LUCK RECAP: A Herd of Two

LUCK RECAP: A Herd of Two


Episode seven of Luck at first feels like a placeholder, until you look back over it and realize that the universe is reordering itself beneath the surface of things. In the pilot, most of the characters seemed detached from life, or isolated; but now, with just two episodes left to go until the end of the season, they've formed or deepened relationships. More importantly, given the show's seeming belief in kindness as good karma, a lot of the characters have taken responsibility for another human being or fellow creature.

Horse trainer-owner Walter Smith seemed terrified and nearly paralyzed by that letter from the estate of the Colonel sticking him for a $140,000 bill, but now that he's got himself a lawyer (Bruce Davison) who seems serenely confident in what he's doing, Walter seems a bit more relaxed. The moment where Walter moves to pay the lawyer in cash and is politely refused is a wonderful example of how trust can make the more cynical social niceties unnecessary. (It also indicates that Walter has probably never had a lawyer before; he's used to the economy of the track, which seems to be based around paper money changing hands.) After being berated by Walter last week for taking an unauthorized crop to Gettin'-Up Morning, Rosie the aspiring jockey asks Joey Rathburn the agent to intercede on her behalf, and Joey counters by subtly indicating that if he's going to be acting as her agent, he should actually be her agent; Rosie agrees, and another formalized partnership is born.

Lonnie, arguably the least essential member of the Foray Stables, tries to expand their operation by claiming another horse, Niagara's Fall. The animal nearly wipes out during the race; Leon, who was kind of a disaster in earlier episodes, responds quick, preventing worse injury. But rather than earn the group's unabashed contempt (or at least Marcus's), the mishap seems to get written off as the sort of thing that happens when four guys go into business together. The group itself seems to be maturing in the way that an individual matures; its individual members are deepening and softening as well. Jerry, a genius-level race picker who has can't stop blowing his horse winnings on poker games, enters a high-stakes tournament, and does surprisingly well. He seems emboldened by his erstwhile poker partner, the ex-card dealer Naomi (Polish actress and model Weronika Rosati). They get it on in the parking lot, and later in the episode he returns with her to the hotel and interrupts a meal between the other three amigos with a wonderfully unconvincing "Hey, guys, what's up?" nonchalance. Anybody who's ever tried to introduce a new lover to a circle of friends while pretending that the aura of sex isn't hanging over everything can relate.

You can read the rest of Matt's recap here at New York Magazine.

Matt Zoller Seitz is co-founder and publisher of Press Play and TV critic for New York Magazine.




Before we delve into HBO's Luck, I need to get some housekeeping out of the way. I wrote about it in a very general way for New York magazine, then asked to recap the first season for Vulture. Luck is a rare TV drama that benefits from wonky auteurist scrutiny, and that's how I'm going to approach it. I'm fascinated by series creator David Milch and have written extensively about his great western drama Deadwood for the Star-Ledger, The House Next Door, and Salon. I'm also an aficionado of the show's executive producer and pilot director, Michael Mann. In 2009 I wrote, edited, and narrated a series of video essays about Mann's film and TV work. As I recap each episode of Luck, I'll delve into Mann and Milch's creative histories and sensibilities. I might also break down scenes and sequences in detail and talk about why they succeed or fail. I'm not interested in the details of plot except as they relate to character and theme, and I tend to hop around in an episode's chronology rather than writing about events in a linear way.

One other thing you should know: HBO sent the whole first season of Luck to critics in December, so bear in mind that when you read my (and others') recaps, you're reading observations by people who already know how everything turns out. Beyond urging readers who might be on the fence about Luck to stick around through episode four, where things really start to come together, I'll try to avoid spoilers, and ask anybody out there who's seen future episodes to do the same. I plan to delete anything resembling a spoiler from the comments threads and ban anybody who makes a habit of posting them. Them's the rules.

And … we're off!

If you would like to read the rest of Matt's recap of Luck, click here.

A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for New York Magazine and the founder of Press Play.