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Blu-ray Review: The Deuce: The Complete Second Season

March 5, 2019

By John Corrado

Last month, HBO released the complete second season of The Deuce on Blu-ray. Created by George Pelecanos and David Simon, the series offers a gritty look at the rise of the porn industry in New York in the 1970s, set against the backdrop of the ongoing women’s rights, gay rights and sexual liberation movements.

The second season picks up five years after the first one ended, and jumps ahead to 1978, with the loosening of New York’s obscenity laws and the success of the 1972 film Deep Throat allowing the porn business to start booming.

This has allowed former sex worker turned porn star Eileen “Candy” Merrell (Maggie Gyllenhaal) to start directing her own movie, an adult film version of Little Red Riding Hood called Red Hot, that looks to bridge the gap between skin flicks and art house cinema.

Working alongside her producer Harvey Wasserman (David Krumholtz), Candy is finding her voice as an artist, and staking out a place for herself as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Cast as the lead, Lori Madison (Emily Meade) is trying to focus solely on acting instead of prostitution, but finds herself struggling to escape the clutches of her increasingly abusive pimp, C.C. (Gary Carr). Meanwhile, Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe) is trying to move away from being a pimp, and get into acting.

Twin brothers Frankie and Vinnie Martino (James Franco, in a duel role) remain at the centre of this world, and continue to have their fingers in a lot of pies. They are increasingly reliant upon mob money to keep their bars and other businesses running smoothly, including the brothel that is being managed by their brother-in-law, Bobby Dwyer (Chris Bauer). But the police department is desperate to clean up New York and revitalize Times Square, leading to the threat of raids and the arrest of prostitutes.

There continue to be a lot of story threads to keep track of in The Deuce, and the second season takes a bit long to get going in the first few episodes, as we are reintroduced to the characters after jumping forward several years from the end of the first season. It’s been about a year since I watched the first season, so it did take me a bit of time to really get into it again.

But The Deuce: The Complete Second Season continues to offer a compelling dramatic look at the sleazy underworld of New York in the ’70s, before it got cleaned up, as well as gentrified and corporatized. One of the things that really impressed me about the first season was the production design, capturing the seediness of the city as it was forty years ago, and that remains a selling point of season two.

The acting also remains uniformly strong, with the show being carried by an excellent performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal, who brings nuance and a sense of steely resolve to her resourceful and independent-minded character, who is increasingly allowed to take centre stage throughout the nine roughly hour-long episodes that make up season two of The Deuce.

If you liked the first season, then the second one largely recaptures what worked so well about it, while expanding upon the story and themes, and taking the mostly well-defined characters in some interesting new directions. For these reasons, The Deuce: The Complete Second Season comes recommended on Blu-ray, especially if you already have the first season in your collection.

The 3-disc Blu-ray set also includes a quick recap of season one on the first disc, the brief featurette Candy’s Back on the second disc, and the short featurette The Height of Porn on the third disc.

The Deuce: The Complete Second Season is an HBO Home Entertainment release. It’s approximately 536 minutes and rated 18A.

Street Date: February 5th, 2019

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