Aug 22, 2012

TV Recap: Louie - "Dad"

Left to right: Louis C.K. and F. Murray Abraham
Welcome to my recaps of season 3 of the FX television series Louie. Join me as I try to dissect what I hope will be another excellent season from one of my favorite shows currently on TV. I think what makes this show work is the ability for Louis C.K. to be self loathing and artful at the same time in unique and clever ways. Also, keep an eye out for my Breaking Bad Breaking Half column set for upcoming Mondays.

I am finally convinced that what we are currently witnessing on Louie is a transition. Where the first two seasons relied on a structure of stand-up commenting on life, we are seeing it less prominently in recent episodes. There have even been a few openings that don't feature the traditional walk from the subway to the Comedy Cellar. That doesn't mean Louis C.K. is now a different character, but I think he is ready to explore life a little differently on the show. Like the choice to buy a motorcycle in "Something is Wrong," there is a desire to change the image, and after a few weeks of guest stars galore and middling results, we finally are getting the big picture.
There is no traditional opening here. Instead we get the credits playing over Jane (Ursula Parker) as she plays a violin. She is playing an elaborately impressive piece that is suddenly silenced by C.K.'s request for her to do homework. This may be what replaces the stand-up: an opening action that reflects the themes of the episode. It has been done before ("Telling Jokes/Set Up"), but it feels more prominent here that the themes of tonight's episode is not getting what you want. 
The episode continues with C.K.'s trip to an electronics store. He sees a group of employees talking among themselves and sarcastically asks for help. C.K. is being the rude one here, though the employee (Sean Phillips) does his best to help. C.K. is wondering if a particular player can play both blu ray and DVDs. He isn't clear about the reasoning, but takes a call and brushes the employee off with an insult. The employee ends up placing a box behind him that he trips over once he's done with the call.
He talks to the manager (Dominic Colon) and with help from the security guard (Stephen Hill), they review the footage. The manager and security guard are laughing their heads off and trying to hide their joy. They ask C.K. if he wants to press charges, but by this point he has had enough and leaves.
He continues to the Russian Tea Room to meet his uncle Excelsior (F. Murray Abraham), who called him at the store. After weird discussions about having sex with strange women, they order to ganish hens and discuss Excelsior's recent trip to Boston. It was there that he met C.K.'s father and encourages C.K. to visit him. It is then that C.K. reveals that he hasn't seen him in two years and that maybe things aren't the best between the two. 
The next scene focuses on a poker game that features C.K.'s pals, including Sarah Silverman, Jim Norton, Rick Crom, Nick DiPaolo, and William Stephenson. They are talking over a game of poker and Jim reveals that he has a crude drawing of a naked woman. This leads to a lot of ridicule as Jim explains that he drew naked women as a child. When Rick barges in to talk about an article he read about cave wall art nudes, C.K. vomits and ruins the entire mood. 
He ends up seeing a doctor (Lee Shepherd), who is befuddled by C.K.'s outbreak of a rash and incessant vomiting, which are never mutually exclusive. It is deducted to be because of the ganish hens that he had earlier that day. This leads C.K. to consider that maybe this was all a sign that he needs to visit his father and relieve some tension. He believes that the stress is coming from this event and the doctor encourages him to take a trip to Boston.
After renting a car and vomiting all over it, he begins to get paranoid. The accompanying music is really tense and has a horror feel. As he approaches the house, it gets louder and more vibrant. He is also getting paranoid as his GPS is talking back to him, calling him a pussy for being so reluctant about visiting his own father. He also pisses off a Bostonian (Kevin McCormick) by reacting to a parked car in front of him suddenly. When the Bostonian notices that C.K. has a bloody nose, they back off of each other and he encourages C.K. to have a good time with his dad.
When he finally approaches the house, the music is really tense and he is taking forever to knock on the door. He sees a silhouette behind the glass, which causes him to run. He abandons the car and finds a nearby motorcycle to steal. He goes to the nearby dock and climbs over some barriers to steal someone's boat. Once in the middle of the ocean, he is perfectly happy. The episode ends in silence as he bobs in the water.

Left to right: C.K. and Sarah Silverman
After two weeks of middling episodes, I am kind of relieved that the show is finally back into the swing of things. While it could be temporary, I am a little curious to see Louie changing their opening so drastically. However, the bigger thing is the lack of stand-up, which gives me a sense that he is taking a break from doing this to focus on deeper issues, such as relationships and this week family. 
This is a great episode, if just because it deals with stress in such a way that may seem tangential in most of the segments, but builds upon C.K.'s reluctance to meet his father. Even his uncle Excelsior is a little bit of a nut job and we can see why he wouldn't want to meet his father. We never see him. However, this could be another mislead, like "IKEA/Piano Lessons" in which he confronts Marc Maron after ten years of not seeing him. Maybe C.K.'s awareness of time is just askew.
It was also a nice touch that even though he transfers himself to Boston for this finale, he does the same things that he has been doing in New York. He gets paranoid, yells at people, and eventually steals a motorcycle and boat, which may themselves be commenting on a possible subtext that this is C.K. in midlife crises. However, the choice for C.K. to be alone drifting at sea is a nice way to end the episode, if just because no one can bother him and for awhile, he doesn't need to do anything.
It is also nice to see his poker buddies again, which brought a nice little comedic touch to tonight's episode. With Sarah Silverman back for the second episode in a row, their little banter has provided a sense that C.K. still knows his roots, or at least those of the show. He is a stand up comedian first and foremost and he acknowledges it by bringing his friends along for the ride. However, as he told Excelsior early on, he has a show now. Maybe that is the definitive reason that there's no more stand-up routines, though hopefully it is just because he forgot to record some.

Favorite scene: The scene at the electronics store comes to mind, if just because it was a nice start to an episode that dealt heavily with unfair treatment. It may seem cruel to C.K., but for the employees, it is hard to resist laughing at his pain. This is another meta moment that results in a conundrum of "what can you do?" When he trips over the box, it almost feels like he earns it, as his bitter attitude, while not explained, deserved some kind of payback.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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