We are being inundated by epic and large scale television series, from shows that have been hyped up and talked about on all the social media networks. And then you get a show like The Deuce which almost slipped under the radar but was so excellent and multifaceted that it’s almost too good to miss.
Before watching The Deuce I was a little apprehensive because the subject matter seemed extremely heavy and bit grittier than I usually engage in, but after the first episode I was intrigued, and with each passing episode I became more interested in the characters, in the storylines, in the context as a whole. This was an excellent piece of television, and while I can understand it being not for everyone, it is definitely worth checking out.
What’s it about?
The Deuce is the story about the sex industry in New York – the legalization and rise of the pornography industry in the 1970s, brothels, drugs, etc. It tells the story from various perspectives – the mob, the police, the prostitutes, the pimps, the bar owners, the brothel owners, the porn directors.
Why should you watch it?
The Deuce boasts an impressive cast – most of whom also featured in showrunners George Pelecanos and David Simon’s previous hit show The Wire.
James Franco plays the dual roles of Frankie and Vincent Martino, Italian American twins who make a deal with the devil when they become involved with the mob – going from owning a pub to owning brothels and starting peep shows. It’s a testament to Franco’s acting that even though the brothers are similar, in scenes when they are not named, one can tell them apart, from his mannerisms and portrayals.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays the role of prostitute turned porn director, Eileen ‘Candy’ Merrell is also excellent in her role, and well-deserving of all the nominations she received for it. We experience it all through Eileen, and many times she is our most consistent guide in all of this, we feel her pain, we want her to succeed, we see why she chooses not to work under a pimp and the dangers of her decision – it is shown to us in full-blown colour, we can look away but the realities will still be there.
The supporting cast as well, play their roles with strength and gumption, Gary Carr is particular as the pimp C.C. is both charming and terrifying and is truly underrated. Each actor brings a sense of realness to the characters that they play, this is set 40 years ago, but it never feels unrealistic. Each scene, each moment, feels poignant and raw.
The Deuce could have easily just been a show about the men (mostly white) pulling the strings in the creation of the porn industry – the businessmen, the mafia, the police commissioner, the directors – but it goes so much further than that.
It’s a testament to how diverse the writing room is that we see different perspectives of the same time period – and they all feel relevant and equally interesting. There is Ruby, who is large and black and gets treated even worse than the other prostitutes because of this, there is Paul, a gay barman who has to deal with prejudice and actual jail time because of his preferences, there is constantly a glaring glance of the inequality in the sex industry, whether by gender, by class, by race or by sexuality, the ones that suffer the most are the women, the poor, the non-whites, and the LGBTQ+ – and these are the stories that The Deuce is telling.
As I said in the intro, this is might not be for everyone, but it will for certain enlighten you. The sex industry is multifaceted and layered, a lot of the appreciation we have for it today has been built off of the exploitation of others. This is a well written, excellently shot (Michelle McLaren of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad fame) directed both the pilot and finale, and gripping to the very end. It is definitely worth a watch.
Watch The Deuce on Showmax now