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TV Diary | Luck: “Episode 3”

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TV Diary | Luck – Episode 1.03 – “Episode 3” – Original Airdate: 2/12/12

Episode Grade: A-

I’m not sure whether it’s because Luck’s getting easier to understand by design or that immersion into the world of the show is starting to take hold but I felt significantly less confused after the conclusion of “Episode 3” than I did at any point during either of its first two episodes. Again, it’s becoming clearer that there are three major threads in the show: Ace’s pursuit of revenge, the Four Amigos [1] and their foray into the world of horse ownership, and Walter’s attempt to prepare Gettin’ Up Morning [2] for big money races, so we’ll continue to look at the show from those standpoints. “Episode 3” introduced a new player in Ace’s pending confrontation with his former partner Mike [3] Suits’ Patrick J. Adams as a smarmy derivatives expert who works for a firm that Ace owns as part of his legitimate business pursuits. Beyond the fact that it was surprising to a degree to see Ace running a legit enterprise, Adams registered an immediate impression when his David Israel was the lone member of a board meeting that Ace was running who had the gumption to speak his opinion, leading Ace to abruptly exit the meeting and then ask for a private audience with Israel. Later, after meeting with Israel and Gus in his hotel room, Ace takes a liking to him almost solely because – as he remarks to Gus – “He’ll irritate the shit out of Mike.” The shading of the Israel character isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before – the savant who’s really good at what he does but is lacking in any type of social grace – but it establishes Israel as yet another cog in Ace’s expanding plan for revenge. “Episode 3” also marked the first appearance of Michael Mann vet Joan Allen [4] as Claire Lachay, a woman who runs a non-profit organization devoted to rehabilitating horses and who it would appear – based on Ace’s lingering glance at her – could end up positioned as a love interest for Mr. Bernstein before too long. While two new players were introduced into Ace’s orbit, the Four Amigos (or 4A) continued on in their quest for ownership of Mon Gateau, Escalante’s former horse who was claimed in “Episode 2” after Escalante’s con of making it appear that the horse was injured while entering him in a claiming race backfired. Lonnie’s near-death experience with the would-be-murdering hookers seems to have galvanized the entire group’s resolve as Jerry in particular looks much less haggard than we’ve seen him at any point in the series thus far. He’s enlisted by the rest of the group to meet with the winning claimant, played by W. Earl Brown (probably best known as Deadwood’s Dan Dority). After securing ownership of Mon Gateau from Brown, Jerry is then able to convince Escalante to stay on as Mon Gateau’s trainer, news that’s seen and received as a gigantic victory by his three partners. The scene where Escalante gives them the rundown on what his services entail [5] is marked by the wonder on the 4A’s faces when Mon Gateau is brought to them up close and personal. Again, just as in the pilot, Luck takes great care to show its audience how majestic these animals really are and the reaction of the four men shows that that majesty is enough to strip away any negativity present in that one moment. It’s a great scene as played by all four actors [6]. And as in “Episode 3,” the least traction comes in the Walter thread where the biggest development is that Walter loses Ronnie as a candidate to ride Gettin’ Up Morning after Ronnie takes a spill in a race and breaks a collarbone, sidelining him for a good period of time and for long enough that Walter ponders bringing Rosie back from Portland to be his jockey. Nick Nolte is great but of Luck’s three major threads, this is the one that’s moving the needle the least for me, but we are only three episodes in. There’s plenty of time for Walter’s story to find its groove and prove that it’s just as strong as the rest of Luck is shaping up to be.

[1] Since this is what Renzo suggests they should call their stable, this is how I’m going to refer to them beginning… now.
[2] Hell… I even managed to learn the names of the two principal horses thanks to this episode. Hooray for progress!
[3] Who I’d expect to be introduced very, very soon.
[4] I’d completely forgotten the pivotal role that Allen played in Mann’s 1986 classic Manhunter until Alan Sepinwall pointed it out in his review of “Episode 3.”
[5] And good damn… it costs a shitton of money for upkeep on horses. Holy shit.
[6] The contrast between Renzo’s childlike wide-eyedness and Lonnie’s scared reluctance to approach Mon Gateau is a nice touch, too.

*I mentioned in my review of “Episode 2” that there was a palpable childlike quality to Gus but that label could just as easily be affixed to Renzo. His telling everyone within earshot that the 4A are thinking of buying a racehorse is proof of that, but so is his instinctive need to take care of people. It’s clear that he views the purchase of Mon Gateau as something that can keep the Four Amigos together but he’s just as insistent that Goose, the man who helped guide him through the claiming process in “Episode 2,” is given 5% of all of Mon Gateu’s winnings as a token of his appreciation for Goose’s help. Renzo is quickly turning into the kind of guy you root for, even as Richie Coster often plays him as if Renzo just smelled a fart. Just an observation.
*”People make adjustments.” Liked seeing Ace’s parole officer parrot this “Episode 2” line back to him after he shows up at Ace’s hotel for a routine urine test only to find that Ace has the hotel’s gym all to himself.
*Between Ronnie’s accident, Leon taking a header onto a tile floor and cracking his head open after a weight-loss-inducing sauna session, and the near accident on the track as Gus watched Ace’s horse almost collide with another animal coming the wrong way, Luck is doing a fine job of showing us the inherent dangers of the horseracing industry. Not to mention that Ronnie’s descent (or relapse) into drug abuse is clearly a coping mechanism for the stress and eventual emptiness of the sport being taken away, even if only for a brief period.
*To that end, the scene were Ronnie hands over a bill to a liquor store clerk to buy some booze that he’d used as a coke straw not five minutes earlier? Classy move.
*I wouldn’t be surprised if Luck is setting up some competition for who gets to ride Gettin’ Up Morning between Leon and the returning Rosie.
*That Escalante and his veterinarian are fuck buddies makes perfect sense in retrospect. The scene earlier in the episode where he offhandedly accuses her of leaking sensitive information on Mon Gateau that lead to the horse being claimed was fraught with sexual tension.
*The staging of the scene in the hotel after Israel shows up for his meeting with Ace stood out in a very positive way as Ace, Adams, Lachay, and the hotel’s concierge all walk to the elevator as Massive Attack’s “Angel” plays on the soundtrack might have made it one of my favorites in the show’s three episodes thus far.
*”Mr. Late For Me Is Prompt.”
*”Jesus Christ you fucked this up. Every part to every damn aspect.”
*”I break this fucking collarbone more than I get laid.”
*”You think this comes from a job at McDonald’s?”
*”Define junk more precisely.” “A Chinese sailboat.”
*”I’d like to use the lavatory.” “America, kid.”
*”Don’t be poaching my ketchup. You’ve got ketchup of your own.”
*”My guess, honey, if that ain’t a week’s work and something to put in the basket on Sunday you better call me a greedy motherfucker.”
*”I know you’re not gonna flunk him on account of me being fresh?” “No. That would make us both unprofessional assholes.”
*”Oh… put on your to-do list? Go fuck yourself.”
*”Go home. Come back tomorrow tell me every fucking thing you did between now and then. If I like what I hear I’ll give you a million dollars for the next twelve months you work for me.”
*”I’m out looking for fun.”