No time for a lengthy writeup of last night’s excellent Louie, “Subway/Pamela,” but a few quick, bulleted thoughts:
* There are a lot of great things that Louie does, but it deserves more credit for bringing back the art of the silent film, as in the (mostly) wordless subway sequence that opened the episode.
* That segment, by the way, probably comes as close as anything to crystallizing the way Louis CK portrays New York City in his show. There are TV shows and movies that play up New York’s dirt and sleaze; there are those that romanticize its beauty and serendipity. Louie’s a rare show that does both at the same time, and that, really, shows how the two are intertwined. The juxtaposition of subway violinist and bathing homeless guy may have been exaggerated for effect, but it’s the Platonic NYC subway experience in a nutshell. But Louie’s depiction doesn’t stop there: maybe my favorite element was the overheard conversation of the high-school student trying to talk up a girl on the train–just a little striving, cocky overture amid the human crush, presented as it was. And the heroic/raunchy resolution of the story–a fantasy of nobility and human solidarity amid the muck, capped off by a fantasy blowjob–100% pure Louie.
* Also–not that I want to give out-of-towners the impression it’s that common–but the ominously sloshing puddle of thin brown God-knows-what on the subway seat: I have seen that puddle. I know that puddle.
* Moving on to the “Pamela” segment: in a way, the excruciating, yet empathetically handled, scene in which Louie opens his heart to Pamela was in a way a kind of bookend to the excruciatingly threatening scene from last season’s “Bully.” When I interviewed him about this season, Louis CK said that he doesn’t feel obligated to make every scene of his show funny–but if it isn’t straight-up funny, he feels obligated to provide a reaction of equal intensity, including the reaction, “Oh, Jesus, I wish I didn’t have to watch this.” Watching this emotional, slow-motion car crash may have been uncomfortable in some ways, but what elevated it even more was the absolutely emotionally authentic way it played out on both ends. Louie doesn’t seem pathetic; in a way, he’s even more admirable for how he knows he’s setting himself up. And Adlon’s reaction throughout the scene is really something: even as she conveys that she doesn’t feel for Louie what he feels for her, she also gets across that she’s touched by what he’s saying, and that she likes the guy who’s saying it–a tough thing to do, especially through a long monologue, without looking awkwardly moony.
* I usually manage to put the similarity between Louis CK and Jim Cramer out of my mind, but his scream on the sidewalk after learning he had blown his shot at a bath with Pamela brought it all back.
Bonus! I forgot when I posted this that Louis CK was also doing a new standup set last night on Late Show with David Letterman. Here you go:
In this set, by the way, Louis CK says that society would be better off if we had to live with the possibility of being eaten by lions. Wish granted! (OK, mountain lions, but still.)