Review: Louie "Dad"
Review: Louie, Season 3 Episode 8 “Dad”
Father issues on television are far from original. Characters with daddy issues are almost reaching the point of supersaturation on the television landscape. Jeff Winger’s tortured relationship with his father on Community has been hinted at for the past three seasons, Rayland Gibbon’s petty crook of a father on Justified will never see eye to eye with him and watching Walt and Jessie’s pseudo father-son relationship on Breaking Bad is one of the most heartbreaking things ever seen on television. And all that is to say nothing of course, of the father issues that have practically acted as the running engine for science fiction epics like Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Fringe. The daddy issue device is one of the oldest in the book, but like Daniel-san’s crane kick, when done correctly is very effective.
And so it’s always exciting to see something new done with the concept. Tonight’s Louie finds our hero coming face to face with his own father issues and failing spectacularly in his attempts to conquer them. While out shopping for a DVD player that may or may not play Blu-ray, Louie receives a phone call from his Uncle Excelsior telling him that he’s in New York and to please find a babysitter and meet him for lunch. Louie does so, meeting Uncle Excelsior at one of the fanciest restaurants in town, and after regaling Louie with tales of his business dealings, Uncle Excelsior drops a bomb-shell…he’s run into Louie’s father. He explains he’s sad and lonely and it’s Louie’s duty as a son to see his father.
What follows is a montage that show Louie’s body and reality morphing to convey his anxieties over being reunited with his father in ways that push him initially towards reconciliation. He vomits at a poker game, a rash develops on his face, the flight attendant says over the loudspeaker “We’re making our final descent into Boston, where your father lives”, the car rental associate points out Louie’s share of the blame for losing touch with his father and an at first irate driver reminds him of his father’s mortality. It all leads up to Louie, standing on his father’s doorstep knocking on the door. A figure appears behind the window, the door starts to open, and in a grand moment of spontaneous cowardice, Louie flees, stealing a bike and then a boat, getting as far out to sea and away from his father as he possibly can.
What makes this episode of Louie unique is the way in which it allows Louie’s anxiety to inform the story rather than the details of the falling out. In a weird way, what exactly went south with Louie and his father doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, we’ve seen it play out before. Whether his dad abandoned him or stole money from him, or cheated on his mother, it almost doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we get inside Louie’s head. By showing Louie’s reality shift in an almost dreamlike manner to meet his mounting anxiety, C.K. does what I thought would be impossible. He makes this kind of story fresh again.
It all comes together beautifully in that final scene. As the euphoria of his great escape wears off, Louie stops the boat, looks around and finds himself alone. The credits begin to play silently over the simple image of Louie sitting alone on the boat, not looking especially happy or sad, tragically realizing that he may have just blown his last shot at reconciliation.
-The opening with Louie’s daughter beautifully playing violin only to be interrupted by Louie telling her to get her homework done, goddammit, was wonderfully observed.
-Store Associate: “Hey, I was helping you.” Louie: “No you weren’t”
-Sarah Silverman pops up for the second week in a row. For whatever reason, I found her interactions with Louie to be very sweet.
-The scene at the poker table recalled one of the first segments from the entire series, and I know that at least a few of the people Louie played with during that episode were back again tonight.
-Louie, on the state of his life and happiness: “Alone in the world. Might as well be a maggot sucking a dead cat’s face. But nothing new.”
-The rental car associate, telling Louie off: “Well either see him or don’t see him. Make a decision. Be a man. You’re 44 years old. It’s your fault.”