Friday, September 2, 2011

"Louie" - "Niece"

Spoilers for last night's "Louie" after the jump:

It’s been said by many (myself included, I think) that “Louie” is the kind of show you can jump into at any time without missing much. And yet… the overall impact of an episode like this really depends on being with the show from the beginning, or at the very least the beginning of this season. For a show that doesn’t adhere to traditional notions of serialization, there’s a surprising amount of stuff here that connects with previous episodes.

To begin with, there’s the return of Louie’s apparently mentally unstable sister. She’s been mentioned a few times over the course of the season, and has made one or two brief appearances in some of the earlier episodes. Here she shows up just long enough to leave her daughter with Louie before departing to Philadelphia.  

But the ties between this and other episodes run much deeper. The most obvious callback is to the terrific season one finale “Night Out”. Remember how lost Louie was in that episode, among all those younger people? There’s a scene in “Niece” involving Louie taking Amy to a music club that’s very similar. However, the tone of the episode couldn’t be more different.

In “Night Out” we were meant to sympathize with Louie: a person who no one really understands. And we did, to the point where the simple, cathartic final scene with his daughters seemed almost majestic. What we see of Louie in this episode, on the other hand, is designed to make him a bit less sympathetic by showing how his failure to connect is based in part on his own attitude towards people: particularly younger people. There’s a real sense in many of the scenes (most notably the opening stand-up bit) that he actually feels superior in some way to the younger generation.

Now, we don’t know if the real Louie actually feels this way. But the fact that he’s willing to paint his fictionalized self in such a negative light is kind of remarkable. Even more remarkable is the fact that he doesn’t offer any sort of real resolution to the idea that Louie needs to have a bit more “empathy” (as a fellow comedian puts it) towards people: young and old. Sure, he carries Amy up to his apartment, but I think he does so more out of a sense of duty than anything else. Others may read into it differently, of course.

Regardless, this is yet another stellar installment of “Louie” in a season that is destined to go down as one of the greatest of all time. It doesn’t have the instant classic feel of “Duckling” or “Eddie”, but it features some fascinating development for the title character as well as for the themes of the show as a whole. Great stuff, as always. Can we expect anything less from this fine series?

Other Thoughts

 - Wilfred was just awful this week. Here’s a tip for new shows: don’t constantly restate your themes. “Louie” knows this. Its lead-in show apparently doesn’t yet.

 - Next week’s the finale. One wonders if Amy will still be here. I kind of hope she is. There’s nothing wrong with a short story arc to close out this remarkable season.

Grade: A-

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