Why The Deuce never climaxes

Formally as well as cinematically, the HBO series is unporn

Maggie Gyllenhaal in 'The Deuce.'
(Image credit: HBO/Paul Schiraldi)

If it's a truism that no one read Playboy "for the articles," it's also true that no one watches porn for the plot. But plot there is, and in spades: It's the pretext that makes the whole point of the thing — the climax — structurally necessary. What's striking about The Deuce — David Simon and George Pelecanos' series about the rise of the porn industry in 1970s New York — isn't just how artfully it avoids participating in the pornography it documents, but how stubbornly it resists the conventions of plot itself.

The series' resistance to the lures of porn and plot alike make you think a little harder about the role of plot, particularly at a moment in television when characters are routinely sacrificed to it (I'm looking at you, Game of Thrones). Plot is obviously there to structure a narrative experience; it's also there to generate and channel desire. Plot makes you want certain outcomes. It makes you root for certain people. It creates momentum and drive and introduces the possibility of satisfaction.

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