Louie Season 4, Episodes 9 & 10 “Elevator (Part 6)”/”Pamela (Part 1)”
Written and Directed by Louis C.K.
Airs Mondays at 10pm ET on FX
The end of one multi-part story and the beginning of another airing back-to-back unsurprisingly makes for a slightly jarring viewing experience in this week’s Louie episodes, one that pauses to reflect on a relationship ending, and another attempting to fill its place. And although its some of Louie‘s messiest writing and film-making of the season, there’s a lot of fascinating material to contemplate in both episodes, from love and heartbreak, to Heaven and unwanted sexual advances.
As predicted, Amia’s impending departure from America lined up neatly with the arrival of Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe to Brooklyn, killing the entire west side of the borough within hours of touching down (and the rest will be dead by 4pm tomorrow, according to news reports). After the wildly uncomfortable “romance” scene that ended “Elevator (Part 5)”, the final part in the “Elevator” saga begins with a lot of dark shadows and long shots of Amia and Louie, their interactions clouded by past and future events, and ultimately drowned out by the storm that arrives in Brooklyn. That storm – though awkwardly shot, clearly coming up against the limitations of the show’s budget – snaps Louie out of his romantic fantasy and back into the real world, with his goofy heroics to save Janet and the kids from a drowning Brooklyn.
In those moments, Louie silently realizes what is most important in his life – and more importantly, Amia’s life, when she finally expresses her feelings to him in arguably the show’s most beautiful, heart-warming moment, a teary Hungarian waiter reading the farewell letter she wrote to Louie. The awkwardness of the storm scenes is quickly forgotten: the moment Louie grabs the waiter’s hand to communicate to Amia, it becomes a bona fide love story, a subtle gesture that speaks volumes about Louie’s desire to connect with this woman, to understand and communicate with her, proving that yes, for once in his life, Louie really believed in something.
That touching scene, however, weighs heavy over the events of “Pamela (Part 1)”, an episode that examines the emasculation that comes along with heartbreak, when channeled incorrectly – as Dr. Bigelow so poignantly points out, heartbreak is the beautiful part of love, the one that reminds us we are humans. It’s a feeling we’re supposed to feel, and one we’re supposed to enjoy and learn from, not run away in fear of because it puts us in touch with our true feelings, something us humans struggle to communicate more than any other species in the animal kingdom.
However, “Pamela (Part 1)” isn’t so much concerned with how we all deal with heartbreak, rather than how men deal with heartbreak: and how men deal with emasculation in general, propelled by Louie’s joke about how women used to flick our penises in public, and that’s why we wrote a Bible with a male God and no mother for all the human “children” on Earth. It may be a hard thing to comprehend, but Louie took a chance on something and failed – and there’s nothing more emasculating than failing, than having control of a situation taken out of your hands. After all, we’ve spent a life being told (explicitly and subliminally) that we control our destinies – and when Louie’s perceived destiny is ripped from his hands and returned to her own life in Hungary (decisions she explains to Louie, not the other way around; more loss of control in Louie’s subconscious), it causes him to lash out in unhealthy ways.
Bringing Pamela back is really a perfect little narrative device (and proof that Pamela Adlon wasn’t just around for a cameo a couple weeks back): her relationship with Louie has always appeared at their lowest points in life, Louie desperately pushing for something that doesn’t quite exist between them, and Pamela both encouraging him and pushing him away – shit, they point their dysfunction out to each other over lunch, when she points out that Louie likes how much Pamela tortures him emotionally.
And in his depressed, metaphorically castrated state, Louie tries to turn Pamela into Amia, catalyzed when he sees Pamela asleep on his red couch (a callback to when he first saw Amia, asleep on her aunt’s red couch) after returning home from his comedy set. Louie decides that it’s time to “take control” of the situation (his emotions), and find in Pamela what he (also kind of forcibly found) with Amia when they had sex: right down to the choreographing, this specific scene with Pamela was designed to parallel Amia’s. It’s only the external factors that are different: deep down, Louie is still increasingly desperate for human connection, he’s pulling in anything that’s in his orbit, no matter how beautiful or toxic, determined to ruin it (or at least attempt to) by forcing his will upon it, attempting to form it into exactly what he thinks he needs to be happy.
There’s a lot to analyze in that final scene with Pamela: her child-like behavior, Louie’s extremely aggressive behavior, Pamela’s forced consent… however, it’s unfair to view such a loaded scene without the context of what follows. I can certainly judge Louie’s behavior in the scene – but if this season’s proved anything so far, it’s that we can’t predict where this ride is going until it gets there. It’s what makes this season some of the most fascinating television I’ve ever watched: it uses its surrealist qualities to intentionally cloud the symbolic and metaphorical material, conveying a certain connection to our American realities, without ever forgetting that it’s ultimately one man’s show about one man’s life, able to address or allude to social issues or prejudices, but always in the context of his particular point of view.
Who really knows what will happen when parts two and three of “Pamela” air in two weeks (next week, Louie does a separate two-part narrative called “In The Woods”): until then, all I can say is this week’s final scene left me extremely unsettled, something it’s supposed to do by design. It’s supposed to be a shocking moment, deliberately inserted at the end of this week’s episode, followed up by a post-credits scene of Louie getting emasculated again when he tries to be a Big Man: and although it will completely overshadow the powerful moments that close “Elevator” in the critical discussion of this week’s episodes, certainly stands as another example of Louie pushing against the boundaries of traditional storytelling, traditional gender roles, and the very modern views of everything from religion, to love, to sexual assault and obsession with physical beauty. At this point, it may be hard to call Louie a comedy – but whatever it may be, it’s impressive as hell.