It’s a little disorienting to watch the show give the “yadda yadda yadda” treatment to the previous five years, because so much dramatic change was afoot in 1972 and some of the players here have only inched forward by degrees. At the end of Season 1, the pimps were all hurtling toward irrelevance because of coordinated efforts by the police and gangsters to push the streetwalkers off Times Square and into mob-controlled peep shows and brothels. Here, it’s as if no time passed at all: C.C., Larry, Rodney and Reggie Love are still in the same predicament, desperately trying to bully and cajole women who have no use for them (and know it).
For his part, C.C. has appointed himself Lori’s de facto agent, but a scene in which he fakes a call for a $500 escort job, in order to bilk an adult film producer out of an extra few hundred bucks, suggests a managerial ineptitude that she recognizes and he doesn’t. C.C. is inordinately pleased with his short-term score; Lori is concerned about her reputation in the long term. Extorting producers and clients will lose both of them money.
The temporal leap does suggest a stability in the sex business, which seems to have been lucrative for everyone we know who’s involved: The mob empire has expanded into more brothels and a Lincoln-a-year habit for Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli); Paul (Chris Coy), like Abby, has settled into a managerial role at a popular bar; Chris Alston (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) has graduated from beat cop to full detective; and Candy has become a true adult-film auteur, starring and directing and editing elevated smut in 16mm.
For the Martino twins, Vinnie and Frankie (both played by James Franco), nothing much has changed. Vinnie stresses over the depth of his commitment to Rudy and his gangster cronies, and Frankie is still a devil-may-care pleasure seeker, stealing mob money to pay off mob debts. If Vinnie doesn’t keep bailing him out, Franco might not have a dual role for much longer.
Because they’re serving such huge ensembles, David Simon shows like “The Wire” and “Treme” take time to get up to speed in early-season episodes, and “Our Raison d’Être” is no exception. Simon and his co-creator, George Pelecanos, scripted the episode, and they take an exceedingly democratic approach to picking up on all the characters and stories from Season 1. Yet they’re clever about unifying this close-knit world when they can. Sending Vinnie out searching for Frankie and the missing $10,000 the entire hour has the effect of linking the whole empire currently under his watch. They also find rhymes between scenes, like a closing montage that mirrors Candy’s avant-garde experiment in quick-cut orgasm simulation. (Harvey complains about its Warholian qualities, but the mix of stock nature footage and cutaways to a ceiling fan suggest a cross between Ed Wood and David Lynch.) Future episodes will be freer to pick and choose their subplots, but Simon and Pelecanos do their best to set the table without too much of the inevitable laboriousness.