A review of tonight's “Louie” coming up just as soon as I assume that you're Welsh…
The segment of “Cop Story” that gives the episode its title is terrific in its own right, and we'll get to that in a minute, but I wouldn't want the pre-credits sequence to get overlooked. That's a perfect little “Louie” short story, and one that illustrates why this show continues to stand apart from the many other cable series about grumpy middle-aged men. (Take Showtime's “Happyish,” for instance. Or better off, don't.) Louis C.K. is a man with strong opinions, as is his alter ego. But he's also curious about the world, and open to the possibility that he isn't right. In many situations where Louie winds up dealing with someone who should be his ideological enemy, he instead realizes that he has more to learn from them than the other way around. Dumping on millennials for being shallow and obsessed with social media is lazy comedy, and it's also rarely accurate based on the millennials I know. Should the store owner (played well by Clara Wong) have sold him the pots he wanted? Probably; it's not like he was being rude or in other way causing problems, though the store was in the midst of closing. But he comes out of the encounter with a grudging respect for her, and the scene presents a wildly different take on the generation gap than the usual whining about the good old days that tends to permeate this kind of scene. A very strong and interesting opening.
Louie's evening out with Lenny the cop is not one of those instances of Louie learning from someone whom he has initial cause to dislike. Instead, it plays out as a sequel to season 2's “Eddie,” as Louie is again confronted by a figure from his past who resents his success, and who feels nearly suicidal about his own circumstances.
Despite the structural similarity, it never feels like a rehash, though. Part of that is the performance by Michael Rapaport, who instantly becomes this exact guy only a few seconds after he's appeared on screen. (It's a far better role for him than his last FX gig.) And part of it's the nature of the relationship. Louie and Eddie were once genuine friends, as well as professional equals, where Lenny is just a jerk who used to date one of Louie's sisters(*). Whatever guilt Louie had about surpassing Eddie and leaving him behind plays no role here; it's just an uncomfortable encounter from which he can't escape, involving a guy with a relentlessly abrasive personality he can never turn off.
(*) Anyone care to guess which of the previous sisters (Amy Poehler, pregnant farter or daughter-abandoner) it might have been? Or, given the show's approach to Louie's family, should we assume this was a sister we've never seen before and will never see again?
One of the early themes of this season (and of the series, of course) has been Louie feeling lonely, depressed, and useless. He never finds himself exactly liking Lenny's company, but their ordeal – from being turned away from the Knicks game to Lenny going feral and beating himself up after losing his gun – is a nice reminder that he could always have it much, much worse. And that realization, along with Lenny's complete vulnerability when he sobs in Louie's arms after Louie finds the gun, lets Louie be the bigger man and actually act like the friend Lenny wants him to be.
Because C.K. and Rapaport both break character during the bit with the knitting needles, along with laughter from the crew, it's hard to say whether we're meant to take that as a thing that actually happened between Louie and Lenny after Lenny calmed down, or just something C.K. was showing Rapaport while the cameras were still rolling. Likely, it's the former, and C.K. enjoyed the genuineness of the laughter too much to use a take where no one broke. If the story proper just ends on the tearful hug, that works, but I like the idea that Louie was able to suggest something that would help Lenny keep his hands and mind busy during his many lonely nights. Louie starts the episode learning from someone else, and he ends it teaching something.
“Cop Story” was much more dramatic and uncomfortable than the last few episodes have been. It was also terrific.
What did everybody else think?