If there’s one recurring theme to be found in this profound and daring season of Louie, it’s the ongoing game of hide and seek Louis C.K.‘s character seems to be playing with himself. He’s continually seeking out intimacy (much like he did in “Miami” and “Daddy’s Girlfriend” parts 1 and 2) only to hide from really making an effort to connect (in last week’s episode “Dad,” he quite literally ran away from his own estranged father).
So last night’s Louie, the double header “Looking for Liz/Lilly Changes,” felt perfectly aligned with the rest of Season 3. After kicking things off with a painful stand-up bit about how when 20-somethings are constantly worried about finding themselves, 40-somethings are content with having already found it, we see Louie having a dream about Liz (Parker Posey). Liz, whom he went on that bizarre, romantic, heartbreaking, humiliating, and unforgettable date with. “She changed how I feel about everything in one night,” he would later come to explain it. (Damn, Louie/Louis has a way with words about the women he cares about, doesn’t he?)
“I love you,” Liz tells him in his sleep, with that familiar look of hope and then immediate hopelessness in her eyes. Louie wakes from the dream and sets out to find her. When he arrives at the bookstore where they first met, he’s told by a fellow employee that Liz has since quit. Louie looks surprised, but his heart likely got in the way of his head. His head would have told him that unpredictable, depressed Liz probably quit for that very reason. That he might come looking for her and try to fix everything that’s so irrevocably broken.
At the store he meets yet another attractive, manic woman who turned out to be Liz’s equally quirky hipster replacement at the bookstore (played by Emmy winning off-kilter extraordinaire Chloë Sevigny). And because Louie is both a magnet for crazy and too much of a softie (and, well, a guy with a penis) to walk away, he once again finds himself in the throes of the wrong woman, even when all the signs are there. She immediately immerses herself in Louie’s quest to find Liz and will stop at nothing (not her boss, not a doorman, not even the fact these are total strangers whose lives she’s meddling in) to get in the way.
But as Louie would come to find out, in a most surprising fashion, she was a basket case who quite literally gets off on the rush of other couple’s missed connections. While it may not have been as soul-crushing as his reunion with the “blueberry” date or Liz, this one was still pretty surreal. And while it was a valiant effort by Sevigny, nobody outcrazies Melissa Leo as one of Louie’s lusty ladies this year.
With the exception of Louie’s desire to find Liz again (a terrible idea from the get-go, anyway) the first half didn’t do much for me, but the second half “Lilly Changes” worked on every level. I adore any scenes Louie has with his daughters and last night’s segment was no exception. When picking up his girls from school, Louie (who hilariously manages to avoid doing another favor for Never’s mother) notices that his eldest Lilly (Hadley Delany) looks upset within a group of her peers. We hear them call her a “nerd”, but lucky for them, Louie doesn’t. (Any Louis C.K. fan who has seen or heard Live at the Beacon Theater knows the protective papa doesn’t take well to other children who mess with his.)
It’s a heart wrenching scene, whether you’re in your 20s and recall the misery of getting picked on in school or in your 40s and dread the idea that something like that is happening to your kid. Louie, desperate to make everything better for his baby girl, tries to remedy the situation by taking her on a carousel and offering to buy her ice cream. But Lilly is no longer a baby girl, she’s growing into a woman, and with that, is experiencing all the terrible problems that come with it. Louie doesn’t know what to do. (Well, besides hilariously flip off his kids behind their backs in total frustration.) Then again, what father does?
The tension goes all the way back to Louie’s apartment and gets even worse when his youngest Jane (the adorable, hilarious Ursula Parker) tries, and fails, to tell Louie that Lilly has left the apartment (the visual of a dismayed Louie sitting on the can, smoking a cigarette was the second funniest bathroom scene this season). In true Louie fashion, he panics. He knocks on his neighbor’s door (the very same one who helped him with his sister’s “emergency”, though now he is immersed in a fight with his partner and can’t help calm Louie down this time), yells his daughter’s name, and calls the cops. Not, say, call his wife to see if Lilly went there or check the closet where Lilly goes to read sometimes, which is exactly where she was the whole time. Yet again, Louis C.K. proved what a brilliant actor he is in this scene. Here is every parent’s worst nightmare and all the panic and fear and white noise was perfectly captured by the real-life father of two.