Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Louie" - "Subway/Pamela"

Spoilers for this week's "Louie" after the jump:

Subway rides and romantic tension in male-female friendships are not things you'd think would go together. Well... think again. The latest episode of "Louie's" incredibly strong second season combines these ideas into something new, different, and utterly fascinating. It's one of my favorite episodes the show's done to date for this reason.

The major theme linking these two separate segments is how we see the world. Louie is both an idealist and a realist, and these two parts of himself are always jockeying for position in his mind. For a moment during the wonderfully bizarre subway station scene that opens the episode, they're both present: idealism in the beautiful music played by the violinist and realism in the homeless man casually bathing himself in public.

Louie the idealist makes his first appearance when he spots a puddle of something (maybe blood?) on a chair while riding the subway. We switch to black-and-white for a few moments as Louie takes off his jacket and mops up the substance, becoming a sort of hero to the other riders. Then comes a brutal cut back to the reality of the situation, which is of course that no one (Louie included) is going to touch that substance unless someone pays them to.

This idea makes its way into the longer storyline involving Louie's relationship with Pamela. I've always enjoyed Pamela's occasional appearances on the show, and here the character is integrated perfectly into the theme of the episode: as Louie attempts once again to push their friendship into something more.

Here Louie's idealistic side manifests itself once again in a lengthy and rather terrific monologue where he tells her his feelings. But Pamela represents realism here, and she promptly tells him that there's still no chance (though she admits his speech was quite beautiful). They continue on their way: idealism once again squashed by cold reality.

But the show isn't content to leave it there. Instead, it turns the tables on us one more time by having Louie accompany Pamela back to her apartment. She asks him if he wants to have a drink, take a bath, etc... and he declines. Only when he's already left does he realize what just happened ("did you just ask me to take a bath with you?"). But the moment's passed, and he heads home after letting out an enormous scream of frustration. Let that be a lesson to realists (a category to which I myself belong): sometimes your dreams can come true. You just have to be ready to seize the opportunity.

And of course, I'd be remiss not to mention just how funny the episode is as well. C.K.'s utterly hilarious facial expressions as the guy undresses in the station, his "what?" to Pamela during lunch (twice), and the the depressing but funny stand-up bit that closes the episode... the deep insights of this show don't come at the expense of comedy. On the contrary, the insight serves to make the comedy even funnier in most cases. I was a little lukewarm on the debut season of this show, but it's taken its game to a different level this year.

Other Thoughts

- Only one additional comment this week: I get that it's part of the self-deprecating nature of C.K.'s comedy, but how can Pamela not find Louie funny?

- I have nothing to say about "Wilfred" this week, because I accidentally erased my recording of it before I watched it. Pretty stupid, I know.

Grade: A

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