Thursday, March 29, 2012

As Luck Would Have It: Fin

Luck, what could have been? The series closed the curtain with an excellent episode that blends well drama at the track with gangster business betwixt Ace and Michael. All TV series walk a fine line between compelling drama and cheesy soap opera clichĂ©. Irish red-headed jockey with a heart of gold and an accent that would make a Lucky Charm’s executive blush? Check. Several montage scenes that make the “montage” scene from Team America seem understated? Check. An unexpected pregnancy? The grizzled veteran old trainer sitting on the bench at dusk, with is dog at his side and his horse in his heart? Yes. Yes. Yes.

It all worked.

Some of the racing scenes read more like visual poems to the beauty of the horse than they did to plot considerations. Despite the unfortunate equine deaths that ultimately sank the show, Milch’s love for the horses bleeds through the screen. Milch cares far more for horses than the Coen Brothers do for the vast majority of their characters. Tis scrawled across the screen in blinking neon. Who knows, in another world, in which Luck had a successful three or four season run, it’s not unthinkable it could have raised the profile of the sport considerably. The demise of horse racing, and current state of crises is largely speculative. This as a counterpoint to that.

Paired nicely with the soft gauzy beauty in motion of horse racing, was the intense cat and mouse bullying and mind-fuck Michael puts on Ace. Kills, dismembers, and disposes in the ocean his guy Israel. Ominously flies in his naive grand-son from out of state. And sets a bad-ass British assassin on his path. Seeing Gus and Ace duck and dodge the assassin over the course of the day ratcheted up the tension nicely.

Towards the end, the series slowly but surely brought the threat of violence and menace from the back to the front, to much benefit. A particularly satisfying scene demonstrated the history between Gus and Ace, when during lunch, Gus sets an ambush in motion by simply asking Ace “do you remember that time in Chicago?” The resolution of that scene, shows a weary Gus washing his hands and coming to the cold realization that he’s too old for this shit. Another stand out scene reveals Ace cracking under the pressure of dodging death all day, his big horse race coming up, his grandson in peril. He gazes out of Escalante’s stables through a veil of horse leg wraps, which have been hung to dry, but for all intents and purposes look like Buddhist prayer flags waving in the breeze. Michael shows up to taunt Ace in the paddock. Leering and jeering like a ghoul on the edge of your bed. Discordantly pale and powerful. Well done.

As with Deadwood, the unintended final episode kind of sorta works as a coda.  

The Kentucky Derby is just a few weeks away. The real life drama will be unfolding at tracks across the country every weekend between now and May 5th. Do yourself a favor and follow the lead of the Foray Stable guys. Grab a racing form, do a little studying, and head down to the nearest simulcast joint. Nothing beats the real thing.

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