There was some talk a few years ago about HBO potentially being dethroned by some of the young upstarts of cable TV- AMC, FX, and the like. HBO, having ushered in this golden age of TV we’re currently living in with The Sopranos, The Wire and Six Feet under, found itself in a bit of a lull when these shows came to their natural conclusions and their new ones replacing them weren’t nearly of the same level of quality. Plus, you had the one-two punch of AMC’s Mad Men and Breaking Bad threatened to knock HBO out of the top slot for good.
But all of this has fizzled in the last year or so. AMC has tried and failed again and again to produce anything even remotely close the brilliance of its first two series, while HBO now has three bonafide hits on its hands in Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and Luck.
Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this. And that somewhere is in the line directly above this one, where I consider Luck to be a bonafide hit.
And Luck most definitely not a hit… in the general sense of the word. Averaging about 500,000 viewers an episode (although it’s a bit more if you consider HBO GO and other streaming services), Luck is just awful when it comes to ratings.
But Luck is plenty of other things besides a ratings dud. It’s unique and touching, both exhilarating and slow as molasses. It’s unlike anything else on TV. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (the ratings make that very clear), but that just makes Luck and the select few who watch it feel all the more special.
Ok, long rambling introduction aside, we’re nearing the beginning of the end for Luck. Only three episodes to go. And things aren’t really ramping up like you’d normally expect- yes, there are a few new developments here- Walter’s now in danger of losing Gettin’ Up Morning in an ugly legal battle and Ace’s racetrack purchase is actually starting to move forward- but otherwise, Episode 6 feels more or less like any other chapter of Luck.
It makes me wonder what kind of finale we’re going to be getting. The only story that really feels like it’s been developing across the entire season is Ace getting out of prison, and I assume that’ll be ending when the season does, but what of everyone else? If I had to guess, I’d say that the finale will bring closure to most of the show’s inhabitants in an emotional or a tonal way, considering that Luck was never really plot-driven to begin with.
And while the show is taking its time everywhere else, the story of Ace and his casino deal is gaining some serious forward momentum. I still have no idea what his overall plan is (it involves Indian casinos, somehow), but now we’ve got Nathan Israel playing both sides at Ace’s behest and some vague threats written in cake.
A couple aspects of this story really stood out for me. First, the use of a muted trumpet in the show’s soundtrack (and the reference to Miles Davis) really gives everything an old-school, film noir kind of style, especially when the plot is becoming so twisty and turny and double cross-y. And adding on to that, the ending was a nice little subversion of the standard Luck ending, with Gus going off to sleep in a bed while Ace stays in the chair for once. Closing with the same two characters every time builds up a nice, comfortable, familiar feeling, and adding that little twist subconsciously implies that we’re on the verge of some big developments.
And while no one else is moving forward quite as much as Ace and Gus are, there’s still a whole mess ‘o earthquake-related developments happening this time around. The earthquake itself isn’t quite the massive, series-changing event you’d expect, and Joey’s the only one still feeling its effects after a couple scenes have passed us by.
But the scene where he loses his stutter? Incredible. Richard Kind, who I’ve never thought of as a super-serious dramatic actor, puts some real, human weight into his lines and reading the label of a Tommy Bahama shirt transforms into this grand, uplifting moment. I’m not sure if we’ve seen the last of Confident Joey, either- his stutter does return once Ronnie spits some acidic words his way, but Joey was confident enough to face Ronnie down in the bar, and I’d hesitate before saying that one bad episode would transform Joey right back into his old self.
As far as the actual horse racing is concerned, there’s a recurring theme of people pushing these animals too far- Leon loses control of Mon Gateau and nearly gets himself disqualified (but still manages to gain an enemy in the jockey he smacked into), and Rosie faces some real anger from Walter when she whips Gettin’ Up Morning despite his instructions not too. Rosie’s clearly a stronger jockey then Leon, and this is a nice reversal for both of them- Rosie gets on Walter’s bad side for once (although they do patch things up by the episode’s end), while Leon actually gets a seal of approval from Joey and the Four A’s. We haven’t seen much of Rosie and Leon’s relationship (if that was a relationship at all, and not just a one-time thing), but if things continue on this fashion then there may bet some new developments between the two of them.
And I think that should about do it for this week. For the chosen few of you out there watching the show- Are you enjoying the ride? What are you expecting for the finale?