The Deuce season 1, episode 5 recap: “What Kind of Bad?”


Candy and Vinnie contemplate their future career moves, as the sex industry continues to grow off the street in “The Deuce,” episode 5.

The Deuce’s latest episode sees not only main characters Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Vincent (James Franco) question whether they should stay in or join the growing sex business in 70’s era New York City, but also young sex worker Darlene (Dominique Fishback), arguably the most sympathetic of the ladies of the night on the show other than the aforementioned lead. Or so we were initially led to believe.

While Abby (Margarita Levieva) showcased her feminist credentials by purchasing a bus ticket back home for Darlene, the North Carolina native (real name Donna) uses the opportunity to bring one of her friends back to NYC to “model” as part of a recruiting mission for her temperamental pimp, Larry Brown  (Gbenga Akinnagbe). However, none of her friends take the bait. They stress that they’re country girls at heart who are more interested in local gossip than the bright lights of the Big Apple, so instead Darlene is stuck with returning with a young waitress named Bernice (Andrea-Rachel Parker), later renamed Ginger, who isn’t “street ready,” according to Larry, but who is determined to leave her old life behind at all costs.

Larry sells her off for $2,500 to Rodney (Method Man), who’s in constant recruit mode around Candy. There’s a fleeting moment in “What Kind of Bad?” where the veteran prostitute, her solemn face covered in make up to conceal her bruises and busted lip, almost seems ready to take Rodney’s offer to be her pimp. But ultimately she decides to revisit her brief stint in front of the camera, only now they’ll actually be film inside since New York has lost its “community standards,” as noted by adult filmmaker, Harvey Wasserman (David Krumholtz).

Credit: HBO

The decision comes after Candy experienced a brutal beating at the hands of a random john, who also robbed her. We learn from the conversation between Rodney and Candy that this is far from the first violent encounter she’s faced in just the past few years. Tears fill her eyes as Rodney reminds her of the past ordeals.

The career change comes as Candy continues to see single dad Jack, who knows her only by her given name, Eileen, and is oblivious to her line of work. They engage in an unsatisfying sex romp that ends with Candy finishing herself off, and reluctantly taking money for a cab from Jack. He invites her to a party later in the week, but sadly the date doesn’t happen given the state of her battered face.

It’s clear that Candy has had her fill of life on the street corner, something her younger counterparts are just beginning to grasp. Loretta ( Sepideh Moafi) complains about her feet hurting, while Lori (Emily Meade) is comforted by C.C. (Gary Carr) after another incident. However, Darlene had the opportunity to get out, but decided to return instead.

Like Darlene, Abby is easily bored by her former life. Much to Vinnie’s dismay, the college drop out goes out with a long-haired young man, who complains about the war while ironically wearing an army jacket. But she cuts the date short after sitting around listening to he and his friends talk about music and contemplate which movie they should see later in the evening. There’s something irresistibly alluring about “The Deuce” for both young women. Abby revels in refusing service to pimp Reggie Love (Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter) after they trade barbs, and later opts out of wearing the leotard uniform required at The Hi-Hat.

Credit: HBO

“Maybe she likes her life the way it is. You ever think of that?,” Ashley (Jamie Neumann) asks Abby after she complains about being duped by Darlene.

The idea that a young woman would willingly submit themselves to that type of lifestyle is foreign to the likes of Abby, as well as Officer Alston (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) and Amsterdam News reporter, Sandra (Natalie Paul). The pair continue their mission to draw attention to the inner workings of the Deuce, even as they both face resistance from their respective higher-ups. Sandra eventually nabs an interview with Reggie Love thanks to Alston in exchange for some cash. “They love to hear themselves talk,” he says of the pimps.

Credit: HBO

While the women face clear danger on the streets, there’s a concerted effort by the city to clean things up for their own benefit, taking the sex business indoors to places like massage parlors. That’s where people like mob boss Rudy (Michael Rispoli) come in. He and other mobsters make deals with the city so that law enforcement and other officials look the other way as long as it’s all kept under wraps.

They’re promised they’ll be notified of raids in advance that will actually be all for show. The same can’t be said for establishments with gay clientele, as The Hi-Hat bartender, Paul (Chris Coy), learns once again when he’s apprehended for soliciting while leaving an adult movie theater where he engaged in consensual sexual activity. But he eventually finds his home at The Loft, a huge underground dance party where no alcohol is served.

More from HBO

Meanwhile, Vinnie is reluctant to enter into the sex industry himself when Rudy offers him the opportunity to manage one of his many massage parlors that he’s opening around the city. The barman no longer has qualms about getting into bed (professionally speaking) with mafia figures that he and his brother-in-law Bobby (Chris Bauer) used to despise, but he’s hesitant in becoming a “whoremaster” after seeing the level of violence perpetrated against the prostitutes first hand.

He’s eventually convinced by Bobby, who sees it as a much-needed opportunity to provide for his family now that his future as a foreman is in doubt given his recent health issues. Vincent knows little about what the business entails, but he’s willing to give a shot for his family, just as he formerly made a deal for his twin brother Frankie’s benefit.

The Deuce continues Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.