“Episode 9” is this week’s episode of HBO’s Luck. Michael (Michael Gambon, Harry Potter) sends a hit man after Ace (Dustin Hoffman). This worries Ace more than usual, because his grandson, Brent (Jake Hoffman, Dustin’s actual son) is in town. Thankfully, Gus (Dennis Farina) is able to dispatch with the killer, allowing them to enjoy the Derby. Ace’s, er, Gus’s horse wins, but as it does, Michael looks on, plotting his next move.
This is a bittersweet victory. Ace stays safe, and manages to keep Brent from harm, too. Ace’s plans for the horse track are on course, he has cut business ties with Michael, and his steed, whom he cares dearly about, wins a major race. But the threat of Michael, sinisterly sneering down, literally, does dampen the mood. As does the discovery of Israel’s (Patrick J. Adams, Suits) body in the ocean.
Ace feels responsible for Israel’s death, but is he really? Ace does send Israel to Michael, but is not intending or expecting bloodshed to result. Ace clearly doesn’t think Michael will harm Israel, at least not badly. Israel is a simply a business go-between. The tragedy of his murder upsets Ace. Michael is a bad man, Ace knows that, but apparently Ace hopes that Michael’s business side will control his temper. Not so.
“Episode 9,” the season one finale, is billed on HBO’s website as the series finale of Luck, although one episode of season two was filmed before production shut down permanently, due to on-set animal deaths. As to whether that single episode will ever see the light of day, well, that’s still up in the air. As a season finale, “Episode 9” serves it’s purpose quite well. As a series finale, it leaves much to be desired.
The battle of wills between Michael and Ace is just getting started in “Episode 9,” which makes it a shame that there will be no more to the story. These are two titanic actors, who can both perform circles around most people in the industry. Pitting them against each other in this story makes their struggle seem larger than life, as their characters are. The disappointment at their conflict going unresolved is heavy.
Worse, it’s hard to know who would have won, and at what cost. Michael might have the upper hand, as it stands, because he is ruthless and willing to go further than Ace. Ace is soft, whether because of love or prison, and seeks peace in his life, not war. There is little doubt that Ace could defeat Michael, because of the threat Hoffman allows to simmer in the role, but at what cost? Would he have to sacrifice the soul he is cultivating?
At the crux of this question is, what kind of man was Ace before his stint in jail? Would a slip into darkness be a return for him? Or was he always more of a caring, loyal individual, as he is now, but is he turning dark because of Michael’s betrayal? This isn’t answered in Luck.
Ace’s win in the horse race means that Walter (Nick Nolte) loses. He takes it well, and why not? Second place isn’t horrible. Victory only draws more attention to the horse, whom a snotty young man is trying to take from him. Plus, Walter respects Escalante (John Ortiz). They both work towards the same goals, and Walter isn’t bitter enough to deny a fellow trainer, whom is an honorable man, his due congratulations.
Walter would be more upset if he knew the truth about his jockey, Ronnie (Gary Stevens). Ronnie is the real loser. Walter gives him back his spot because Ronnie cleans up his act. But viewers see that Ronnie is back off the wagon almost immediately, snorting coke. Did Ronnie’s impaired condition have anything to do with the loss? Either way, Ronnie is heading for a big melt down, which will not be good for anyone.
Really, Walter’s mount should have gone to Rosie (Kerry Condon, Rome). She works very hard to shape that horse into a victor, and then loses her position due to inexperience. Rosie does get to ride in an earlier race on Derby Day, though. Which might be what she actually deserves, considering she is still young and relatively new in the industry. And she wins that handily. Still, there is some regret that she doesn’t ride for Walter, even if the two remain on good terms.
Rosie’s win is lucky for the Foray Stables. Marcus (Kevin Dunn), Lonnie (Ian Hart), Renzo (Ritchie Coster), and Jerry (Jason Gedrick) have a heck of a year, buying a winning horse, and betting smartly. A couple of them even find a possibility of love. Chance is on their side, and they all end the year in better shape than they started. Which is gratifying, as each of them have shown that, despite flaws, they are good men at heart, who deserve a happy life. Their luck may not always hold out, but it certainly does through “Episode 9.”
Sadly, Escalante’s luck isn’t so good in “Episode 9.” He wins two races, to be sure, but Jo (Jill Hennessy) loses their baby. Escalante is a little scary as the series begins, his thick accent not helping matters any. But as the weeks pass, he is revealed to be a man who cares deeply about his job and those that get past his walls. Jo’s pregnancy affects him a lot, and as he stands by her through the loss, he will surely take it to heart. It shows the strong fiber this man is made of. He may be the best character, and that’s saying something.
And that’s the end for Luck, sadly. It is an excellent show, and delivered a great season, full of complex, interesting characters in a fully developed world. But circumstances can’t always be controlled, and the show did not have the best luck in that regard. Thank you to all involved for creating such a memorable run.