It's becoming apparent after a mere two episodes of David Milch's new series that "luck" is what ties this disparate group of characters together. The tagline may be, "Leave nothing to chance," but chance plays a huge role in each of their lives, whether they like it or not.
The luck can be good, such as that experienced (however briefly) by Marcus and his fellow pick six winners; or bad, like Rosie getting replaced by Walter or Lonnie getting cracked in the skull by his now-former insurance scam associates.
We assume Ace's luck will be of the favorable variety as well, especially since he's working so hard to skew the odds in his favor. The pieces are starting to come together for his casino scheme, after all, and he's moving even further to consolidate his power. Will his luck hold? Will Walter's decision backfire? Will anyone tell Joey to get a haircut?
Ace meets with his parole officer for the mandatory drug screen. Their exchange as Ace prepares to do his business says a lot about his influence.
"I have difficulty if someone's looking." "What'd you do inside?" "People made adjustments."
I bet they did.
He has a lunch with old partners, one of whom tells him, "Mike sends his best." Mike must be someone of influence. Ace proposes sneaking slots in on an existing race track, the perfect Trojan horse to slide gambling into a state where it's illegal. He needs their help "because I'm a fucking felon, anything else you want to explain to me?" It still chaps his ass that he has to ask for favors, and I like him more and more every time he bites someone's head off.
"The Ace is back in place." Gus helpfully uses a bit of exposition to clear up that the Mike in question is Ace's ex-partner who stored coke in Ace's condo. Ace ended up taking the fall for it, because his grandson was there at the time and he didn't want him going down.
Jerry "enjoys" some late-morning poker at one of Los Angeles's finer illegal poker joints. And once again, he's not doing well. From a pure craft standpoint, actor Jason Gedrick is perfectly believable as a burnout. The problem is the same as it is any time a...healthier actor tries to do bottom of the barrel, like Mark Wahlberg in The Basketball Diaries: No pillhead gambling addict is as buff as Gedrick. It's a mild distraction, but a distraction nonetheless.
I neglected to mention Rosie the jockey (Kerry Condon) last week. She's racing Walter's colt again, and he's a fast one. "Gettin up Mornin" was fathered by someone called "Delphi," apparently another impressive horse. Rosie wants to ride him full time, but Walter strikes up a conversation with jockey Ronnie Jenkins (Gary Stevens), a fellow Kentuckian. More importantly, he's more experienced than Rosie.
He also has a drinking problem. Surely this won't have negative repercussions in coming episodes.
Renzo is keen on getting Turo's horse, "Mon Gateau" (for #4 race winner for their pick six). And the foursome is starting to fall apart. Lonnie, for one, takes umbrage with Marcus's ball breaking. Marcus is not interested in Renzo's horse plan. And Jerry tires of Marcus giving him shit for being a shitty poker player.
Jo's back. She's not sure why Turo's putting the horse up in the first place. Frankly, neither am I. I think I'm a horse racist: They all look alike to me. Turo tries to trick potential claimants by bandaging Mon Gateau's legs to make him look injured.
Of course, Mon Gateau wins easily, and the actual racing scenes are -- once again -- splendid. But Renzo's not the only claim on the horse, and he doesn't get it (we do learn Renzo's real name is Bruce Kellogg, so that's somethng). Turo's not happy to lose him, and suspects Leon's been babbling again in that Cajun fashion of his.
Okay, Joey Rathburn is being set up as a pretty pathetic character and not a heavy, so I'm okay with that. Leon voices suspicions to him that the horse they had to put down last week wasn't fit to race, and maybe Turo knew in advance. Joey wisely counsels him to keep his mouth shut.
Meanwhile, Ronnie has a friendly meeting with Walter where we learn Delphi's owners killed the horse for insurance money and Walter is still broken up about it. Rosie's unhappy about this recent development and Walter tries to let her down easy, putting her in touch with Joey. He also officially offers the Gettin Up Mornin" gig to Ronnie. I don't think I'll ever get tired of Nolte. It's not too late for one more 48 Hours sequel, Nick!
Jerry's still getting his ass handed to him at the tables, and yet he never learns, bringing in $25K for a hand. He manages to win this one, which almost certainly will be a temporary positive blip in a sea of gambling failure.
And proving once again that Marcus is the brains of the foursome, Lonnie almost gets jacked by his insurance scam chicks, whom he's backed out on in the wake of the big win. No nudity until the second episode? HBO, you be slippin'.
Ace needs a go-between between his business partners and Mike to get things rolling. He has Gus set up a meet with his "investment company" so they can do what needs to be done. The Greek agrees that they need to "go get these cocksuckers." Unpleasant things are afoot, it would seem, and after a couple episodes of lead-in, it looks like Ace is about to kick some ass.
Luck is still pretty dense, with a large number of characters doing a number of (often foolish) things. But things are starting to coalesce. Right now the most trouble spots for me are Renzo, who just seems too kindhearted to be an inveterate gambler, and Gus. Don't get me wrong, Dennis Farina is great as always, but I can't shake the feeling he's got something up his sleeve that Ace wouldn't approve of. Next week, Ace finds his man, and Jerry plays more poker.
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