‘Louie’ Recap: Meet Louis’ Dad… Or Not

LouieI’m a big fan of the Louie episodes that carry a single plotline throughout the full thirty minutes — especially because in doing this, it’s almost like Louis C.K. is telling the audience, “This is a particularly important story.” As if we wouldn’t have understood that from the title: “Dad.” 

At the beginning of the episode, after an agitated Louis berates his younger daughter for practicing violin when “it isn’t time to do that” (as much as C.K. illustrates his character to be a devoted dad, he’s never above instilling him with some highly despicable flaws — even though anyone who has lived in a house with a musically-inclined child will likely relate to him here), he receives a call from his Uncle Ex — the brother of his estranged father. Dining on Cornish game hens at the Russian tearoom (and engaging in a conversation that seems to involve a very fleeting meta reference to Louis having his own show), Ex tells Louis that he must go visit his aging, lonely father, to whom he hasn’t spoken in over two years. Following the conversation, Louis begins to fall apart. He develops a rash, vomits anxiously during a poker game with pals (I am on board with Sarah Silverman becoming a recurring character on this show, and even an unlikely source of humane sympathy for the disheveled Louis), and comes to realize during a doctor’s appointment that the presence of his father on his mind has brought him to a panic. Should he heed his uncle’s words and pay his dad a visit in Boston? Or is the idea too terrible to bear?

Whereas the first half of the episode plays out with a sheath of uncharacteristic realism, Louis’ anxieties take over the narrative structure in the second half of the episode, launching us into a fantasy world wherein flight attendants, car rental agents, and GPS machines can read Louis’ mind. And they all think he’s kind of being a coward.

Louis hops on a plane to Boston, rents (and vomits on the hood of) a car in town, and frightfully undertakes the mission of visiting his dad, if only to quell the horrors attached to the pending decision.

A personal favorite scene comes when Louis has a run in with an angry Boston driver. In an unsubtly self-deprecating jab at his own roots, Louis mocks the angry driver’s accent, approaching him outside of the car to start a confrontation. We’ve seen Louis back away from fights before, but he’s in a different state now — he’s a wreck, and is looking for any outlet for his grief. After a heated explanation that he is on his way to see his father for the first time in years, the man one-ups him with the delivery of the information that his own father is dead — obviously, a pressing concern (latent or otherwise) for any adult with strained relationships with their parents. Just as the commentary from the flight attendant, the car rental agents, and that freakin’ GPS seem to have been an illustration of Louis’ psychological back and forth playing out in a scene for us to observe, the outburst between the two Bostonians on the street seems to be a depiction of Louis’ fear that his father will die before the two can bury the hatchet. Louis and the driver come to an abrupt understanding — they hug, wish each other luck, and part ways. The scene also seems to turn from a jab at to a love letter about Boston and its people: if this man is meant to embody Boston (which the scene seems to suggest that he is), then he might be rough around the edges, but he’s a hell of a good egg.

Finally, Louis reaches the porch of his father’s home. He sees the frame of his old man approaching the door through the muddled glass… and he bolts. Louis runs through the neighborhood, hopping on an unattended motorcycle-quad hybrid, zooming across town, jumping on a motorboat, and high-tailing it out into the middle of the water. Finally, he is at peace. He’s alone. He’s safe. He laughs, breathes, and relaxes. And then, after a moment of silence, he wells up a little… again, he’s miserable.

Louie is regularly heartbreaking — it’s a testament to C.K.’s writing and acting that he can continually give us new reasons to relate to and feel sad for this character. Louis’ sorrow inhabits his role as a son, and translates to his own role as a father (as indicated by the opening scene). And as much as he wants to better himself and achieve the kind of fulfillment that has escaped him, his internality won’t let him. He’ll vomit, break out in rash, fight a Bostonian, steal a bike, and jet into the ocean before he will change. Sadly, hardly something specific to Louis. But let’s face it: when he does it, it’s a hell of a lot funnier and more interesting than when the rest of us do.

[Photo Credit: FX]


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