About a third of the way through episode six of Luck, a conversation between the horse trainer Turo Escalante and the veterinarian Jo is cut short by portents. A flock of birds erupts from behind, or within, the stands; silhouetted, they look like bats. The horses freak out. Then comes an earthquake. The walls tremble. The ground shakes. And then it’s over.
When sudden horrible and/or miraculous events unite all the characters on David Milch’s cable series, the shows suggest there are mysterious forces at work in the universe — that’s “forces”, plural. Nature is an insistent presence on Luck, with its talk of equine and human health, blood, and broken bones. (The relationship between Ace and his parole officer revolves around piss tests.) Accounting and probability are important, too: Every episode is filled with talk of percentages and dollar figures, odds and payouts. But that’s as far as the intimations go. The great shake-up this week might be a metaphor, or it might be just a physical event. The show’s opening credits suggest a multiplicity of possible manifestations of luck — praying hands, crucifixes, a shamrock, dice, a spinning coin, coins in a fountain — without favoring any one of them. Ultimately, what matters isn’t what’s happening or how the events came about, but how the characters interpret events and react to them — how they respond to good and bad fortune.
The manager Joey Rathburn loses his stutter when the gun that he’s about to kill himself with misfires because of the tremors; the bullet ricochets through the room, inflicting only a flesh wound. “Hello. My name is Joey Rathburn,” Joey says, upon discovering the change. Then, reading a clothing label: “Tommy Bahama. One hundred percent cotton. Extra large. Made in China. Machine wash. Cold water.” The change in his personality is subtle but instantly apparent: Joey seems a bit more confident and forthright, not as much of a shmo demoralized by a failing marriage. Entering the bar, he exclaims, “Good evening, one and all!” as if he owns the place. By the end of the episode his stutter has returned, though in that last conversation with Ronnie, it seemed to me that he was able to at least assert a bit of control over it.
You can read the rest of Matt’s article here at New York Magazine.
Matt Zoller Seitz is co-founder of Press Play and TV critic for New York Magazine.