Film and TV

Luck 1.3: "Brains and Ambition, Thinks That's Supposed to Get Him Somewhere."

I get the feeling HBO is increasingly aware of the grumblings about the glacial pace of their new Sunday night series. Is that because of my vast insider knowledge of pay-TV networks? No, it's because HBO aired that "This season on Luck" promo again. After the *third* episode. The message of the teaser -- best described as "Blood! Boats! Gambon!" -- is clearly, "Please stick around! Stuff's going to happen...eventually!"

That's a glib way of shrugging off the plot developments that have already happened, but after three episodes of table setting and ratings for the second week down by half from the season premiere, Luck needs to get the ball rolling for its final six episodes if it wants anybody besides horse fetishists and annoyed TV bloggers watching the season finale.


Ace's morning begins with a constitutional. On the hotel treadmill. Because -- as Missing Persons once told us -- "nobody walks in L.A." His parole officer also pops in, because "people make adjustments." It's time for another piss test, only this time Ace doesn't have to leave the door open. Methinks the PO is angling for a handout.

Ace goes to a meeting with his investment group to discuss buying into the holding company that owns Santa Anita. He also meets young Nathan Israel, whose blunt assessment of Ace's motives drives Ace from the room in disgust (I suspect Ace would rather handle boardroom outbursts Al Capone style, but this is the 21st century). Nathan's "strong in muni derivatives," however. And Ace schedules an interview with the kid.

That's just what this show needs: complicated math.

Walter's finally ready to race Gettin' Up Morning, and his beloved gets a starting position on the rail, which is exactly where Walter didn't want him. One gets the feeling bad luck follows "the Old Man" around. More on that later.

Jerry, out and about in daylight for once, has a talk with Turo about his foursome trying to buy Mon Gateau from Chris Mulligan, the cowboy who got him last week. After some back and forth, Turo agrees to consider training MG again, should the group succeed.

Ace goes to his meet with Nathan in an interesting display of power and protocol in which the kid has no idea how to operate. It's all set to Massive Attack's "Angel," which is the de facto soundtrack for impending malevolence. Except in this case, of course.

Another new character pops up. Claire LeChea (Joan Allen) attempts to ambush Ace in the elevator on behalf of a "thorougbred retirement foundation" run by prison inmates. Ace politely takes her card. This won't be the last time we hear from Claire this season. Unless HBO is now in the habit of hiring Academy Award-nominated actresses for one-off appearances.

Jerry buys Mon Gateau from Mulligan for $35.5K for the horse (well, $25K for the horse, $7,500 for his barbecue, as padding for Mulligan's pockets alone). Marcus actually seems happy for once, Renzo (literally) wets his pants, while Lonnie sounds a cautious note. Jo passes him on the physical and Turo gives them a breakdown on the monthly costs. After which Jo and Turo exchange heated words over Turo's suspicions that she was the one who leaked word of MG's abilities. Such tension. I'll bet they're sleeping together.

Ace "interviews" Nathan, who sits with his back to the open balcony, representing his precarious position (of which he seems unaware). Ace sends him home, tells him to write down everything he does between now and tomorrow, and if he likes what he hears, he'll pay him a million for the next year's work. It's a ruse, as Ace has already decided to hire him as their go-between for the deal to buy Santa Anita, mostly because it'll "irritate the shit out of Mike."

Oh, and Leon passes out in the sauna and cracks his head open. That's what happens when you have juice for breakfast. And nothing else.

Ronnie races Gettin' Up Morning and promptly gets dumped, breaking his collarbone. He's out four to six weeks. Walter reaches out to Joey and rehearses his phone call to Rosie. Probably a wise move, as Ronnie's back to snorting painkillers and buying pints of Scotch.

And Turo and Jo *are* sleeping together. I'm a freaking genius.

In what is now the trademark final scene, Ace and Gus discuss "The Kid." Ace thinks he'll be fine, "as long as he doesn't know what he's up to." Ace decides to call Claire, as well. The two nod off mid-conversation, and a more skilled writer than myself might attempt to craft a joke about last night's ending and the (so far) generally somnolent nature of the show. But it's late.

Next week: Do we finally get to meet Mike? And does Michael Gambon appreciate playing a character with his own name?

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar