A recap of the final episode of "Luck" after the break. Don't click through if you don't want to know.
So that's it then. This is the last episode we'll ever get of this show. And, all things considered, it's not a bad way to go out. Many of our characters ended on a hopeful note, particularly the Foray Stables guys and Rosie. At least one storyline, about Jo and Turo's baby, met a plausible, if sad, end. And the two stories on which we didn't really get closure -- Ace's battle with Mike and Walter's struggle with the Colonel's family over Gettin' Up Morning -- at least came to natural stopping points.It wasn't quite as satisfying as the ends of some other one-and-done series, like "Terriers," "Lights Out" and "Freaks and Geeks," but it didn't end on a giant cliffhanger. Plus, it was just a heck of an episode, as we saw the cat and mouse game between Ace and Mike reach a fever pitch.
Man, these two guys are incredibly well-matched adversaries, aren't they? I would have really enjoyed watching the two of them duke it out in subsequent seasons. But this episode gave us plenty of good stuff, and showed us the difference of these two men's styles. Mike prefers to taunt his enemy, sending Ace's grandson out to L.A. as a not-so-subtle threat. Ace, meanwhile, comes at Mike more directly, quickly dispatching with both of his hitmen. And how much fun was that sequence? We've always known that Gus is more of a driver and right-hand man to Ace. Here, we see him in full tough-guy mode. And few actors are better at playing tough than Dennis Farina. The thrilling sequence when he takes out the British hitman in the bathroom is brutal but brilliant, from the convincing tussle between the two men, to the way Gus cleverly uses a scarf to lock the bathroom door from the inside.
Farina also has that great, quiet moment when Gus pulls himself back together in front of the mirror. He's not someone who's recognized as a great actor, but he uses silence and slight modulation of facial expression so beautifully in that scene. Just a solid sequence from beginning to end.
Speaking of solid sequences, this week's episode took place on Western Derby day and we got two excellent racing scenes. The more thrilling one was, of course, the actual Derby race in which Gettin' Up Morning and Pint of Plain battle to the end. I've seen this episode three times now and, every time, I swear it's a dead heat. But it's plausible both that Pint of Plain wins (Irish's head does appear to be slightly in front when the camera flashes, signaling the finish) and that Escalante would think his horse won.
The first race sequence, in which Mon Gateau wins with a triumphant Rosie on board, was equally good. I think we've lost a little bit of the suspense around Mon Gateau's races. He always seems to win, which could sap the sequences of tension. But even if we can guess the outcome, the race is shot in such an exciting way -- and brings such joy to Rosie and most of the Foray guys -- that it's still riveting. Extra points for using Tony Joe White's thrumming "Elements and Things" during the Mon Gateau race and the moments leading up to it. A really good song I don't think I've ever heard before, and an excellent accompaniment to Mon Gateau's come from behind victory.
All in all, this was a very strong episode that highlights all the best stuff about this series. And, if we're not going to get more episodes, I can be at least moderately satisfied with this.Anyway, here are some more of my thoughts on this episode:
- Fun fact: Ace's grandson is played by Dustin Hoffman's actual son, Jake. Jake also played his dad's grandson in the movie "Barney's Version."
- Speaking of which, the tension of the Derby sequence is upped a bit by the appearance of both Ace's grandson and Mike at the racetrack. From the conversation between Mike and Ace, it seems that Mike works for someone, but that he's on a "long leash." We also learn, not shockingly, that he plans to destroy Ace's dream of joining the racetrack. Frankly, the racetrack plot is the one element of the show I'm glad I don't have to keep up with anymore. Yes, the scenes with Michael Gambon and Dustin Hoffman were powerful, and I like watching the characters of Mike and Ace bump up against each other. But the race track plot really seemed a weak vehicle for this. It's too complicated and, given the fact that nearly every other character knows what Ace is up to, a bit too obvious.
- I can't decide whether the decapitated head of Nathan Israel was really phony-looking or incredibly gruesome in its lifelessness. Either way, it doesn't look too much like Patrick J. Adams.
- Some more good Escalante stuff, as he struggles with two big races, a missing goat and Jo's miscarriage all in the same day. The scene where he goes to the hospital and finds out that Jo lost the baby was surprisingly powerful, despite the fact that it was fairly obvious that that's what was going to happen. Jill Hennessy finally got to do a little emoting, and that final scene between Jo and Escalante was a nice one.
- OK, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this episode had the longest interaction we've seen thus far between Turo Escalante and Walter Smith. And, frankly, if all this episode had to offer us was the scene in which both men utter the word "cockroach" in their respective unique voices, it would have been enough.
- Poor Marcus. For the second week in a row, he's had to tolerate an irritating woman that one of his buddies has brought to the track. Last week, it was Jerry's card dealer girlfriend, and this week, it's Renzo's mother, played by Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl. At least Renzo's mom can carry on a conversation. In fact, had this series had a second season, I wouldn't have minded a little hookup between Marcus and Mama Renzo (though she seems intent on setting him up with Cody, the girl with cerebral palsy who has befriended him).
- That bribe barbecue really has gotten a lot of use, hasn't it? Just thought I'd point it out.
- Gus and Ace pillow talk of the week: Sadly, this is our final look inside Ace and Gus's HQ/luxury suite. And, fittingly, it focuses more on Ace's conversation with his grandson than on his conversation with Gus. This is obviously a fraught relationship, as Ace both feels bad about not being a better father figure and is still upset that he had to take a three-year prison sentence to protect the boy. And Ace doesn't make it any better at first. He's so thrown by Mike using his grandson to threaten him, Ace doesn't seem glad to see the kid. But, in the episode's final moments, he makes things right, telling him "I wasn't to you what I could have been. That's over now." It seems to be enough. Plus, the goat's back.