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.

LUCK RECAP: No icing error, this

LUCK RECAP: No icing error, this

nullAbout a third of the way through episode six of Luck, a conversation between the horse trainer Turo Escalante and the veterinarian Jo is cut short by portents. A flock of birds erupts from behind, or within, the stands; silhouetted, they look like bats. The horses freak out. Then comes an earthquake. The walls tremble. The ground shakes. And then it's over.

When sudden horrible and/or miraculous events unite all the characters on David Milch's cable series, the shows suggest there are mysterious forces at work in the universe — that's "forces", plural. Nature is an insistent presence on Luck, with its talk of equine and human health, blood, and broken bones. (The relationship between Ace and his parole officer revolves around piss tests.) Accounting and probability are important, too: Every episode is filled with talk of percentages and dollar figures, odds and payouts. But that's as far as the intimations go. The great shake-up this week might be a metaphor, or it might be just a physical event. The show's opening credits suggest a multiplicity of possible manifestations of luck — praying hands, crucifixes, a shamrock, dice, a spinning coin, coins in a fountain — without favoring any one of them. Ultimately, what matters isn't what's happening or how the events came about, but how the characters interpret events and react to them — how they respond to good and bad fortune.

The manager Joey Rathburn loses his stutter when the gun that he's about to kill himself with misfires because of the tremors; the bullet ricochets through the room, inflicting only a flesh wound. "Hello. My name is Joey Rathburn," Joey says, upon discovering the change. Then, reading a clothing label: "Tommy Bahama. One hundred percent cotton. Extra large. Made in China. Machine wash. Cold water." The change in his personality is subtle but instantly apparent: Joey seems a bit more confident and forthright, not as much of a shmo demoralized by a failing marriage. Entering the bar, he exclaims, "Good evening, one and all!" as if he owns the place. By the end of the episode his stutter has returned, though in that last conversation with Ronnie, it seemed to me that he was able to at least assert a bit of control over it.

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

Matt Zoller Seitz is co-founder 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.