In Eddie, one of my very favourite episodes of Louie so far, Louis CK created one of the most exhilarating episodes of any comedy show by daring to focus on the unanswerable question of how to convince somebody that their life is worth living when deep down, they know it isn’t. In the opening episode of this week’s double header, So Did The Fat Lady, CK has equalled, if not bettered Eddie with a monologue every bit as challenging, well-written and sincere as the one Doug Stanhope delivered. This felt like a seminal episode of TV and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic at this stage to suggest that Louie is one of the greatest things to have appeared on a screen of any nature.
I recently decided I was going to try and get a bit fitter and try to lose a bit of weight. The health benefits would be obvious and I don’t think there are many people out there who wouldn’t want to feel a bit better about themselves. Since coming to this decision I’ve gone on a grand total of one short run and have done absolutely nothing to change my eating habits. This made watching the Bang Bang scene both hilarious and guilt-inducing. Louie and his brother Bobby (played brilliantly by a returning Robert Kelly after a four year absence) “enjoy” a double-header of a huge Indian meal directly followed by a second meal at a diner. The gross spectacle is forced on us with uncomfortable close-ups and quick cutting as the two fat guys stuffing themselves silly is played entirely for laughs.
Skip forward to the end of the episode though and we see Louie on a date with Vanessa (Sarah Barker with probably my favourite female performance of the entire show), a funny, charming, thoroughly likeable blonde who makes him laugh and challenges him. Vanessa, however, has had to part with two expensive hockey tickets to get Louie to even entertain the notion of going out with her after being knocked back twice. Crucially, up to this point, the reason for her being rejected is never explicitly stated but we, as an audience, know all to well why. She’s a fat girl. And even though we realise this as an audience and Louie realises it as a character, there’s a depressing matter-of-factness about the set-up that makes this episode all the more important.
We’re living in a world where social-conventions and, in turn, TV conventions mean we don’t bat an eyelid at the mistreatment of a smart, lovely woman purely because of her size. When Louie tells her she’s not fat, it’s not because he doesn’t think she is, it’s because he doesn’t want to face up to the fact that he’s that guy and we as an audience don’t want to face up to it either. What follows is simply one of the best monologues I’ve seen on a TV show, beautifully performed, impeccable written and intelligently shot (the joggers in the background dictating the kineticism of the camera was perfect). Suffice it to say that it made for uncomfortable, challenging, awkward but ultimately essential viewing.
CK set himself a hard act to follow and unfortunately, Elevator (Part One) did feel a bit flat after what preceded it. It speaks volumes of the show’s quality though, that a lesser episode can still contain one of the most vividly nightmarish scenarios I’ve seen. We start with the fourth wall being broken as Jane, Louie’s youngest daughter, directly addresses us to tell us she’s having a scary dream. What follows is the nightmare of Louie brought to life in a sequence every bit as terrifying as any horror movie. Whilst embarking on a journey to their mother’s apartment, Louie explains the “subway rules” to his daughter reiterating what to do if they should get separated. With this fresh in her mind and with the confidence brought about by her belief that she’s dreaming, Jane steps off the subway train as the doors close separating herself from her father and sister.
It’s difficult to explain the sense of dread that this scene created, the claustrophobia of the subway carriage, the painful amount of changing and interchanging on the subway system and, as ever, the music all culminated in a palpable sense of relief and anger which Louie unleashes on Jane as they are reunited. It’s a scene that was difficult enough to watch without having kids so I can only imagine how unnerving it would be for a parent.
The rest of the episode was more intriguing than enjoyable, knowing that there is more to come it hardly feels fair to judge what we’ve seen so far. There were some solid laughs from the surreality of the elevator scenes and it was interesting to see the motif of a woman very deliberately out of focus in the background of a scene for a second week running. Overall though, I’m just keen to see where this episode goes in the next part, if it can get even close to reaching the heights of So Did The Fat Lady then we’re in for a treat.
EPISODE 3: 10/10 ; EPISODE 4: 7/10