May 29, 2015

TV Recap: Louie - "The Road:: Part 2"

Louis C.K.
Hello and welcome to the TV Recap series on FX's Louie. Join me every Friday as I recap all of the events that have happened over the course of the fifth season. Join as the show reaches new highs and news lows while following the stand-up career of Louis C.K. with his family and friends. Will it be better than the overtly ambitious season four? Will the show produce its best season yet? You'll have to read on to find out all of the juicy details along with plot descriptions and opinions on every memorable moment.
After a shockingly short eight episodes, Louie has reached the end of its fifth season. This is made all the more shocking because in between every episode, he managed to recapture the spark and turn in one of his strongest seasons. Not only that, but over the course of the season, he has built themes that, no matter how vague, ended up building to a profound thesis in the closing moments of the finale called "The Road: Part 2," which suggested that maybe Louis C.K. is being too morose. Is it a commentary on the show as a whole or just a happy accident? With Louie, it hardly seems like it would be a mistake.
The episode opens with C.K. arriving at the airport where he is picked up by April (Zandi Holup), who is a disinterested young woman who is the theater owner's daughter. She drives him to the place where he will be staying. His roommate is Kenny (Jim Florentine), who is the polar opposite of C.K. and wants to just have fun, fun, fun. When they get to the show and C.K. discovers that he is underdressed for the performance, he is forced to be a closer. Kenny is juvenile and makes broad humor. C.K. immediately jumps into morose humor about death and minorities in New York. This continues until C.K. is appalled one night that Kenny made fun of him for being boring.
When he finally confronts Kenny, C.K. claims the obvious. He doesn't want to be like Kenny because he embarrasses him. They discuss why fart jokes are funny, eventually breaking C.K. of his misery. When they consider downing a bottle of booze, things go horribly wrong and they end up rushing to the bathroom to vomit. Kenny has an accident and falls into a concussion that lands him in the hospital. After dropping him off, C.K. says goodbye and leaves.
Upon returning home, C.K. posts a picture that he took of himself in Civil War garb with a woman. He tells Jane (Ursula Parker) a fictional story about him being killed by a snake. This picture was actually taken at an antiques store with random strangers. She doesn't know and Jane just goes along for the joke. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Left to right: Ursula Parker and C.K.
So, what have we learned from the brief eight episodes of Louie? For starters, I am relieved that the series moved away from its more high concept format from last season. While I am in the minority, I feel like the format inevitably wasn't that interesting and the results were more muddled. However, I don't think that season five wasn't without its own format. Where the last one revolved around a plot, this one dissected themes regarding C.K. in ways that weren't nearly as distracting. For starters, there constant ideas at play throughout regarding C.K. as this boring individual without an interesting life. Sure, "Pot Luck" proved to be a problematic debut, but it did bring on the idea that everything since would not be boring.
Thus brings "The Road: Part 2." While it isn't nearly as gratifying as Part 1, it does manage to continue the story in an interesting but familiar fashion. All season, we have seen C.K. getting trumped by his peers as they tell hacky jokes and succeed where he doesn't. We have watched him make sacrifices to benefit other people. In this case, we see him confront Kenny and take on the root of the issue. He is annoyed that everyone skirts by on jokes that aren't as intellectual as his. He feels embarrassed to be in the same profession as them. It is a shell that is only broken by discussing why fart jokes are funny.
Most of all, it addresses the issues with C.K. as an artist. Is he too self-involved with his own persona to not be happy? We saw "Untitled" take his psyche to new and strange places. We have gotten a better idea of who C.K. is. Yet as our protagonist, is he necessarily the right voice on the show? Kenny may be an awful comedian, but he does have points when it comes to C.K. and his happiness. He needs to loosen up and enjoy life. This season has been pummeling the comedian all season and almost exclusively without thanks. When it did come, Kenny's version of gratitude was to get him drunk and sick. It may be the punchline to what letting loose will inevitably do to older men, but it also summarizes why this season was so great. It wasn't about societal commentary as it has been. It was about understanding C.K. as an individual and the people who surround  his life. This is arguably what the show has always been about, but it feels more central this time around.
Admittedly, it doesn't live up to the one-two punch of seasons two and three of the series in which his art and humor were in perfect alignment. However, it feels like he has evolved beyond the gimmicks and is now exploring himself. Thankfully, he has incorporated the cast a lot more effectively and has created a universe that is fun to visit. It remains just as absurd as ever, but it is about more than the story. As the opening credits played out at varying lengths, it felt like it was an indicator of what was to come. The humiliating moments would pave the way for some deeper insight, or at very least great jokes. It may seem odd that the season ended abruptly with a Civil War gag, but it is what we needed from C.K. at this moment. We needed his happiness and creativity to flow. To riff on a picture like that is what was necessary for the season to make sense. As a whole, it was a great batch of episodes and a reminder of why C.K. remains an integral part of comedy and creativity in general.

*NOTE: TV Retrospective on season 5 will be coming tomorrow.

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