meet Darlene, another prostitute, who spends some of her working hours watching movies (no sex) with an elderly John. He treats her like a girlfriend, which is nice to see. On the flip side, one of her other clients likes to smack her around during role play.
Ashley, one of C.C.’s prostitutes, wonderfully played by Jamie Neumann, comes in out of the rain to tell her pimp that she doesn’t like to work in the rain. He ends up taking her into a stairwell on the very hotel floor where Vincent lives. We see for the first time what happens when you don’t obey your pimp. It’s not a pretty scene to watch as C.C. exercises his strong pimp hand cutting her once in the underarm. It’s a warning and a teachable moment in the skin trade. Vincent sees much of it and decides not to interfere.
If you wondered what the rest of the season has in store, what you see is what you get. This show has plenty of nudity and violence so be mentally prepared.
Episode run time: 1:24:13
Episode 2: Show and Prove
The opening scene begins with a massive arrest of the prostitutes being tossed into a police wagon. Not all the prostitutes were arrested. Back then, if you were arrested, you couldn’t be re-arrested within a 48-hour period. The police would give you a property voucher as proof of previous arrest. This happened. The Police were friendly with all the girls, even kind enough to order them Chinese food while in lockup.
Vincent and Bobby (the brother-in-law played by Chris Bauer) make arrangements with Rudy Pipilo, a local mobster, to pay off Frankie’s debt with interest. Rudy and his henchman have interest in cleaning up the area known as The Deuce. Later on, Rudy and Tommy take Vincent over to Penny Lane, a bar soon to be foreclosed on and decide to take it over with Vincent as the owner running the show, with Rudy taking a monthly cut as part owner. Oddly enough, this bar is directly underneath The Lionel Hotel. We meet Paul, currently the bartender there.
Abby flunks out of NYU and decides to go out on her own and get a job.
Candy accepts an offer to be a part of a porn shoot. In the least likely of all places, it’s filmed in someone’s residential neighborhood basement. While there, Candy starts asking questions about the film business.
In another scene, we see a porn store get busted with its inventory seized. At that time, the offerings were limited to what came out of Europe.
Lori picks up a John and gets busted by an undercover officer. The problem for her is he’s not an officer at all. C.C. suspects as much and questions the guy as Lori’s being placed into the station wagon. After a brief exchange, C.C. shanks the guy while Lori freaks out. Had C.C. not intervened, Lori would have been murdered by the fake cop, who was in actuality a biology teacher.
We meet Sandra for the first time, a writer at the Amsterdam News trying to write a story on the prostitution trade in Times Square.
Episode run time: 58:56
Episode 3: The Principle Is All
Ruby and Candy go to a phony porn shoot run by Harvey Wasserman. Because there’s no film in the camera, he’s at no risk of arrest from the police all-the-while charging $40 a head to watch. Candy, whose real name is Eileen, buys Harvey lunch and tells him she wants to make movies, that is behind the camera, not as one of the talent.
Back at Penny Lane, we see Vincent and Paul doing some demolition on the new bar. Once transformed, it becomes The Hi-Hat. Abby looks for Vincent, finds him at The Hi-Hat (which by the way was an actual spot) and after a moment of reluctance accepts a job offer.
We meet Big Mike, who after buying some drugs from a local dealer, nearly kills the very same dealer with a headlock. Even Candy run into him hours later freaking her out while he’s still tripping.
The best scene in the episode takes place 10 minutes in when a couple of Irish henchmen walk into The Hi-Hat. One by the name of Healey claims to be Vincent’s partner. After an exciting exchange, Frankie decides to bust up the jukebox, the cigarette machine, and the pool table. Healey shows up at The Hi-Hat on opening night. Out of nowhere, he pulls out a snub-nose pistol with the intention of shooting Vincent. Big Mike quickly intervenes and kicks Healey’s ass. Big Mike now lands a job as protection for the new bar. Overall, it was a successful opening night at The Hi-Hat.
Sandra is asking questions to the prostitutes at Leon’s diner.
Bobby, who’s a construction foreman, has a heart attack while lifting a crate. It’s this injury which leads him to begin working with his brothers’ in-law.
The cops are informed by their superiors that they’re not to arrest anyone within their patrol area unless it’s severe. It’s an off-the-books operation not to be questioned.
Episode run time: 58:36
Episode 4: I See Money
The opening scene is memorable. It’s raining hard in NYC, and there’s no street work for the girls. Candy decides to take her business indoors to a movie theater at which point she’s propositioned. When giving her client oral, a rat climbs on her shoulder. She immediately reacts in terror. Her head ends up striking her customer in the mouth and chin. I suppose he got more than he bargained for.
Later in the episode, Candy is with a John at The Lionel Hotel who during sex has a heart attack, and dies. This is where she earns the nickname ‘Mouth of Death.’ Later on, Candy goes up to Ruby’s room at the hotel for a talk. (There was an actual Ruby.) She has a green-yellow-red street light outside her window signaling if she was working or not.
Eileen meets a guy (Jack) in a record store and gets asked for her phone number. She ends up going on a date with the guy. Jack after asking too many questions to her says “you don’t go on many dates, do you?” Oh, if he only knew.
On Bobby’s job site, some of the construction workers don’t want the weekly pay in cash and want their check instead. This does not go well with Rudy and Tommy. Later on, they return to the job site and mess up one of the workers, Bill Schmidt, really good.
During a routine prostitute roundup, Sandra gets picked up and is noticed by Office Alston at the station.
Darlene and Abby befriend each other after Abby breaks a buckle on one of her shoes. Lt Sweeney shakes down The Hi-Hat for $250 a week after an off-duty cop starts a fight. Afterwards, we meet Black Frankie, who’s recommended by Big Mike so Vincent can get a gun. Instead of buying the gun, Black Frankie is hired as protection for the bar.
Vincent is giving Rudy his monthly payment. Rudy tells him that something big is in the works. After closing The Hi-Hat one night, Rudy and Tommy show up and bring Vincent to look at his future.
Episode run time: 58:41
Episode 5: What Kind of Bad
Darlene goes back home with the bus ticket Abby purchased for her in the previous episode. While she’s there, a young and naive waitress named Bernice wants to go back to NYC with her. Darlene works under Larry Brown. He decides to trade the young Bernice to Rodney (played by Method Man.) She ends up with the nickname Ginger.
Sandra is having difficulty with her editor trying to get her piece on prostitution greenlit. She’s also trying to get information out of Officer Alston about the drugs that are making their way onto the streets. He doesn’t know anything about where the drugs are coming from. Officer Alston tells Reggie Love that Sandra wants to interview him.
Eileen finally has sex with Jack, the guy she met at the record store. I won’t get into details. Let’s just say it’s interesting.
Vincent tells Tommy that he will take a pass on the business proposition. Vincent has no interest in building up and managing a ‘massage parlor.’ Vincent says he likes and respects the girls too much to be involved in such a project.
After some back and forth on the topic, Vincent accepts Rudy’s massage parlor proposal. Vincent says Bobby will manage the spot with Black Frankie at the door as the protection. Rudy and Tommy tell Vincent that the city wants the prostitutes off the street and indoors. The parlor won’t be an issue with the City. So much so that if this one is successful, five more could be on the way. The parlor is coming along nicely with Bobby’s union carpenters doing the work.
Paul goes to see a gay adult film at the Park Miller Theater. On his way out, undercover cops arrest him and many other gays on false soliciting charges.
Eileen gets assaulted and robbed by one of her Johns before the ‘transaction’ takes place. She tries mace on him, but couldn’t get away in time. After some time to heal, Eileen visits Harvey Wasserman at which point he tells her about a change in the laws. That NYC no longer has any community standards.
Episode run time: 58:40
Episode 6: Why Me?
Vincent and Bobby venture over to Model Barbers where the pimps get the daily grooming. Here they make their business proposition to the pimps for the girls they need for the parlor. It gets rejected by all the pimps.
Harvey’s adult film business is beginning to take off with Candy as the lead actress. Right now, domestic adult films are few and far between. Candy (Eileen) doesn’t want to go back to the streets. She takes Harvey’s advice and becomes a high-end escort in the interim.
It’s approaching year-end, and the 14th Precinct Police are going through their semi-annual street cleaning. All the prostitutes and pimps are to be arrested over the next two weeks. Lt Sweeney informs the pimps that the arrests and towing will continue into February of 1972. The area between 42nd and 49th Streets is longer open to the skin trade. The pimps are told to accept any offers to get their girls off the streets. Vincent tells the pimps the terms and conditions of the massage parlor. They’re all in except for Larry Brown. Lt Sweeney visits the massage parlor and informs Bobby and Black Frankie of the weekly $500 shakedown.
Rudy needs Frankie and Big Mike on some business. They’re to follow two money sweepers around multiple adult stores as they empty porn loop machines. Rudy thinks they’re skimming. Frankie and Big Mike notice the sweepers taking their cut. Rudy approaches and informs Marty, the head counter, they will be making the count tonight and to take the night off. This way Rudy can get an approximation of the daily take. After the count, it’s determined that Rudy is 30% short on the coin take. This proves what he suspected all along.
All the mobsters show up at an obscenity court case where some pornographers from Queens are being tried. The chargers are dismissed, and this opens up the American porn trade.
Rudy tells Vincent that he’s trusted as every made man is skimming off of him. Vincent is appreciated for his honesty.
Episode run time: 57:15
Episode 7: Au Reservoir
The prostitutes are very busy in this second-to-last episode of the season.
Ashley doesn’t want to clock in at the massage parlor. Shay who’s also a junkie passes out at the massage parlor. Eileen goes on her first escort date. Her married John brings her to his place which includes drinks, dinner, then sex. Not what she’s used to. Oddly enough, he vomits after sex, then tosses her out.
The mob captains have a meeting deciding not to pick each other’s pockets. Frankie and his mob friends start building these new peep show machines that Big Mike drew out on paper.
Officer Alston finally makes his move on Sandra and gets her to come up to his apartment.
Frankie takes Ashley on a double date with Paul to see a gay film Boys in the Sand. Frankie and Ashley hit it off. Ashley stays with Abby a few days until she figures things out. She’s hiding from her pimp C.C. She decides to leave NYC to stay with her sister in Buffalo.
The funniest scene in this episode takes place at Leon’s. We see three pimps talking about what they’re doing in their free time. Now that all the girls are working at the parlors, there’s nothing left for the pimps to do. One even talked about going to see Fantasia, the Walt Disney film. Later we see Larry Brown walking the streets alone with nothing to do.
A plain closed officer from the newly formed Public Morals Task Force shows up the parlor informing Bobby of the weekly $200 pay off due every Thursday. This now makes three shakedowns from the police. He leaves by saying “Au Reservoir.”
The 14th Precinct gets a new Captain, and Officer Alston takes him for a tour of the area. The Captain plans to clean up the precinct and need Alston on his side.
Abby takes Vincent to a formal affair in CT. Her parents appear to be throwing a wedding engagement party for Abby’s sister. Vincent had no idea what kind of affair it was until he arrived in his leather jacket and boots.
In the final scene which takes place at Leon’s, Darlene tells Bernice (Ginger) that she should go back to Carolina. Says if she stays any longer in NYC, she’ll die. Being a whore is not the life for her. Right after they exit, Reggie Love shows up giving one of his freshly beaten girls (Melissa) another lecture. What takes next place is amazing! I don’t dare ruin it.
Episode run time: 58:59
Episode 8: My Name is Ruby
The new peep show booths are installed around the city, and they’re generating plenty of cash. The money coming in from the peep shows and the parlor are generating $15K/month between Vincent, Frankie, and Bobby. Rudy shows Vincent, Frankie, and Bobby yet another space for an adult store/massage parlor. Vincent expresses his disgust for the skin trade and wants no part of it. He says he’s out. It gets very vocal and heated.
Vincent learns that his estranged wife got smacked around by her new guy. Vincent goes into the pool hall in Brooklyn and teaches that guy and one other a lesson they won’t soon forget. A pool stick across the head.
Vincent asks Abby to move in with him into a better place, out the Lionel Hotel. She agrees.
Tommy brings one of the money sweepers to the basement of The Hi-Hat for a beat down. The sweeper admits to skimming from Marty. Vincent is not happy this takes place downstairs in his bar.
Sandra’s article gets published, but it’s not exactly the article she submitted. Without named sources or proven documents, her editor won’t print the article as intended.
Officer Alston sees two of his fellow policemen stopping for a shakedown. He decides to search the car’s glove box and take the ledger detailing all the payouts.
One day, Harvey can’t make it to a movie shoot due to his car breaking down. Eileen decides to take charge for the day and gets the production started. She does a terrific job at directing the action too. She’s eager to make movies. Later, she and Harvey attend the VIP screening of the adult film Deep Throat.
The same night, Ruby brings up a John to her apartment at the Lionel Hotel. He doesn’t like the sex he’s received and decides not to pay. An argument and scuffle ensue, and Ruby gets shoved out her window to her death. (Yes, this happened.) On the street below, C.C. makes a wisecrack about Ruby’s death and earns a gut punch from Officer Alston.
One of Larry Brown’s girls gets busted by the Feds on a narcotics buy and goes to jail. This leaves Larry alone with little to do. Whatever it cost him to buy the drugs is now gone.
Darlene makes her first adult film under Candy’s tutelage. Ginger walks the hallway of the massage parlor, and life goes on. Season 1 of The Deuce comes to a close.
Episode run time: 1:10:36
HBO has brought us a terrific and addictive new drama. I can’t wait to see where Season 2 of The Deuce takes the characters. That’s right folks; it’s been renewed.
The Deuce Season 1 is currently available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.
All photos are the courtesy and property of HBO Home Entertainment.