Louie, Ep. 3.09: “Looking for Liz / Lilly Changes” wracked with fear and anxiety

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Louie, Season 3, Episode 9: “Looking for Liz / Lilly Changes”
Written by Louis CK
Directed by Louis CK
Airs Thursdays at 10:30pm ET on FX

If you keep up with Louie timeslot neighbor Wilfred, you’ll know that it tends to stick to one-word descriptors for its episodes, like “Control,” “Avoidance,” and “Guilt.” It’s too bad that it already had one called “Fear,” because that would have been a perfect umbrella title for the most nerve-wracking Louie episode yet; despite the return of the stand-up segments – which are as funny and sharp as ever – this is very intently not an episode in heavy pursuit of laughs.

The first segment, a brief standup tag that sets up Louie at his most gleefully despairing, noting the shift from fretting over the length and value of your life to the acceptance and even embrace of one’s mortality, is immediately followed by a scene of Louie trying to sleep. That is, until subliminal images of Liz (Parker Posey) begin to splice themselves into his dreams. The sublime music from the end of “Daddy’s Girlfriend, Pt. 2” (we may as well call it “Love Theme From Louie” at this point) returns, and it becomes clear that, for all of her eccentricities and deep-seated issues, Liz remains permanently embedded in Louie’s poor subconscious.

So he returns to the bookshop she worked at; the scene of the crime. There, he finds a new quirky female employee (Chloe Sevigny), who takes an immediate interest in Louie’s plight – so immediate an interest, in fact, that Louie probably should have taken the hint early and been on his way without this newly interested party in tow; but this is Louie, and that means no cringe-worthy stone can go unturned. This means, of course, that Sevigny’s character quickly turns out to be even more obviously loopy than Liz.

I imagine CK is going to take some critical heat for featuring yet another idiosyncratic, unstable female character, especially so soon after the “Daddy’s Girlfriend” two-parter. (Who does he think he is, Aaron Sorkin?) But – and I don’t think I’m just being a CK apologist here – there’s a little more at work in “Looking for Liz” than just one-way chicks-be-crazy material. When trying to explain to Sevigny why he’s searching for Liz, who has quit the bookstore and more or less vanished from Louie’s life entirely, he tells her that Liz “changed the way I feel about everything.” Why on Earth is that his takeaway from his evening with Liz? Louie may not suffer wild, spontaneous mood swings and act only compulsively (Posey) or masturbate in public seemingly without prompting, or shame (Sevigny), but he’s clearly not entirely well-adjusted, either; his sense of what romance is or should be seems hopelessly warped. That Liz has quite literally been replaced by another neurotic that Louie goes on an awkward adventure with only demonstrates how little perspective he’s gained. (I’ve seen the end of this segment, Sevigny’s public, er, display, described as a “punchline.” That doesn’t suit the rather grim tone of the sequence I watched.)

Louie’s unknowingly warped outlook, it would seem, may just be the natural end of a crippling fear of loneliness – after all, the whole Liz debacle started when one of his daughters asked him when he’d be getting a girlfriend. And speaking of Louie’s daughters, they dominate the “Lilly Changes” segment, which chronicles a different fear: not only of being a delinquent parent, but of being identified as such. After witnessing what seems to look very much like Lilly being bullied, Louie tries to uncover what’s wrong, but faces a stony response from his increasingly distant daughter. When she appears to spontaneously leave the house, he and younger daughter Jane trek out in pursuit, with Jane shouting for her in some version of Slovenian – Louie no longer even speaks his kids’ language. That she turns up in the house, unharmed, is of some comfort, but there’s a lingering sense that Louie’s struggles to understand women – of any age – aren’t going to get any easier, regardless of whether or not Liz ever turns up again.

Simon Howell

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