Vinyl, Ep. 1.04: “The Racket” finds the series hitting its stride

Vinyl, Season 1, Episode 4: “The Racket”
Written by Debora Cahn
Directed by S. J. Clarkson
Airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO

Perhaps Vinyl has regained its footing. The first three episodes of the series were filled with drama – Richie falling off the wagon, murdering Buck Rogers, and threatening his already shaky marriage. The episodes were all filled with moments of inspiration and an exhilarating manic energy, but by last week’s episode the show was starting to feel a bit ragged and worn down. It pulled in different directions, seeming more like a collection of vignettes than a unified vision of the music business in the mid-1970s. “The Racket” doesn’t reach the heights of the first couple of episodes, but has an airy lightness that’s new to the series. This week, Vinyl goes from being periodically intriguing and infuriating to actually being fun.

The episode opens on Buck Rogers’ funeral, but the focus quickly shifts back to Richie and his more immediate problems. Devon and Richie have started doing a form of couples’ counseling, but it’s clear that their talk past each other (or screaming). Richie misses the funeral for his session, but it’s not clear if that’s a sign of him putting more effort into his marriage or just him trying to run away from his troubles. When he makes it into the office the whole day is devoted to kowtowing to Hannibal, a Sly Stone sound-alike. Women, booze, cocaine, insincere greetings, whatever it takes to get Hannibal to renew his contract with American Century. Richie’s efforts may all be in vain, though: Jackie Jarvis (Ken Marino), one of Richie’s sleezy competitors, is waiting at the show to sweet talk Hannibal.

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