To say that the third season of "Louie" has taken a more serialized approach would be an exaggeration, but both thematically and narratively, Louis C.K.'s used a little more continuity than usual across the episodes. Indeed, last week's season high -- with a more stand-alone approach -- was almost the exception the rule, with the series so far including a number of recurring characters, callbacks to previous seasons, and even the first two-part episode.
Or maybe that should be a three-part episode, as the first of last night's segments, "Looking For Liz," served as something of a sequel to the "Daddy's Girlfriend" two-parter that guest starred Parker Posey earlier in the season. Unfortunately, despite an excellent performance from Chloë Sevigny, the segment, like most threequels, proved something of a disappointment.
Louie is clearly haunted by his encounter with Liz (Posey), who he seemingly hasn't seen since her sudden mood shift at the end of "Daddy's Girlfriend Pt. 2," getting subliminal flashes of her as he tries to sleep. Hoping to run into her again, he goes to the bookstore, only to discover that she quit and has replaced by Sevigny's unnamed character, another trendy McSweeneys-type. Hearing of his plight, she offers to help reunite him with a girl who, he says, "changed how I feel about everything." And after failing to steal her details from work, she offers to accompany him by staking out her apartment.
Sevigny tries to get into the building, but is stopped by a doorman (her character being completely inept at any kind of subterfuge was a lovely touch). The two then reconvene at a coffee shop, where she tells him that he has to still pursue Liz, before publically masturbating and then telling him "Just so you know, I'm married, so please don't come by the store or anything."
We like Sevigny's neatly detailed portrait of the kind of person who invests too much in playing Cupid, but in general, the segment disappointed when compared to "Daddy's Girlfriend," feeling a bit minor and treading over some old territory. Furthermore, at this point, it feels like C.K.'s gone to the "Women Be Crazy!" well a few too many times this season, and with increasingly diminishing returns. Hopefully he'll give that particular trope a rest for the remainder of the season.
The second segment, "Lilly Changes" (tied to the first by a search for a missing girl), was fortunately a big improvement, focusing on something that rarely lets "Louie" down -- C.K.'s parenting skills and his surrogate's relationship with his two daughters, Lilly and Jane. The episode kicks off with Louie picking them up from school when he sees his eldest, Lilly, seemingly being bullied by a group of other girls. They scatter as soon as he comes over, but she's clearly upset.
With his heart breaking to see his daughter under attack (a really lovely, touching moment), Louie tries to cheer her up with a merry-go-round ride (cut to a hilarious shot of Lilly's deadpan face as they go round) and ice cream, but she shuts down, causing Louie to give her the middle finger behind her back (something anyone who's ever had to deal with kids can surely identify with). When they get home, he shuts himself in the bathroom with his laptop, but when he emerges, Jane tells him that Lilly has gone out.
Panicking, he searches the apartment, and the street outside (with Jane calling out in Slovenian, of all things, a lovely non-sequiter), before calling the cops. They're clearly judging him for losing her daughter and for failing to call her mother (although Jane touchingly tells him that it wasn't his fault), but just as he's about to confess to his ex that he lost their daughter, Lilly walks through the room with a glass of milk; as it turns out, she likes to read in the closet. The cops, grumpy, depart, and Lilly apologizes to her father.
While hardly groundbreaking, it was a far more satisfying second half, in part thanks to the excellent performances by the kids, Hadley Delany as Lilly, and especially Ursula Parker as Jane (her Slovenian moment really was brilliant), pretty much the best child actors on TV at the moment. We could watch Louie's parenting dilemmas every week on the show; Louie's love-life, slightly less so, these days.
"Looking For Liz" [C+]
"Lilly Changes" [A-]
Bits & Pieces
- We have to confess, the first time Sevigny's character popped up, our first thought was "Andy Dick is in this?"
- With 1990s indie darlings Parker Posey and Chloë Sevigny popping up this season, we look forward to Brit Marling and Greta Gerwig's episodes of "Louie" some time around season nine.
- We will never understand the censorship rules on basic cable. So FX are fine with Sevigny masturbating, and yet bleep the work "fuck"?
- For the first time in a month, the traditional stand-up wrap-around structure returned. The first extract was a bit underwhelming, but we loved Louie's magic-taxi-cab theory at the end.
- Lilly coming out wearing headphones was a great piece of screenwriting: instantly and visually, you understand why she wouldn't have heard her father when he was calling for her.