Don’t be afraid of everything that can be.
So, I am going to start at the end of the episode because there was a lot of stuff packed into the end for Ace, and for Escalante and Jo to a lesser extent. During the dinner scene, Claire is able to really dig an idea into Ace’s brain it seems. Claire lays out the idea of horses being able to have a profound effect on people’s lives in a very direct way. Something that has come up for almost all of the characters at some point in a visual way, but I think Claire is the first to vocalize the transformation that can occur. Then she tells Ace not to be afraid of that change or “everything that can be.” This statement keeps Ace up that night murmuring to himself, in one of the most insecure moments Ace has had this season. I am reading this as him starting to take a look at the possibility of shedding his past life and his revenge plans and simply working towards a brighter, champion-horse-filled future for him and his grand children. I find this really interesting in contrast to the gang of four and their dreams. The lovable gang all seem to know that they are trying to work for a brighter future where they can say good-bye to the difficulties of life that have been dogging them for years. But for Ace, that is not his instinct. He wants to be back on top of the world the way he used to be, and we wants to take down anyone who has hurt him. He is completely motivated by the past and step back where he was before prison. Whereas Jerry and the other guys are trying to rid themselves of past addictions and destructive behaviors, simultaneously gaining the great bond of friendship while also gaining independence (in the form of 4 single hotel rooms instead of just 2). I get the feeling that Ace is questioning things as everybody seems to know that revenge is his top motive (both the parole officer and the racetrack owner directly bring it up). What did you think about Ace’s sleeplessness and his snappiness at Gus as he falls asleep listening to Ace mutter to himself about Claire’s statement and “everything that could be”?
As for the rest of the episode, we got to see Escalante continue to be an asshole to Jo by refusing to have any heart for anybody but himself. Between showing no care for the random women’s son who was shot and then continuing to not care about Jo as she tried to be the bigger person and confront the issue in front of them, Turo sure seemed like he won the “Dick of the week” award. With Ronnie coming in second with his spiteful attacks on Joey as Joey is riding high and stammer free.
Speaking of Joey, I liked how they handled his brush with death. I feel like the “act of God” preventing suicide can be done in a very trite way. I feel like Joey’s reaction and his subsequent freedom from his stutter were things that could absolutely happen to someone in his situation. A rejuvenated sense of purpose and liveliness seemed logical. But at the end of the day, a person has to face the deeper issues of what is causing that dark depression. While it seems like Joey is out of the darkest parts of his soul, he did realize in his slipping back into a stutter that he cannot escape his lonliness.
I’ll cover one more thing since I am kind of rambling on: the idea of celebrating before the race was official was pretty cool. One, as a superstitious sports fan, I completely agreed with Marcus’s sentiment (but probably not his tone) when he shut Renzo and Lonnie’s celebration short by chastising them for celebrating before the race was official (even though he had been doing that approximately 4 seconds earlier). I had a poetry professor who, as a Red Sox fan, popped a bottle of champagne in celebration right before Bill Buckner’s famous error that led to a loss instead of a world series. My professor still partially blames himself for the error, and I agree with him. It is an entirely selfish way to view the world, but as a sports fan, I want to pretend that I have some power, which is why I pick one Duke shirt to wear on every game day of the basketball season. That is me helping the team out. Marcus and the guys are lucky that their premature celebration did not cost them the race.
Sorry I got a little off topic. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
I don’t think you were off topic at all. In fact, I think one of the major themes of the show is how, even when we know something is rationally outside our control, we invest our emotional and psychic energy into it – like believing that the t-shirt we wear affects how our team plays, or whether or not we can jinx the outcome of a panel of judges by cheering too soon. Isn’t this what luck is all about? Believing in a personal connection and meaning to events that could be written off as completely unconnected or simply connected by coincidence. So I agree – that scene where we watch our four friends (and Escalante and Leon too) hold their breath and hope for good luck was beautiful.
I’m going to keep the rest of this pretty short this week and just focus on Joey’s brush with death. Like you, I thought it was handled very well and the fact that I teared up when he overcame his stammer in the hospital room is proof of just how well this show sneaks under my skin and into my heart without me noticing. Joey experienced a kind of luck more serious and profound than anyone else so far – a coincidence that saved his life and also gave him the confidence that his life is worth saving. That is how I read the disappearance of his stutter: for a moment he is free from all his doubts and second-guessing and trying to please people and impress them or be tough. He is just a man glad to be alive. And in that joy he finds his confidence and peace and his stutter disappears. I also agree with you that this doesn’t last and the loneliness that has been haunting him comes back, along with the stutter. But what I loved was that we saw how much that loneliness is brought on by forming the wrong kinds of attachments with people. Joey is too vulnerable with people and in the wrong ways. He exudes neediness and desperation and directs his desire to be affirmed to the people who take advantage of it the most – Ronnie and the woman he kept calling (Rita??). It is not surprising that Ronnie is the one who can bring his stutter back because he gives Ronnie that kind of power over him.
It was a beautiful and painful note to strike at this point in the season – the dangers and limits of being too vulnerable or vulnerable in the wrong ways. After watching our characters grow close to each other in various ways and try to figure out what it means to depend on each other, we are now watching the limits of intimacy. Joey is the strongest example, but also Jo and Escalante and Ace and Gus, and Ace and Clair (and if the “next week on” is a hint, there is also tension brewing in the pick 6 four).
I will conclude by asking, is there any chance Jo and Escalante will just have that baby? Don’t you think, for all their problems, they’d make a really good couple for real?