Louie Review: "New Year’s Eve"
“It’s those moments of surrealism that make Louie such a damned entertaining show to watch. The show occupies a unique space–between what’s really happening, and how Louie interprets what’s happening–that allows for such moments of heightened reality to play so naturally.”
While watching the final moments of last week’s stellar conclusion to the Late Show arc, I thought to myself, “This feels like a finale.” Louie shouting at the Ed Sullivan Theater that he had “done it”, felt like the kind of complicated, but ultimately triumphant, moral victory that C.K would choose to end a season that has been all about Louie stepping out of his comfort zone. Instead though, the season finale came in the form of “New Year’s Eve.” Whereas the triumphant moment that ended “Late Show (Part 3)” had all the euphoria of a night out drinking, “New Year’s Eve” had all the somber reckoning of a hangover.
The episode opens with Louie, laying exhausted on the couch as his daughters open their presents on Christmas morning. Their euphoria at each new gift is juxtaposed wonderfully with flashback sequences detailing the hell Louie had to go throughin order to obtain them. These flashbacks contain the comedic highlight of the episode, a lengthy sequence during which Louie attempts to reattach a pair of eyes to a disturbing looking toy doll. Louie perks up only when his daughters open up the present that’s from him, (as opposed of course, to Santa Claus) a picture book about a duck named Ping who lives on the Yangtze River in China. Louie reads the book to his daughters and for a moment he seems genuinely content, a feeling that is cruelly taken away from him by his ex-wife and her boyfriend, who arrive to pick up the girls for the next two weeks. Though it’s at first unclear if the events of the Late Show storyline have any factor in Louie’s foul seeming mood, it becomes obvious that the failure still looms over him when he quickly brushes off Janet’s questions about whether or not he got the gig. Louie then says goodbye to the girls and watches as the elevator closes him off from what looks to be a happy family. For the rest of the holidays, it seems our hero will be alone. And so naturally, he promptly discards the ornaments and lights and tosses the Christmas tree out the window.
It’s those moments of surrealism that make Louie such a damned entertaining show to watch. The show occupies a unique space–between what’s really happening, and how Louie interprets what’s happening–that allows for such moments of heightened reality to play so naturally. Of course, Louie couldn’t really just up and toss a Christmas tree out the window, but in that moment, he would have loved to. “New Year’s Eve” is filled with little moments like that, from the inane names of a pair of newscasters (Fanny and Flappy) to the immediate, deadpan way in which Liz is dispatched of later in the episode.
“Despite a few middling episodes to start with, this season really has had some of the show’s best episodes. For my money, “Barney/Never”, “Dad” and “Late Show (Part 3)” are as good as anything the show has put out before.”
After receiving an invitation to go visit his grandmother over New Year’s Eve by his sister (played by none other than Amy Poehler), Louie decides to bite the bullet and go, scared straight into attending by a news report on holiday suicides. On the bus to the airport however, something incredible happens: Louie runs into Liz, his one-time girlfriend from earlier in the season and theoretical lost love. Their happy reunion only lasts a few seconds though, as just as they’ve made each other’s acquaintance, Liz’s nose begins to bleed and she collapses. An ambulance takes the two of them to the hospital and after some heartbreakingly confused final words, “Um… goodbye?” Liz dies. A moment later, the clock strikes midnight, Auld Lang Syne begins to play, every doctor screams out, “Happy New Year!” and Louie, more distraught than ever, heads to the airport.
The last segment of the episode plays out on a beautiful but understated note, as Louie foregoes his sister’s invitiation, and instead flies to China to seek out the Yangtze River. The sequences in China are gorgeously shot and acted by Louie, as he unsuccessfully attempts to communicate in a language he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to speak. During the final moments of the episode, Louie loosens up for the first time in the episode and enjoys himself during dinner in the home of a hospitable Chinese family. Auld Lang Syne plays one more time as the camera drifts over some gorgeous Chinese valleys; but this time, there’s nothing ironic about the use of the song. It’s a happy, quiet moment of connection for a protagonist that has spent the whole season grasping desperately for one.
Louie’s step brother tells him he will be flying out of, “That liberal Kennedy Airport.”
I didn’t even get to touch on one of the best moment in the episode, a sequence where Louie imagines the girls as adults meeting up in a café somewhere, discussing how sad and lonely their father is and discussing their own lives in the vaguest of terms. “I have like a career thing, and I have work. I’m probably an artist. And hopefully it’s going well!”
It’s worth mentioning probably that Parker Posey was really good this season as Liz. The way they had her exit the series was a genuinely surprising, surreal event that Posey sold the heck out of.
Well, thus ends another season of Louie. If I had to rank them, (and this being the internet, I obviously do) I’d put this just a notch or so below the first and second seasons, but that’s only because the first two seasons were so transcendentally good. Despite a few middling episodes to start with, this season really has had some of the show’s best episodes. For my money, “Barney/Never”, “Dad” and “Late Show (Part 3)” are as good as anything the show has put out before.
What did you all think of “New Year’s Eve,” and this season of Louie in general?
By Chris Vanjonack
To see Louis C.K. perform live, head over to his website.