Louie, Ep. 3.08: “Dad” the show’s most brazenly cinematic outing yet

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Louie, Season 3, Episode 8: “Dad”
Written by Louis CK
Directed by Louis CK
Airs Thursdays at 10:30pm ET on FX

After last week’s mostly “off” outing, Louie comes back swinging with one of its most brazenly cinematic episodes, a 22-minute whip-pan through a wide variety of topics and moods that feels very much like a dry run for CK’s theoretical return to feature-length filmmaking. (CK has stated that he’s considering running a Kickstarter-esque campaign to raise the funds to independently produce another movie, hoping to dodge the stdio interference that he feels doomed his surreal comedy Pootie Tang.)

“Dad” ostensibly follows a single plot thread for its entire duration, but it does so through a series of otherwise disconnected vignettes, all of which work, which is a relief after the draggy last two thirds of “IKEA/Piano Lesson.” “Dad” also opts out of the traditional Louie opening, instead treating us to the sight of CK’s screen daughter Ursula Parker and her considerable violin playing – rudely interrupted by her dad, who is adamant that this is homework time. “But it’s beeyooteeful!” Tough luck, kid. The scene gives us a rare glimpse of Louie as a less-than-ideal parent, which is fitting given that Louie spends the rest of the episode literally sick from the thought of even seeing his own father.

But before that fateful almost-meeting, Louie faces a marathon of ramping unpleasantries, from an embarrassing “assault” at a Best Buy-esque electronics store (and a hilarious instant-replay via security camera, starring a schlubbier stand-in), to a bizarre meeting with his deeply eccentric “Uncle Ex” (F. Murray Abraham, making his second Louie appearance), to a poker game that gets rudely interrupted by Louie’s mysteriously upset stomach. (The scene is just the latest bit of Louie‘s increasing acknowledgement of some kind of continuity, with Sarah Silverman joining in on the poker nights we last caught a glimpse of back in Season 1.) Abraham’s scene is particularly great; in a recent interview, CK mentioned that he didn’t feel Abraham’s previous appearance used him optimally, and promised this second scene was written for “his voice.” Usually when writer/directors throw that word around, they’re speaking of an actor’s entire aura, but I like to think that he was speaking literally, and he was intent on hearing silly non-sequiturs in Abraham’s authoritative, sonorous voice.

The real killer of the episode, though, is the entire sequence that finds Louie approaching, then retreating from his father’s home. It’s one of the most ambitious segments of the show yet, not to mention the one that dives deepest into a kind of perpetually damned magic realism. Maria Thayer (of Strangers With Candy and Eagleheart) makes a brief, distant cameo as a rental-car agency employee who seems to immediately grasp the situation. “Make a decision, be a man, you’re 44 years old!” Even his GPS device knows what’s up: “You missed the turn to your father’s house. Why are you being such a little pussy about this?” A quick would-be tousle with a huge Bostonian lughead sees Louie move from attempted bravado to meek woundedness in record time. The car window shatters for no reason. As Louie clambers towards his father’s house, the camera bobs queasily, accompanied by a whinnying bass drone. And then…Louie runs away.

Since the standup segments that used to appear in every episode seem to have abated, Louie has lost its tendency to tidily contextualize what we’re seeing, meaning that when Louie strands himself on a speedboat in the closing sequence, there’s no quip to reassure us that the character has gained any perspective. There’s just Louie, frazzled, then relieved, then puzzled, left to wonder why a part of him never grew up enough to be able to face his past. It’s a less comfortable closing note than we’re used to from Louie, but it perfectly suits the show at a juncture where its style and execution is still very much in flux. “Dad” may well turn out to be a key pivot point on that score – especially since we’re two weeks away from the commencement of Louie‘s first three-parter.

Simon Howell

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