It’s amazing just how little time it took for Luck to find its footing. Some shows spend a whole season (or more) trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Some shows never do. Luck’s felt comfortable and lived-in since the first episode started.
And sure, plenty of shows have started out equally well (Terriers and The Sopranos, to name two off the top of my head), but it’s always a reassuring sign when a TV show gets off to such a graceful start.
And with that, let’s gallop on in to Episode 3.
So from what I’ve read out there in the vast stretches of the Internet, the first three episodes of Luck are noticeably slower than the episodes that follow (HBO sent out the entire series in screeners before the show ever aired). Things aren’t going to hit their full swing until next Sunday .
I’m OK with this. I’ve been enjoying the show’s leisurely pace, even though the plot details can be labyrinthine at times (I doubt I’ll ever understand the complexities of municipal or junk derivatives). And Episode 3 even feels like an introduction (of sorts) to greater things. We get our first glimpses into how these characters live when they’re not at the track, starting with Walter and moving on to a strangely sweet moment between Escalante and his horse’s vet. We’re also starting to see the real physical ramifications of the lives these people lead- Ronnie’s startling (and possibly intentional) fall from his horse, Lonnie’s very present facial bruises, and Leon’s collapse on the steam room floor (the sound of which got an audible gasp out of me).
But what really cinches the whole “this is all an introduction for the real stuff starting next week” idea is the moment when our four scrappy gamblers finally meet Mon Gateau, their newly purchased horse. Everything just falls away once these guys actually get to see the animal up close. All the conflicts between Marcus and Jerry, Lonnie’s brush with death and everything else- gone. It’s just four friends who’re in awe of this animal’s beauty and just a teensy bit nervous when holding out their hands to give him a carrot. It’s a perfect little scene and it really feels like one last placid, peaceful moment before everything goes haywire.
But there’s plenty more going on in Episode 3. Ace and Gus recruit a new pawn into their scheme, evil poker table kingpin Leo Chan makes a reappearance and W. Earl Brown shows up once more as Mon Gateau’s rightful owner (do you think we’ll ever see him again, now that the horse isn’t his?). Joey Rathburn’s also having his fair share of jockey problems. Ronnie looks like he’ll be out for awhile, but what of Leon? I’m seeing some kind of Leon’s-still-not-quite-right-in-the-head-but-he’s-still-getting-back-on-the-horse accident in his future.
For me, though, the elements of Luck that stand out are the intimate little moments interspersed throughout all of the horse-shenanigans. Take Ace’s run-in with Joan Allen in the elevator, for example. Seeing Ace react so positively to someone butting in like that (methinks there’s some kind of romance in their future) was a total surprise, and warm little moments like that paint Ace as a three-dimensional human being and not just a big angry shady gangster guy.
And speaking of warm moments with Ace, how about that ending with Ace and Gus (I really like typing the phrase “Ace and Gus,” for some reason) drifting off to sleep? I’ll go ahead and say that their relationship is probably my favorite thing on the show right now, although that’s mostly just because of Dennis Farina’s perfect comedic timing. But it’s also because we get little moments like this one, where two friends slowly lapse into unconsciousness together. It’s a situation I’ve rarely seen in my TV travels, and the uniqueness alone makes this moment so pleasing to watch.
Well, uniqueness plus some beautiful honey-colored lighting,a couple of camera angles that accentuate the rise and fall of the actors’ chests and a gentle, sleepy cadence to the dialogue that nearly lulled me to sleep along with Ace and Gus.
Seeing those muddled horses in Gus’s dream didn’t hurt either. And, considering it was a great way to end the episode, I figure it’ll be a great way to end the review, too.
So what did you all think?