Luck – Chapter Five
There are metaphors within metaphors whenever Milch writes a script, to de-cypher them all would take a mind as mental as his and multiple viewings and what is the part of Luck that we have all seen again and again? The opening sequence. There are a number of interesting shots buried in what appears to be a fairly standard set of credits but there was one that stood out to me this time around. Just before the episode begins we see a coin spinning on its axis, wavering this way then that; to most it would be innocuous but to me it was Inception-esque. Does it fall on heads or tails? We never know, but unlike in the movie here the drop does matter because the way it lands will decide who ultimately gets the coin and that as we know can be a life or death decision. Luck is such a powerful thing, one flip of the coin can change everything: Heads and you’re calling the shots in a sharp power suit, tails and you’re scouring racetrack bathrooms for cans and cut tickets. It’s enough to give you chest pains.
On the field though, in the midst of a race, the stakes may be the same but the situation is so much more complicated than a coin toss. This isn’t fifty-fifty, hell it’s not even an even twenty split (Is it coincidence that this Fifth episode centered around the legal race minimum being five horses? No. Milch is clearly telling us critics that we need to see a certain number of episodes before we can truly start to canter.); anything can go wrong and here we set yet another example of that. A horseshoe, one of those trusty symbols of luck and good fortune, becomes a literal presence, enacting itself physically upon the world. They may have won the race but not without a price, is this the cost of Luck? Is this another way that the coin can cut? Maybe we’re going to see that winning isn’t everything, that you can call the toss and still walk away from the table empty handed.
Regardless of the result – which was noticeably underwhelming after last weeks, as if we were meant to see this debut as less than that one, perhaps for the reasons I just mentioned – I’m glad that we got to know this horse as well as we have been Gettin’ Up Mornin’ over the past few weeks, because that imbalance was also noticeable. Now do we move onto the men’s mare so that we’ll be all set for the big race in the finale? I don’t know that the show is that predictable, though I wouldn’t mind if it ultimately ended up being so formulaic because the execution is sure to be fantastic, i’d bet on it. Though they are less important than the animals it was also nice to see Kind get more to do, because he is an actor that I truly do love even if his role here has been a bit iffy; seeing him make that final phone call was enough to sell me on his presence, that was heartbreaking. Dustin too was given some meatier moments, not better material but more to do on the track and that was nice. Wherever it’s heading the show is really coming together now.
Speaking of endings, say what you will about novelistic television (and the episode titles here are quite literally denoted as Chapter breaks) but Luck is one HBO show that knows full well how to end an episode. The “everyone goes to sleep” send off should feel as cliché and contrived here as the “closing the door on the camera” technique has since The Godfather, but there is something about the way that Luck does it, week in and week out, that continues to strike a chord within me to great emotional resonance. That Milch merged this with the weeks moment of transcendent equestrian establishing shots – Dustin waking next to his horse – only exacerbated the matter further. These moments they have a beauty, but they’re not beautiful, maybe its a melancholy, though they’re not that melancholic… I don’t know, but the nature of the show in these moments is utterly unique to itself. Others may have done the mob action, the sport sequences and other specific scenes as well or better in the past but that feeling Luck leaves you with is singular and oh so sublime. There really isn’t even a word for it, at least not in my lexicon; the only way to describe it is to say that I feel lucky come the end of each hour, like my side of the coin has come up. Damn the cost, i’ll be back each and every week.