Today’s the day they take it all away
Today’s the day they take it all away from us.
Have you ever discovered an awesome restaurant or bar right before it got shut down. Maybe it had financial problems or it just didn’t have what it took to be a successful establishment. But a month before it closed, you found out they serve the best Chicken Vindaloo you have ever had. That’s never happened to me (but I might have to get some Indian food soon, just in case), but I imagine that it would feel a lot like the end of Luck. Just when the show has become something that I could really get excited about, something that I would bug all my friends who “don’t watch TV” about, it gets pulled out from underneath us. Luckily (ba-doom-ching!….I have been trying really hard not to make that pun all season long, but I figured what the hell), this episode was a decent wrap up; one that we can make-do with as a series finale. But last night, I couldn’t help but think, what if this show really got a chance to go for it. They built up this season masterfully, so I can only believe that it was going to really be in full stride (boom!) the whole time in season 2. There isn’t the sense of longing and loss like there was at the end of The Wire, but the wire also had almost 60 episodes instead of 9. I feel like Luck could have built itself into a show that made me almost think that the characters were people I knew, but it looks like we will not be able to see that play out.
Alright, enough of me whining, let’s talk about what would have been a fantastic season finale and was a really good, but slightly lacking, series finale, for obvious reasons. This episode really showed us how far each of our characters have developed this season. We got to see some wonderful moments with our gamblers (plus Renzo’s mom, who provided some much needed guidance to the group, especially Marcus). During our last scene with them, we get to see Marcus finally show the slightest moment of hope that maybe not everything will collapse. Jerry seems to be in something resembling control of his addiction. Renzo and Lonnie seem to have built something of self-confidence (Lonnie enough to get Rosie to come hang out and their “poolside” cookout).
We see the two most intimate moments that Turo has showed the entire season. First with Ace and Gus, which he gets a moment of embarrassment as pay-off because of tripping over a bucket of water. Then second, we see him actually show real compassion for Jo and the baby that she loses in the final race scene (because there apparently wasn’t enough action going on).
Speaking of the race scenes, holy shit, they were beautiful. They were an amazing mixture of stunning slow-motion, fantastic shots at full speed, and (especially in the first race) close-ups of the people watching (Renzo’s mom pounding her hand on Renzo’s shoulder, Goose chewing on a pamphlet). The show has found a way to make each race have a different cinemagraphic feel while maintaining an overarching style. I was pretty amazed by that.
I have lost anything that resembles structure to this blog post. So I will abandon any further attempts.
Here are a few things that were less than fulfilling in the episode:
- Leon. He didn’t have much presence (because his fat ass doesn’t get to race at 117 pounds), and he also delivered what might be the worst line of the show: “You go girl!”
- I’m not really sure why we had Marcus’ doctor in this episode. Maybe I missed something deeper than Marcus being willing to open up, but the new character didn’t seem to add much.
- The introduction of Ace’s grandson seemed somewhat out of place because it seems like it is building towards a non-existent future. This would have been a great move if season 2 had been a reality, so it’s not really a fault of the episode. It’s more of just one more reason it is sad to see this show leave.
Since I have rambled on quite a bit, I will just list a few more things that I really like about the show, and then I will let you handle things I missed or didn’t have the eloquence to talk about.
- Gus slowly choking out the would-be assassin was terrifyingly awesome. I think it answered some of your questions about whether or not Ace had real power. Gus apparently is worth fearing the way we have thought he was. And also, they have other people that they can send out to grab that other guy in the parking garage.
- Renzo’s mom: “Irish, this lady-jockey.”
- Walter and Escalante’s conversation after the race. It was what I imagine the classiest of coach’s do at half court after a big game in basketball. Two competitors really happy to have an archrival.
- The final shot. While I feel like there is more to this shot than I picked up on immediately. I loved how the horse craned its neck looking at something off-screen. I like to think of it how I felt at the end of the show. I just want to crane my neck a little further and see more of these characters lives and development. The feeling I got from it in a more analytical sense was that Pint O’ Plain was trying to see the goat that had just come back. In a similar way that all the characters are desperate for the people that give them comfort, Pint O’ Plain really wanted to see the goat again even after the big win.
Alright, now that this has gotten really long and rambly, I will pass it off to you. I hope that you enjoyed the episode, and I hope you enjoyed writing about it as much as I did. Thank you for inviting me, and let’s take solace in the fact that Mad Men and Game of Thrones are here to wash away our sadness.
Like you, I am awash with beauty and sadness. The finale was a near perfect piece of television and one of those rare hours I felt truly transported the entire time. By the time we got to the big race, I realized I didn’t know who I wanted to win. I guess Pint O’Plain, in the end, because so many more of our characters are attached to her and her fate, but mostly I was just swept up in the sublime beauty of the race. As soon as it was over I made my husband promise that we would go see a horse race as soon as possible. And even though Ace’s plan to give away a horse through a lottery draw every month once he is owner of the track is utterly ridiculous (we’ve seen how expensive it is to own a horse), I loved all that it conveyed about how much this process has transformed him. He may not be spending much time at Claire’s farm, but he is one ex-con who is being rehabilitated by horses, just as she hoped.
Or rather, he is being offered small moments of comfort and the chance at rehabilitation. You are absolute right that this episode did everything it needed to, to show that Ace and Gus are not to be messed with. They’ve been in this business long enough, and be in enough tight spots, to have a code language for murderous set-ups – last night they pulled a “Chicago.” Seeing their extra muscle also helped convey that Ace is in command of a much larger set up than it might initially appear. Bringing the grandson into the mix, however, opened up the question we’ve been musing about: maybe Ace wants out. At first I read his worried expressions when Mike showed up at the track as a kind of fear (and he clearly fears for his grandson), but I actually think it might be regret. Standing in the barn watching the sun and wind play in those strips of cloth, touching his horse’s head, feeling the healing magic of the track, all I could think is that Ace wants out. That maybe he regrets concocting this elaborate scheme of revenge and just wishes he had bought the track on his own and gotten down to a new life, or at least a modified life. Now, it appears it is too late. His three enemies have literally invaded his sanctuary and if there were a second season I am sure it would revolve around who will eventually claim control of the track.
Of course, we’ll just have to imagine what will happen. And that goes for all these characters we’ve grown to love. I agree with everything you said about our cast of characters so far. Each of the four Pick Six (and now Pick Four!) winners have made progress, small but significant, toward integrating their luck into something like a normal life. I am sure another season would see more ups and downs, but I am so glad they left us with a glimmer of hope. And Escalante and Jo – oh how those two break my heart! For a split second I thought Turo would walk out to hide his own emotion and I was talking to the TV like mom does urging him not to walk away. And for once, he doesn’t! For once he does the human thing, realizes this is too big to blow off with a joke, that his own pain is not really his own, but is shared by this woman who is more than a colleague but barely a lover (the awkward way Jo patted his arm reinforced how much intimacy they lack, despite how much they share). I actually hoped that they would build a real relationship out of this accident and maybe even one day have another pregnancy that they planned. Since I get to imagine whatever I want about the future, that is what I am going to imagine.
I will also imagine Pint O’Plain and the goat growing old together in a camaraderie that last the ages. There was some irony in the final shot of the horse, since it is the sad fate of these horses that pulled the plug on the show, but it was also perfect. At first I thought this show as mostly about gambling and luck and addiction and it is about all of those things. But it wouldn’t work if it were just about poker or slot machines. No, the beauty, the mystery, the power of this world lies in the horses, their strange combination of ordinariness and other-worldly strength and grace and I realized in that final shot that I will miss them as much as the humans who love them.
Thanks for blogging this season too, and yes, at least we have some substitutes!