Warning! Mild spoilers for The Deuce below!
The story so far: The NYPD is keeping up with the ongoing efforts to clean up the city. Episode 2 saw the debut of Jack Maple, played by Domenick Lombardozzi,as Detective Chris Alston teamed up with him for some police work. Joey Dwyer is struggling for some Wall Street relevance and Candy was trying to figure out her next move while taking some time to invest in a personal life. Franky’s risky behavior has started to annoy the wrong people.
The third episode “Normal is a Lie” starts off by looking at two very different police officers. Officer Haddix, played by Ralph Macchio. Haddix has been solicited by a worried father to find his estranged daughter after hearing word she is involved in the porn industry. Alston (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) is looking to shake down a crooked member of society. Motives are questioned because life in The Deuce is always morally ambiguous and corruption is a well known secret. These exchanges set the tone for the episode and each action afterword plays out with careful tension.
While this episode may not be the most action packed, a lot of wheels are set in motion. Mr. Pipolo addresses his grievances after Frankie has ignored several warnings over the years. Abigail makes a new friend while her relationship with Vinny becomes more strained. Mike gets his own place. Paul must come to terms with the gravity of Todd’s situation. The characters are in motion and moving across the board, but the past hovers over some of our regulars.
Candy reveals more of herself to Hank, but the idea of having “a man” is something she has never really wanted. Gyllenhaal continues giving a stellar performance, showing strength, resistance, and vulnerability. Lori (Emily Meade), feeling weighed down by a changing industry grows more frustrated with the porn scene. Lori’s character development is remarkable as she has grown from feigning confidence to showing weakness, and the development continues as she grapples with asserting herself.
A standout performance in this episode is given by Olivia Luccardi for her role as Melissa. We have always seen Melissa in the background, light hearted and sweet, but never really taking center stage. In “Normal is a Lie” Luccardi delivers an almost completely wordless performance that is both powerful and heartbreaking.
One of the continuous themes in the show is the balance of family life and professional life. This third episode expertly shows the dynamics of judgement, family, and personal ambition. Strong writing continues driving this show forward.