Season finale review: 'Louie' - 'New Jersey/Airport': Everybody hates Louie
Chris Rock, Pamela Adlon and Steven Wright stop by to offer Louie conflicting advice
A review of the "Louie" season 2 finale coming up just as soon as I ask you if you live in this area code...
So how does Louis C.K. conclude what's turned out to be a season for the ages? With some more introspection, and some more laughs at his expense, and then a final scene that was simultaneously painful and sweet and really, really damn funny - season 2 in miniature, in other words.
In the first of our two stories, Louie takes some bad advice from Steven Wright(*) and winds up getting in a car with an attractive but somewhat creepy woman who takes him to New Jersey for a devil's three-way with her husband (played with unsettling zest by Oscar Winner F. Murray Abraham), which leads to Louie wandering the Jersey 'burbs at night and relying on his pal Chris Rock(**) to rescue him.
(*) And maybe it's just because I only watch him in a stand-up context, but I have never seen Wright as animated as he was while telling Louie to get laid.
(**) The gag about Rock's very vocal but off-screen wife reminded me of something Rock once told me when I asked how his wife feels about him always describing her in unflattering terms in his act. "(My wife and I) have a little understanding,” he said. “I have my real wife, who’s a loving, kind woman, and I have my comedy wife. Comedy wife’s a bitch! My real wife is great. It’s how we eat.”
Eunice and Jonathan were just an excuse to put C.K. in a room with another of his comedy peers for a philosophical discussion. But where he chatted with Joan Rivers about work ethic and with Dane Cook about ethics, period, here the conversation was about Louie the man, not the comic. And the notion of Louie having to grow up is an interesting one. On the one hand, we've seen that he goes out of his way to be a good dad to his daughters when he has them(***). but we've also seen him be very adrift and do stupid things (like smoking pot with his neighbor last season) when they're not around. He could definitely stand to be less of a schmuck than he is in his non-parenting movements through life.
(***) So much for the idea that the show might be embracing episode-to-episode continuity, by the way. If Louie's niece was still staying with him full-time, the whole "I can go out and have sex just as long as I'm home in time to get them" logic goes out the window. I wouldn't be surprised to see the niece living with him in a season 3 episode, but C.K. still seems comfortable using continuity only when it's interesting to him and ignoring it the rest of the time.
And where sometimes the multi-story episodes fit together more because of running time than theme, here Louie's brief trip to the airport with Pamela very nicely followed the Rock conversation. Chris wants Louie to grow up, and for Louie, Pamela is his way to grow up. All he needs to do is keep battering away at her defenses until she somehow realizes that she's as crazy for him as he is for her. And once he has her in his life, he'll be whole again.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Pamela again, as I figured the disastrous climax to her last appearance (plus Pamela Adlon's "Californication" work schedule) suggested it would be a while before they crossed paths again. But both seem to have put that awkwardness behind them, and I continue to love the way Adlon gets to walk this knife edge where she keeps shutting Louie down as a romantic prospect even as she enormously enjoys his company. And yet her kindness is its own form of cruelty, because Louie will not only not take a hint, but not take repeated, unequivocal rejections or even the woman of his dreams laughing in his face. The only thing that would get him off her hook would be for her to leave him forever, which is what she's kind of trying to do with this move to Paris, and yet even there it backfires because she calls out "Wave to me!" and he hears it as "Wait for me!"
What a funny, painful, brilliant parody of romantic comedy airport scene conventions. Louie thinks he's having this moment of triumph, that he's finally convinced Pamela that he's the one, that she'll be back and worth waiting for, and he walks out of that airport happier than we've ever seen him (with the possible exception of when he sang "Who Are You?" in the car) - and we, of course, know just how wrong the poor bastard is.
A fine, bittersweet ending to this tremendous, tremendous season.
What did everybody else think?
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