This article contains spoilers through the Season 2 finale of The Deuce.
“Heaven,” the Talking Heads informed us on their seminal 1979 album, Fear of Music, is “a place where nothing, nothing ever happens.” Not even the most dedicated fan of HBO’s The Deuce would likely describe the show as heaven. But up until Sunday night’s finale, the second season of the prestige drama—about sex work and the rise of the porn industry on 42nd Street (a.k.a. “the Deuce”) in the 1970s—was pretty much a place where nothing ever happened.
That’s not quite right. Things “happened” on The Deuce. They just rarely seemed to have any meaningful impact on the circumstances of the show’s principal characters. Whatever weekly misunderstanding Vincent (James Franco) might have with mob boss Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli), he’d still wind up back behind the bar at his disco, Club 366, precisely the same as before. Likewise, Abby (Margarita Levieva) would reassume her spot behind the bar at the Hi-Hat. And despite their occasional extracurricular indulgences, Vincent and Abby would return to the bed they somewhat halfheartedly share.
Sex-worker-turned-porn-director Eileen/“Candy” (Maggie Gyllenhaal) spent essentially the entire season making her arty sex flick, Red Hot; Vincent’s pal and former bartender Paul (Chris Coy) spent it building his own posh, gay nightclub. Vincent’s brother-in-law, Bobby (Chris Bauer), would grouse about tending to the “massage parlor,” but he’d always find his way back to a stool at, yes, its bar. (The Talking Heads song I cited earlier actually begins, almost too aptly, “Everyone is trying to get to the bar.”) Vincent’s ne’er-do-well twin, Frankie (also played by Franco), would persist in making Frankie-like errors in judgment that somehow never seemed to carry any meaningful consequences. And Chris (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), the incorruptible patrolman from Season 1, would keep us on tenterhooks over whether he’d eventually accept an assignment in the Deuce and return to the show as a meaningful character. (Final answer: maybe next season?)