Ptolemy starts tying up loose ends in this week’s episode of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, the Apple TV+ series based on the book of the same name by Walter Mosley.
We see reconciliation and revelations for almost everyone this week, in a finely acted and carefully directed hour of television. Ptolemy’s memories are fading, but before they do, he remembers his days as a boy. And he realizes he wants his nephews to feel protected the way he used to.
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey recap: Nina
Now that Ptolemy (played by Samuel L. Jackson) has his treasure back, he doesn’t plan to lose it again. In this week’s episode, titled “Nina,” he swings by his lawyer’s office, only to find that he’s dead and his son has taken over the firm.
Together they set up a trust fund for Ptolemy’s friend Robyn (Dominique Fishback), who is suspicious about the whole thing. Just wait till she hears that the Brasher Doubloon that Ptolemy has access to is worth $17 million — and he wants her to be the one in control of all that money.
Robyn reads Ptolemy the riot act when they get home. Why is it that, decades into dealing with the burden of Coydog (Damon Gupton) leaving him in charge of something that could possibly kill him if people found out he had it, Ptolemy is so anxious to put the same stress on her?
Ptolemy sees this as an opportunity for the smartest person he knows, the only person left who loves him unconditionally, to become a savior of her community. He also see this as a way to make sure Robyn never again feels the sting of poverty.
But with the death of her parents and Reggie (Omar Benson Miller) fresh in her mind, Robyn sees it as a death warrant.
Time for a wake
That’s gonna have to wait a minute. Ptolemy’s throwing Reggie a kind of a wake at Niecie’s house. He invited Reggie’s widow (Charity Jordan), and wants to give her some money (which he had been saving for Reggie). However, Ptolemy also wants to ask about the boyfriend who rudely answered the phone when he called. The boyfriend Reggie warned him about before he died.
Everyone in Ptolemy’s life is invited, too. Robyn’s boyfriend Roger (Patrick Walker), Billy (Martin Bats Bradford), Shirley Wring (Denise Burse), Dr. Rubin (Walton Goggins) — even Hilliard (DeRon Horton), who Ptolemy loathes.
You see, Ptolemy has something to say. He had a daughter once, from a union he abandoned when Sensia (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) came into his life. She killed herself when she turned 42, and it’s weighed on Ptolemy ever since. Giving money to Reggie’s kids is his way of atoning for this grave sin, in his eyes.
When Ptolemy confronts Nina, he can tell she knows a little more about Reggie’s murder than she’s let on before. She knows that Albert (Enoch King), the man she’s been with since she was 13, probably killed Reggie.
Though she doesn’t outright admit it, Ptolemy’s heard all he needs to hear. When Albert finally shows up, he offers him a deal. Come by his apartment: There might be 20 grand in it for him if he agrees to leave Nina alone.
Consider that maybe I know what I’m talking about
This episode of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey starts with a series of flashbacks. One to Ptolemy’s boyhood hanging around brothels with Coydog … another to when he threatened to kill himself because he thought Sensia had fallen out of love with him.
A short while later, Ptolemy and Robyn engage in two long conversations about their commitments to each other, what they mean to one another, and their disagreements about little things. In short, the plot this week basically comes in the episode’s last 15 minutes, when Ptolemy reveals he had a daughter — and then when Albert shows up at the funeral.
You could call this a bold strategy, but it’s the whole point of a show like this in the first place. Ptolemy and Robyn’s relationship is the crux of the show. Seeing Ptolemy’s motivation for behaving the way he does around her is important, because it influences their every interaction.
More strong performances
This is a tremendous work, a show unafraid to let people have meaningful parlays at the kitchen table, to talk about life, the unfair parts and the beautiful turns it can sometimes take.
Jackson shines in this episode. His eulogy for Reggie is a great piece of acting, and you can see him really shore himself up for it as a performer. But the thing is, he’s amazing in every bit of this episode (as he has been through most of them).
He and Fishback sit opposite each other like two jazz musicians and just play. Guillermo Navarro directs again this week, which means he’s done the best work of any of the series’ directors, and none of them are slouches.
Walter Mosley’s words couldn’t have asked for a better treatment. And I’m already gearing up to be upset that The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey must to come to an end next week.
Watch The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey on Apple TV+
New episodes of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey arrive on Fridays.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.