The tale of Valerie Solanas, the Scum Manifesto, and her effect on the women of Kai's cult.
Season 1, Episode 6: “Cyclone”
Directed by Nicole Kassell
Written by Carl Capotorto & Erin Cressida Wilson
* For a review of the previous episode, “He In Racist Fire” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The King and I” – click here
With everything all but falling down around Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), the first season of HBO’s Vinyl moves further towards the finale.
This episode starts with “Tequila” by The Champs playing on a radio outside the home of Mr. Finestra, as he sits inside railing cocaine in a craze. This guy is seriously developing more of a habit each day. He’s hanging out with old pal Ernst (Carrington Vilmont). He isn’t much of a good influence, pretty much egging Richie on about Devon (Olivia Wilde) and what she might be up to. At the same time, in come his kids while he’s high as fuck. What a father. What a dude.
Richie: “I should freeze my accounts”
Ernst: “You should fuck!”
Meanwhile, Devon’s off on her own at the Chelsea Hotel. Seems there’s a bit of plaster casting going on, in which she’s involved. And then she gets even more involved when the shoot gets troublesome, offering to take off some clothes and jump in, head first. If Richie can have fun, why can’t she? Nobody should be judging her any more than him. All around a very provocative scene. All the same, nothing makes her feel full. Like Richie, constantly chasing a bigger, better, high.
Off the rails spins Mr. Finestra. He rampages through American Century Records like the titular cyclone, shouting orders, talking to himself.
Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano) welcomes Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse), and she seems ready to do business. Everybody’s happy to see her, from Skip Fontaine (J.C. MacKenzie) to Scott Levitt (P.J. Byrne). Then there’s the bossman who is a bit too over-the-top for everyone, clearly higher than Jesus. He leaves a little later, and it makes things easier for all involved. He heads off to cheat on his wife, but that doesn’t work.
Zak asks a little about Hannibal, to which Richie replies: “Because he tried to shove his dick inside my wife. Any other questions?” It’s just all out madness around the office. Richie’s falling apart, completely, right in front of everyone’s eyes.
Elsewhere, Julie Silver (Max Casella) requires Richie and his presence, concerning The Nasty Bits. “You kissed this broad not me,” says Julie. The problem is there are too many hippies at the auditions for a new guitar player. Richie trips out in front of everyone. We literally watch his tragic descent in front of the room. Then there is Ernst, reporting on Devon and her whereabouts. It’s all too much for Richie to handle right now, on top of the mountain of cocaine in his head. He takes off on the auditions leaving Jamie (Juno Temple) with Julie, the band, and no coke of her own.
Andrea takes Zak with her to go see David Bowie (Noah Bean), who jams onstage: “Is that Andy fucking Zito?” he calls down between jams. The guy playing Bowie looks SO MUCH like him, particularly in that era. Great sequence including him. Love the inclusion of all these musicians played by actors. Also gives Andrea lots of credibility, introducing her as a character quickly and efficient. But then Zak goes too heavy at Bowie and drives him away. Hilarious.
Outside a club, Richie ends up assaulting Andy Warhol (John Cameron Mitchell) by tossing him to the ground, then getting tossed into the road himself. His paranoia is building, especially after he finds out Ernst knows about what happened to Rogers – because Richie told him. The pair hotwire and steal a car, heading out for a little nighttime drive. Where to? Probably to track down his wife.
Devon is enjoying herself, blowing off steam. They talk about Ernst, Richie, all kinds of things. But Devon would rather not talk of her husband, his “bender” and such. Or is it more than that? She’s more drowned by the monotonous life at home, stuck with a husband, children. It isn’t exactly what she wanted, yet that life was forced upon her. This whole thing brings up the idea of artistry, what it means to be one, when you are one, who says, and so on. Love this whole sequence. Because then there’s the side of Devon which knows she’s bringing chaos to her kids, the family, and it pains her. Not all her fault, though. “I‘m so lonely,” she says: “It‘s pathetic. I‘m not myself anymore.” And that’s what it’s about: losing herself in the life of her husband, giving him everything with nothing left for herself.
Devon: “Day after day in that house I hear this creaking, back and forth, it‘s the sound of me hanging myself from the rafters.”
While his wife is pondering the big questions, Richie’s sleeping off a bender in the car. And forgetting important things. Simultaneously, in a guitar shop Kip (James Jagger) might’ve come across someone worth having in the band. Not only for his guitar player skills, but his scheming initiative. They both take off with guitars from the shop, and eventually Kip turns it into an offer.
Devon heads home, and almost instantly the sad quiet of that life returns, smothering her. Before she hears the kids, the one thing anchoring her there at all.
At the Bat Mitzvah, things are pretty much over. Zak isn’t overly happy to see Richie, after a six hour party. Such an awkward scene, as Richie makes a fool of himself, higher than the sky itself. He tries to apologize for everything over the past few months. Is it enough? Not so sure. “You ruined my life, and my family‘s life,” Zak yells at his boss. And Richie gets the toss, naturally. High and yelling at a Bat Mitzvah. Not a pinnacle of good living.
Worst of all, though, Richie knows he’s responsible for his problems, all those issues plaguing his life. He recognizes it all too well. Likely why he huffs down the drugs at such an incredibly dangerous rate, why he’s pretty much intent on self-destructing.
At home he finds Devon. He talks a good game – “I‘m gonna fix this” – but will anything truly change? He says the right things, makes the right moves, only she knows there’s more behind it all. Then he goes way too far and pushes her past the point of no return. She quickly grabs a few things, as well as the children. She finally decides to get out of there, recognizing the cyclone that is Richie, fueled by rage, ego, and cocaine.
Great montage of scenes as Trey Songz sings Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” and Zak mulling over his life, plus Richie discovers Devon and the kids gone.
Then we discover Ernst is dead – a hole in the back of his head. Has been all along. Could’ve guessed it, yet I still love this episode. A great bit of writing. What follows is an eventual car crash, as Richie hallucinates his long dead friend and gets totaled by another car in the road. A massacre to end such a wild, frantic episode. Then out steps Buddy Holly (Philip Radiotes) for a quick jam. And then Richie sits in his car, totally fine, staring at the Cyclone rollercoaster in front of him. Psyched out, man. Did he kill Ernst in a crash, is that how he died? Pretty sure. Love the intricacies. It becomes more and more clear with each passing episode that Richie turns everything to shit once it comes into his life, one way or another.
This was a whopper of an episode. Fun writing, excellent direction, and dedicated to the memory of David Bowie. Looking forward to “The King and I” next. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans!
Season 1, Episode 3: “Whispered Secrets”
Directed by Mark Romanek
Written by Debora Cahn/Adam Rapp/Jonathan Tropper
* For a review of the previous episode, “Yesterday Once More” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Racket” – click here
Rollin’ like a stone, Vinyl just keeps on coming!
This episode starts off on a record label banquet. Jackie Jarvis (Ken Marino) is up giving a speech for a Lifetime Achievement to Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor). Jarvis takes a shot at a few people, under the guise of comedy, even Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) who feels slighted. Richie’s also busy staring at the card on a table reserving Rogers’ seat; in between flashes of beating Rogers to death.
But after a sniff of cocaine, Richie’s feeling fine. His wife, Devon (Olivia Wilde), is not happy about hearing of her husband’s record label sale being called off from Jarvis. So Richie confronts Jarvis then goes to speak with Maury. Because Richie has things to ask Maury, about the mob connections to Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo). Except Maury has nothing but venom for his old protege.
Cut back to the end of last episode. Richie sits with Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh), trying to act like old pals. It’s clear Lester is only worried about keeping himself “grounded” whereas Richie sits across from him, blowing his nose into a handkerchief and seeing blood. You can hear a low, raspy quality to Lester’s voice, obviously from the injury he suffered at the hands of Galasso and his men years ago. Rich has the old tapes from their sessions, he wants to give Lester a chance after all these years. Only Lester lost his voice. He tosses Richie out, threatening him to never comeback.
Then, coming back to ’73, we get the visual metaphor of water swirling down a drain. Just like Richie’s life.
At the American Century Records office, Richie gets a note from Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) – a matter of “mutual interest” requires their attention. More coke, more flashbacks to Buck dying, then Richie is off.
Julie Silver (Max Casella) runs a bunch of names past Richie – from Terry Jacks, Dr. Hook, to Status Quo and Grand Funk Railroad, and so on – along with Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano). Some acts get cut. Others are obvious keepers, some possible moneymakers later on. Everybody’s stressed about money. Richie only wants to save money, so they can keep running.
Zak: “While you‘re at it see if you can say a fuckin‘ prayer for this company”
In Lester’s building we see an early D.J. fading songs in and out of one another. Watching on, Lester sees two old men start to boogie who rag on the young man for not letting songs play all the way through. But Lester encourages him to keep on working at it. Dig this scene. Perhaps a new way for Lester to make it in music – hip hop? Can’t wait for more of his story.
Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid) meets Alice Cooper (Dustin Ingram) in the recording studio. He knows of Richie and the label. Morelle tries to influence Alice into going solo because the band is just a band behind him, and “You‘re Alice.”
Then there’s Julie, along with Jamie Vine (Juno Temple), trying to get The Nasty Bits into shape playing some Knicks. Jamie isn’t happy about the band sounding unlike themselves. Out of nowhere, the band and the others are surprised by the owners of the building. Apparently. Everyone packs and up and leaves quick, as the owners start calling the police. Is this some backstory of Jamie’s, or what? Or is she just a sly dog?
Jump back in time, as Devon stares at an obvious Andy Warhol painting. She and Richie are in bed together, the latter with a period-appropriate grease-stache. A happier time in their lives, juxtaposed with the chaos of their present days. What’s clear is that Devon, somewhere along the line, stifled her creativity to allow Richie everything he wanted. So now she’s seemingly forever under his thumb.
Over at ACR, Richie’s banging cocaine up his nose while talking to an employee. He’s trying to get ahead of Jackie Jarvis and his big mouth. They need to make the label look better. After his first meeting, up shows Corso, who needs to talk. Turns out he has a possible act for Richie to sign. Maybe.
Back with Morelle, he’s still chatting to Alice Cooper, and also trying to get a random woman’s hand off his dick. He’s continually trying to make sure Alice will seek out ACR, promising a few little things here and there. Johnny Thunders (Jonny D’Ambrosio) arrives to talk a bit of shit. In the background, a nice painting is defiled with shaving cream. Rock n’ roll.
Devon needs a bit more cash for an event. Instead of being understanding at all, Richie denies her. But his wife is not pleased with what he’s “thrown” her, which all but confirms her giving up dreams for him.
On the golf course in the early morning, Morelle watches Alice drive some golf balls. Clark’s also got a bit of leftover eye shadow on, plus a big snake wrapping around his neck. These pieces with Alice are incredible. Gives us such an insight into how Cooper really acted behind the scenes. Seems like a fun dude.
At his apartment, Lester listens to the old sessions, picking up his guitar. He sits and plays it a little. He sings, too. Although his voice is rusty, a bit harsh, you can hear the soul in him come out. This turns into a vision of him singing beautifully again, sat under the blue stage lights, almost like being back in the day once more; the sound of a band behind him, his old voice in his throat. He envisions a life with a family, gold records on the wall and a beautiful house surrounding him. Only the tragic cut edits us right back into ’73, with Lester croaking out the blues.
Meanwhile, Devon isn’t fairing too well either. She is out to see Andy Warhol (John Cameron Mitchell). He immediately puts her on the camera, his new skinnier one: “Everything‘s skinnier now,” Andy remarks. She has the picture from her wall, the one she stared at earlier. She wants Andy to sign it – but only so she’ll be able to sell it, which Andy knows is the case. Devon tries to sell her own idea of the ballet company, eventually crying a little. Her old friend understands the need to sell the picture, and agrees to sign it.
Hoping to create another sub-label to ACR, Richie brainstorms while listening to Howlin’ Wolf – who actually shows up in one of the brief segues we’ve come to expect from Vinyl. From the blue, Maury and Galasso arrive for a chat. Galasso wants to know about the cop who came to see Richie concerning the murder they’re tangled up with; little do they know of Finestra’s trouble. Things go smooth for the time being.
Right afterwards, we find police and the coroner discovering a body: that of Buck Rogers, head bashed into strawberry jam.
While Alice jams with his band, Clark shows up. They’re in the midst of testing a guillotine prop. Then Alice turns on Morelle, alerting the band of what he’s up to. Well a story comes out about Richie Finestra and how he fucked Alice/the band over. This whole thing has been a tease. They frighten the hell out of Clark and send him packing back to ACR.
At least Devon’s having a better time. Now with a Warhol in-tow, making the ballet company leaders quite happy. Sadly, though, they want another ten thousand dollars out of her, which really puts a damper on things.
Onstage are The Nasty Bits for a showcase in front of Richie. He’s not impressed: “They‘re oatmeal.” He liked their “raw, alive” demo. The stuff he wanted was the wild, crazy sound their demo had. His disgust shows, even to Kip Stevens (James Jagger). But Jamie rushes the stage and tells him to play their actual stuff. She tosses a beer bottle to convince Kip, gladly accepting the chance. Rather than leave, Richie heads back to the stage so he can hear. He digs. “What the fuck just happened?” asks Julie, bewildered.
At home relaxing, Richie puts the tape Whispered Secrets into his player; the one Corso gave him. Then, as if the stars align, Corso calls to tell Richie about the body being found by some “kids playin‘ in a lot” – it obviously rocks him. So he plays the tape, starting with “Danny’s Song” in a nice folky sound. The song is like a bittersweet moment, as the beautiful voice pours from the speakers and Richie can only sit silently, unable to concentrate on the music, the Warhol missing from the wall. Nothing is in its right place.
Next episode, “The Racket”, ought to be interesting. Love the progression of the plot and the characters. This series is really picking up. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans.
Season 1, Episode 2: “Yesterday Once More”
Directed by Allen Coulter
Written by Terence Winter
* For a review of the pilot – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Whispered Secrets” – click here
Open on Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) watching a martial arts flick with Bruce Lee on the big screen, attempting the moves himself, all the while snorting coke. Problem is he’s not alone and “disturbing the other patrons” causing troubles.
Cut to Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano), Skip Fontaine (J.C. MacKenzie) and Scott Levitt (P.J. Byrne) trying to stall the Germans, as Richie is quite late. Zak reels off a story, everyone laughing and trying to play things up.
At the Finestra house, the television is left smashed with the Bo Diddley guitar still in it. Devon (Olivia Wilde) gets a call from Zak, letting him know about the Richie bender. She’s absolutely not impressed with her husband, though, she puts on a good face for the children. At the office, Zak slips some pills in order to cope with the stress; he does not look happy, either. And finally, up shows Richie looking like death walking – he’s still bleeding, covered in dust from the collapse at the New York Dolls show. Seems like Richie has a God complex now, or something similar. He feels almost invincible, between the cocaine and surviving the building falling down on top of him. He says they aren’t selling the company, then a wild scene breaks out as the boys try to calm their friend down. My favourite bit so far? The cuts to Jerry Lee Lewis (Lance Lapinsky) playing “Breathless” in a silhouetted, smokey frame.
Bottom line – Richie’s renewed his love of rock n’ roll. Then he pulls out some Bruce Lee shit on his buddies, except for Skip who dives over the couch to avoid an ass-kicking. “Is this how you do business in America?” asks one of the Germans. “Take a hike you Nazi prick,” Richie replies. Stumbling away with Zak and Scott bleeding, Skip tells them: “It‘s like the lottery in fuckin‘ reverse.” Over in his own office, Richie talks with Julie Silver (Max Casella), who wants to know what’s happening. Everyone seems to know what sort of guy Richie is, obviously he’s had problems in the past of which everybody at the office is aware. But Julie’s got no problem doing a bit of coke with the boss.
Now we switch over to Devon, who daydreams of a time before. Lou Reed (Connor Hanwick) plays with The Velvet Underground, as Andy Warhol (John Cameron Mitchell) and others sit around watching them. Richie is there looking quite different, as is Devon; before they were together. Devon takes pictures and Richie casually asks about her a little, they lock eyes and a connection is clearly imminent. In a bathroom, they meet and form an instant, steamy bond. Outside, Lou and the band rock on to “Run, Run, Run”. Coming back to reality, Devon drives on listening to a song on the radio, seeing Karen Carpenter in the car next to her – until she realizes her children aren’t in the car with them. She forgot the kids, but turns back quickly.
Meanwhile, Richie is busy shaping his staff up for the new regime. “Take that fuckin‘ Jefferson Airplane poster with you,” he screams at an employee, firing him and tossing his ass out the door. Richie wants kick ass, balls to the wall music, he wants everybody to start looking for the best stuff with the right kick. A hilarious scene, though, sort of disturbing because we know Richie’s off the wagon hardcore. Afterwards, Jamie Vine (Juno Temple) heads in to talk with her boss. She wants to know if he thought The Nasty Bits were any good, which he says they were, but they need an “MC5” sort of thing to give them better edge. Richie gives Jamie a chance to show what she’s worth by setting up a showcase for the band, plus she also hauls some coke out of her bra just as he asks for another vial; the look on his eyes spell THANK YOU. “If you ever rat me out again to Richie, I‘ll kick you in the fucking cunt,” Jamie quietly tells the receptionist on her way out.
Devon is reliving part of her old life, too. She takes pictures of the television with the Bo Diddley axe in it, artistically framed and such. Then receives a call from the police informing her of Richie’s car being near the building collapse, which obviously worries her as she hasn’t seen her husband yet. Even though he’s just at the office, coked up.
Zak is getting his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah ready. Only now the money is racking up and the deal isn’t going through. On top of all that, his nose is smashed to bits. Things are getting heavy for Zak now, but he takes it half decently. For now.
Another scene cut in here of a musician playing – this time, Bobby Bland (Jo’ell Jackson) sings “I’ll Take Care of You”, crooning away. Cut to Devon finding Bobby in the shower, upset at him yet glad he’s alive. For his part, he loves her. Maybe he’s fucked up, he definitely is. But he loves her, and she loves him, too. Only he can’t let her know what the real pressure happening is about; he claims it’s work, his birthday. It’s the murder, though. Clearly.
And right after they start to talk, a detective shows up: homicide division. It isn’t about Buck. It’s about Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor), his association with the mob, and a recent murder tying them all together. One the cop leaves, Richie breaks down: “I‘m a bad person,” he cries to his wife, weeping in her lap.
Flashback to hanging with Andy and all those folk. Richie has a slightly different look, now he and Devon are together. They’re all taking drugs, relaxing at what is likely The Factory. Andy’s a little jealous of Richie, being Devon’s boyfriend and all. When Andy comes over he is coy, faux-friendly, but somehow slightly sweet. Richie talks Devon into going on camera for Andy, which only requires her to sit there and look nice. The whole time she and Richie look at one another across the room.
Julie’s busy with Jamie, listening to The Nasty Bits. He is not impressed; not with the singer Kip (James Jagger) or his voice, not with the music, none of it. Julie does his best to explain how they can “suck less” and lays out the way they’ll impress Richie, as well as possibly get signed. This includes learning a Kinks tune to play for the boss, to which The Nasty Bits agree after a bit of whinging.
Having a worse is Zak, whose life becomes more and more a pain with each minute. His money problems are spiraling now that their huge deal for the label isn’t going through. I can feel something building, but what? Where will Zak turn? His wife certainly isn’t making it any better, having become accustomed to their obviously fairly lavish lifestyle. He gets out of bed and heads to the garage. In his car, he seems to contemplate taking a handful of pills then decides against it. Instead, he beats the hell out of the back-end with a wrench.
Flashback to the old days of Richie and Devon, as their present isn’t so wonderful. They’re hanging with The Factory crowd a little more, everyone drinking, making out, so on. Things were once incredible.
Back to ’73, as Devon wakes up to find Richie gone, their bed empty. Out on the street, Richie looks all business. He’s in the black neighbourhood where we saw him get a gun pulled on him during the pilot, where we saw his brief reunion with Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh). Richie carries a huge envelope inside, right to the door of Lester who reluctantly lets his old friend inside: “We gotta talk,” says Richie.
This was an excellent follow-up to the first two-hour extravaganza from Martin Scorsese. Looking forward to the next episode, “Whispered Secrets” – stay tuned with me!