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Lucky Louie, Ep. 1.06, “Flowers for Kim”

Lucky Louie, Ep. 1.06, “Flowers for Kim”

Lucky Louie, Season 1, Episode 6: “Flowers for Kim”
Written by Jon Ross
Directed by Andrew D. Weyman
Aired on July 17th, 2006 on HBO

Throughout Lucky Louie’s prior episodes, the show has struggled to toe the line between using a dated style to express contemporary ideas and genuinely espousing a retrograde attitude. Although some moments, like Rich’s misogynistic jokes, have at least had the awareness not to directly align the viewer with the sentiments being conveyed, others, like the racist caricature in “A Mugging Story,” have seemed flat-out backwards. Louis C.K.’s conception for the show doesn’t seem inherently misguided, but the missteps of the early episodes have made the approach feel questionable.

It’s refreshing then, to see a half hour which finally works as C.K. intends. From the beginning of the cold open, writer Jon Ross puts the freedom from censorship allowed by HBO to good use, with the explicit lyrics of Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” providing a hilarious contrast to Lucy’s adorable innocence. Kelly Gould’s performance shines here, as her action of repeatedly asking her parents if they’re “ready for the show” expresses Lucy’s enthusiasm perfectly. As she moves into the dance, her attempts at ballet work equally well with the vulgar song.

Vulgarity proves crucial to “Flowers for Kim”, as Louie calling Kim a “cunt” during what’s supposed to be their romantic weekend makes for the episode’s primary plot point. The incident smacks of the sexist and homophobic humor which have pervaded the show up until this point. However, it works far more effectively than the other jokes for two main reasons: focus and identification.

The focus of “Flowers for Kim” is apparent from the beginning of the scene where Louie insults her, as Kim is telling Tina about the weekend they have planned. Whereas the less effective jokes have used misogyny as a vehicle for humor without being clear about whether viewers are supposed to laugh at or with the misogynists, the decision to concentrate on the women establishes them as people worthy of our empathy, rather than the butts of jokes. Not only that, but Kim’s clever understanding of how to slow down Louie’s sex drive shows that she’s the smarter one in the relationship.

She continues to be validated as Louie walks in and acts exactly as she predicts. By the time Louie uses the hateful insult on Kim, Ross has put the audience on her side enough to clearly discern who’s in the right. The weakness of Louie’s reasoning is apparent, and Kim’s plight as an ignored spouse comes to the forefront, rather than the potential comic nature of Louie using the word (which separates the scene from the other crude jokes in the show, such as Rich’s hooker anecdote immediately prior).

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The scene also stands out for its willingness to deviate from the constant punchlines that otherwise characterize the show. The general speed of the jokes makes sense, given what C.K. is trying to imitate in Lucky Louie, but his decision to move away from the formula here to fit the gravity of the scene feels appropriate. C.K.’s use of language which wouldn’t be allowed on The Honeymooners creates a situation which couldn’t have existed on that show, and the move away from the style feels necessitated by what occurs. When the laughs do come, they’re generated by the stupidity of Louie asking Kim if she’s mad, rather than from goading the audience to laugh at her plight. Although Lucky Louie’s traditionalism often feels like the opposite of Louie’s formal inventiveness, the break from humor comes off as a precursor to the latter show’s comfort with abstaining from jokes altogether.

The intended viewer identification becomes apparent when Tina comes in to look for her contacts. Once she gets the story from Kim, Tina slaps Louie on the head, and the on-set audience applauds. He’s the undeniable antagonist of the episode, and the feelings of the person he insults are given attention in a way that the unseen targets of Rich’s dumb jokes aren’t allowed.

The ending of “Flowers for Kim” complicates the otherwise refreshing gender politics of the episode. In the same way that Pamela’s willingness to forgive Louie for his attempted rape in the third season of Louie felt too fast, Kim’s sudden desire to hop back into bed with him feels a bit abrupt. That being said, seeing Louie dance to the song Lucy chooses for him takes him out of power, and he’s the one who has to be at her command. Even if the scene comes across as a bit jarring, it mostly avoids flubbing the landing in what is otherwise an excellent episode.

[wpchatai]