Mar 20, 201209:41 AMThe Telegraph

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'Luck' Episode 8 Recap: Racing Toward the Finish Line

Mar 20, 2012 - 09:41 AM
'Luck' Episode 8 Recap: Racing Toward the Finish Line

HBO

Jill Hennessy plays Jo Carter in the HBO drama "Luck"

(Luck, the HBO limited-run series set in the sometimes exciting, sometimes seamy world of professional horse racing, aired its eighth of nine episodes Sunday. We’re offering recaps of each episode, so you won’t get lost in the dust as the drama gallops into the home stretch.)

EPISODE: No. 8

MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS: Financial whiz kid Nathan Israel is still very seriously dead, killed in a burst of rage by mobster Michael Smythe (Michael Gambon) during a conference aboard the latter’s yacht. As his minions dispose of the body, Chester “Ace” Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) – who had been employing Israel as his go-between (and triple agent) during negotiations with Smythe – appears even more determined to weave a complex web of revenge.

First, Ace contrives to have a video surveillance camera trained on Cohen (Ted Levine), one of Smythe’s lieutenants, as the latter delivers a bribe to the owner of an Indian casino. Then Ace has his trusted gofer Gus (Dennis Farina) delay DeRossi (Alan Rosenberg), another of Smythe’s men, in a secluded area of the Santa Anita racetrack while Ace pays a call on Smythe. But the meeting between the two former partners in crime is appreciably less violent than the build-up portended: Ace hands Smythe a DVD with incriminating footage of Cohen’s bribery, and tersely announces that Smythe and his associates “ain’t my partners anymore.” Smythe, it should be noted, does not take this news very well. But he doesn’t reach for the glass ashtray again.

Meanwhile, back at the racetrack, pregnant veterinarian Jo (Jill Hennessy) is kicked in the stomach by a horse she is treating. While her doctors do their best to ensure the safety of her unborn child, trainer Escalante (John Ortiz) – Jo’s lover and the father of the aforementioned child – bonds with Eduardo (Dmitri Todd), the youngster Jo has taken in as a helper.

Walter (Nick Nolte) is reassured by his lawyer (Bruce Davison) that he has legitimate claim on Getting’ Up Mornin’, his beloved Thoroughbred, despite threats by Bowman (Adam Harrington), a representative of the Kentucky family that previously owned the horse. But even after the matter is settled (temporarily, at least) in a hearing, Bowman shows up at the stables to issue new threats – and is knocked to the ground by the enraged Walter.

Everything seems to be building toward the Western Derby, an annual Santa Anita race with a million-dollar purse. Pint O’ Plain, the horse owned by Ace and Gus (and trained by Escalante), will start out of the gate alongside Getting’ Up Mornin’. Ronnie (Gary Stevens) still is set as jockey for the latter, despite his apparent backsliding into substance abuse. Maybe the guy really is recovered: When newbie jockey Leon (Tom Payne) can’t make weight for an upcoming race, he asks Ronnie to hook him up with some rapid weight-loss drugs – but Ronnie turns him down.

Leon’s depression is deepened when his spirited young girlfriend Rosie (Kerry Condon) replaces him as jockey for Mon Gateau, the prized horse of the four “degenerate gamblers,” thanks to the intervention of agent Joey Rathburn (Richard Kind). Mon Gateau won’t be racing in the Western Derby – but will participate in an undercard race during next week’s climactic episode.      

WHOA: Looks like it will be one and done for this outstanding series. Last week, HBO and producers David Milch and Michael Mann announced the cancellation of Luck, following the death of a horse during production of what would have been second-season episodes. (Two other horses already had died during filming of the first season.) Which means that next week’s installment – Episode No. 9 – will be, for all practical purposes, the grand finale. Of course, it remains to be seen whether all the myriad subplots will be wrapped up in a satisfying fashion, or if we’ll always be left wondering about the ultimate fates of certain characters.

BEST LINE OF THE NIGHT: Ace to Smythe: “You get the one pass.” (But Smythe obviously doesn’t believe Ace won’t avenge Israel’s death.)  

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