Ah, with the sweet joys and wonders of college life (thousands upon thousands of papers to write), I’m just now getting to Episode 5 of Luck with only a few hours left before Episode 6 is set to air.
It’s very sad, I know. But let’s not allow my extreme tardiness in writing this piece to get in the way of another spectacular episode of Luck.
Episode 5 seemed to zoom in on one character in particular – Ace – which was a first for this show. Instead of the usual interplay between every member of the ensemble cast, Ace was definitely in the limelight here, with his horse’s first race and his growing relationship with Claire taking up the majority of the episode.
With this paring down of the ensemble cast (not to say that everyone else wasn’t present- except Nick Nolte, who was curiously absent this week), Episode 5 feels a little slower, little more leisurely, and it takes the time to give us handful of really striking emotional moments with a couple of key characters.
So let’s start with Ace. Ace is working on two fronts here in Episode 5- his horse, Pint of Plain, gets entered to run in a race (without him even realizing it) in one of Escalante’s gambling scams, so he and Gus have to deal with all that nonsense to make sure the horse is being run in their own interests rather than Escalante’s. But that’s not all- Ace is also trying to woo Claire Lechea, who may or may not have some qualms about taking Ace’s dirty money. If she knows it’s dirty. Which she may or may not.
So not only does this episode change up the ensemble cast aspects of the show, but it also plays with the structure- instead of ending on the usual beat (Ace and Gus falling asleep in Ace’s hotel room), this time we end with Ace falling asleep with Pint of Plain in the horse’s stable.
There is just so much going on in this last scene. First of all, at this point in the season the idea of sleep is definitely a recurring motif- not only in this scene and the repeated ones with Ace and Gus, but in the glimpse we get of horse vet Jo and Escalante snuggled up together. To me, anyway, it seems like sleep is a way for these characters to get away from the stresses and heartaches of the racetrack, and where these people can let their guards down and actually share an intimate moment (between lovers, friends or a man and his racehorse) that wouldn’t be possible with all of the schemes and double-crosses and high tensions that exist at the track.
And there are huge parallels between what we see in the last scene of Episode 5 and what we saw in the Pie-Oh-My arc from The Sopranos (for those who watched The Sopranos)- in both, the grizzled mobster softens up once he’s alone with his horse and seems much more sympathetic because of it. There’s a couple of wonderful shots in this last scene- an extreme close-up of Pint of Plain’s eye, and then a similar shot of Ace’s- that really emphasize the connection between man and nature, especially the emphasis on the smooth skin around the horse’s eye and the tough wrinkles around Ace’s.
But what of Claure? She’s definitely showing some interest in Ace (even calling him “Chester” at his behest) but her hesitation in showing up to claim the money may mean she’s still a little afraid of what’s going on here- not that I would blame her.
Now, on to Marcus- for the first time we actually find out some specific details about his condition- namely, that with his heart condition he’ll last at least another five years, but no more than fifteen (most likely), and from there a Valium-ed up Marcus confesses that he might be gay and in love with Jerry. In a terrific, tender moment (that’s simultaneously very crass), Jerry reasons that Marcus may have been alone too long to understand what it’s like to care about someone as a close friend. It’s beautifully done and punctuated with some clever comic relief from an eavesdropping Renzo and Lonnie and a neat visual trick- distorting the audio and pulling the camera out of focus while Marcus is feeling the effects of the valium.
Joey gets a little bit of backstory as well. It seems he’s got a wife (probably an ex) and a kid, and something’s gone horribly wrong in their relationship to the point where she won’t return his messages and he can’t see either of them. Honestly, the moment at the end where he’s sobbing and drinking alone seemed a little too on-the-nose for me, but it makes sense given the lack of contact from his family and his unsuccessful attempt to keep Leon in the dark about losing the opportunity to ride Pint of Plain.
Overall, what I’m really loving about Luck is how unconventional everything feels- the pace is much slower than your average cable drama, and the recurring themes we see in close male friendships and the power of sleep are most definitely not something you see on TV that often. I wonder what’ll happen when things start to come to a climax in the last few episodes- what will become of the slower pacing and these unconventional themes?
I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.