We bought a race horse
So the characters on this show are really growing on me and I think I am starting to appreciate the slower pace at which things are moving. Like last week, the heart of the episode really hung around “the four amigos” as Renzo so sweetly called them. Just like he hoped, buying Mon Gateau became a kind of group project that gave the four friends hope and relief from the pressures they’ve been facing. It united them as a group, helped Lonnie heal from his attack, brought Marcus out of his depressed and paranoid funk (thought that fact that he still carries all his cash around in a pillow case and furtively snuck Jerry a brown paper bag containing $32,500 was a nice reminder that he hasn’t changed completely) and perhaps most importantly, it kept Jerry out of trouble. You could feel the optimism of the friends rise: owning this horse was going to be their salvation, give them something to do with their new wealth and their time, and keep them out of self-destructive patterns. I absolutely loved the image of the four of them standing in Escalante’s barn, holding carrots in their open hands, with goofy, boyish smiles on their faces. Even Escalante is clearly moved by their naïve and innocent joy and softens up a bit to them in the moment. But of course, change doesn’t happen like that. Jerry is drawn back to the poker tables (“does Uncle Ben still sell rice?”) and the happy barbeque scene by the hotel pool is just a temporary dream.
Then we have the jockeys. Being jockey does not look very fun right or glamorous right now. I was really starting to feel attached to Ronnie Jenkins. His own excitement to be back in the races and his growing confidence that he could beat his trauma-induced addiction was contagious, even though it was very short-lived. Breaking a collar bone over six times and ending up addicted to pain meds, cocaine, and Cutty Sark is only slightly worse to starving yourself to make weight to the point of passing out in the steam room (that is what we are supposed to think happened with Leon, right?). You have to wonder if it isn’t a grace that Rosie isn’t getting sucked into all this.
Except, of course, she is about to! I figured Walter and Rosie’s professional relationship wasn’t really over, but I didn’t realize she’d be back so quickly. I wonder how they are going to handle the gender dynamics of her riding such a prize horse. Obviously Joey assumes that bringing a woman jockey in could only possible be temporary and he is thrilled at this idea – way better than picking a man who would probably replace Ronnie for good. And I assume that Walter pretty much thinks the same, which is why he is so concerned not to ruin Rosie’s chances of success up in Portland. If he planned to keep her as jockey for good, there’d be no need to worry since this would obviously be a good move for her. But if he only plans to ride her once or twice, then he might be really screwing up her career trajectory by yanking her around.
While we wait to get Rosie back, we finally get to see Jo (the vet) as more than just a stock character. It has been a little overwhelming how insanely male this show is, but at least there is hope that Jo, Rosie, and maybe Joan Allen’s character will become real characters, not just female props. I love the idea of Jo and Escalante’s affair. They seem really well matched for each other, both fiery, both lovers of horses, both able to handle the other. I also loved the way they showed them hold hands as they walked to the bedroom as a way to signal their intimacy, despite all their shit-talking.
Final thought, since this is going on too long. I finally realized the biggest hang up for me with this show: the David Milch-isms. I know you haven’t seen Deadwood yet, but one of the most amazing aspects of that show to me was the language. Besides the excessive profanity, almost all the characters spoke in this convoluted, introverted manner that sounded archaic. Not that I have any reason to think that gold prospectors in the late 1800s actually talked like that, but it gave the feeling of antiquity and elevated the rough and tumble of the frontier life to a kind of grand drama about the making of civilization. Now I realize that this is just a David Milch style. Just two examples: 1)when Renzo is explaining to Lonnie why Jerry is going to talk to Escalante he says “Escalante being the trainer previous of the horse we have eyes on.” And even more intensely Milch-y: 2) “Is she doing alright is the sole question I’m asking you that is supposed to keep an objective look out to what her situation is and prospects for success up there and stand down and look to her interests” – Walter practicing his call to Rosie’s agent. Don’t get me wrong, I love the weird beauty of these sentences and the way they give a kind of grandeur and importance to the ordinary struggles of ordinary human beings. But it has been throwing me for a loop because it doesn’t seem to fit the context. For now, I’m just noting it. Maybe it will grow on me. What did you think, not having the Deadwood context in your head?
I’ll leave it to you to ruminate on Nathan Israel and all the fabulous Ace power on display!
I absolutely agree with you about becoming accustomed to the pace and really starting to like the characters. I think the pace resembles that of The Wire, except that I never had to watch The Wire week by week, so I don’t think it stuck out to me as much. You are absolutely right about the four amigos. They are our most immediate emotional connection, especially Renzo. I am a sucker for lovable idiots with big hearts. The nervous way that Renzo asked if he could pet the horse, and then gets scared like a kid when he actually touches him, was beautiful. And like you said, watching them realize that change doesn’t just happen when you buy a horse. I especially liked the moment of Walter being protective over the ketchup on his fries. It was a great glimpse of how deep his fear runs.
As for the jockeys, you are absolutely right. The way that Joey treats his up and coming star jockey is terrifying. When Leon tries to bring up his weight (which caused that horrendous cracking sound from the head to tile smash), Joey gives him a mini lecture about being a “personal, private grown up.” It seems very similar to modeling or gymnastics. All of which scare somebody like me who goes to the same pizza place every Sunday to eat a half a cheese pizza.
I think that we will see more of our female characters as we go along this season. It seems obvious that Joan Allen will be around and mean something to Ace. Also, Jo and Rosie are almost certainly going to be more and more important. You are right about how few females are around, but do you think you would want to be involved in a world with sexism so deeply entrenched in it?
Now, onto Ace: I love that all three episodes have started and ended with Ace. This week’s opening scene with Ace orchestrating along with his music on the treadmill was great. Ace is the ultimate maestro. He has some ultimate plan to get his revenge on Mike and something else that I’m not really sure about yet. And even though the details of Ace’s plan aren’t clear (at least not to me yet), I love watching Ace dominate whatever room he is in. He gets to have a gym to himself (repeat of “people make adjustments”), he walks into a board meeting to offer “suggestions” that are immediately acted upon, and then he controls Nathan Israel amazingly in his hotel. Everything about Hoffman’s performance was awesome this week. When he walks out of the board meeting, he has his smirk that says that he totally knows how bad ass he is. I’m not sure about what Ace plans on doing with Nathan, except that it is meant to be a power move over Mike. We also got our regular episode closing pow-wow with Ace and Gus. This one was basically the opposite of last weeks in energy. Last week both men sat forward and plotted how to “get those cocksuckers.” This week, they fell asleep while laughing about scaring Nathan and how Ace is interested in Joan Allen’s character. It felt more like a 5th grade sleep over than a mastermind’s planning session with his right hand man. (Also, to your comment about possible sexual tension between the two men, I think Ace’s interest in Joan Allen’s character (maybe I’ll look up her name sometime) speaks to his heterosexuality. However, the intimacy between Ace and Gus is fascinating. I think talking each other to sleep is a fairly intimate moment that most friends do not share.)
About your comments on the Milch-isms: I had noticed this a little bit. I feel like Renzo sometimes tries to talk in a more poetic manner because it makes him feel smarter. I think Lonnie does the same thing, and I feel like Renzo might even be picking up the habit from Lonnie. However, I did notice that Walter’s line seemed a little ridiculous. I liked how nervous Walter is during that whole scene of rehearsing the phone call he is going to make to Rosie. After watching this scene a second time with your comments in mind, I actually like it a little better. Walter is trying to write the perfect thing to say that will work for Rosie. And, the harder he tries to write the perfect thing, the more contrived it comes across. If we get a lot more of these Milch-isms, I can imagine that I might be bothered a little by it.
I am definitely getting hooked on this show. I am very excited to see how we jump to the level of violence that seems to be coming based on the previews of the coming weeks. Should be fun.
Great quotes and random thoughts:
- “That’s the first thing you write down, ‘Before I left here, I asked him a stupid fucking question.’” -Ace
- The music in this episode was awesome.
- “I’d like to use the lavatory” – Nathan “America, kid.” – Gus
- “I know you’re not going to flunk me based on me getting half-fresh.” – Cowboy man “That would make us both unprofessional assholes.” – Jo
- The cinematography was great. They had some great shots that led straight into the next scene. The TV from the hospital (or wherever Leon was getting treatment) cut to the TV at the race track. Escalante and Jo holding hands cut to Ronnie’s empty hand as he walked into the liquor store.
- It’s a grill not a barbecue.