Review: ‘Horace and Pete’ grapple with love, sex, and loneliness in episode 4

A few thoughts on the latest Horace and Pete coming up just as soon as my flight crew's late…

The fourth Horace and Pete was by far the shortest to date, clocking in at a shade over 30 minutes. While I can imagine that inspiring some new complaints about the price point – I'll pay three bucks for an hour of entertainment, but not a half-hour! – I appreciate that Louis C.K. felt he only needed this amount of time to tell this week's collection of vignettes about love, sex, and loneliness. There's some elasticity of length to Louie, where he can squeeze two or three short stories into the space of one episode, or stretch one story over six episodes, or just let a single episode run slightly longer than usual. But when he's just releasing episodes digitally, there's no standard length at all to worry about. Who knows? Maybe in a week or two, we'll get a 90-minute episode.

That said, the scenes where the barflies debate current events tend to be the least interesting part of Horace and Pete, so devoting a good chunk of such a short episode to the guys discussing abortion – and dismissing the woman's attempt to offer her opinion – stood out more than it might have in a longer outing. But the two main vignettes, with Horace's failed booty call with Maggie, followed by Uncle Pete and Pete having something vaguely resembling a father-son talk, were more than enough to carry the show this week.

Horace and Pete didn't start out as a weekly opportunity for great theater actresses to deliver monologues about romantic and/or sexual misfortune, but if Louis C.K. wants to pivot and make that the prime focus of the series, I'm not going to complain so long as he keeps writing material of this caliber, and keeps getting actresses as good as Laurie Metcalf and, this week, Nina Arianda(*), to deliver them. Maggie's lament that Horace used to be fun was a surprising one, given that what we've seen of the guy is very much in the same sad sack mode that C.K. plays Louie on Louie, but Horace was obviously also in a very depressed time of his life when we first met him. Maybe as things go along, we'll get a glimpse of that other side of him.

(*) Though primarily a stage performer, Arianda's had an interesting and varied last 12 months on TV, first as Will Graham's wife on the final Hannibal season, then as Dev's horrible date in the “Hot Ticket” episode of Master of None, and now here as a much more sympathetic waitress.

But really, all this one needed to make me feel like I got my money's worth was Pete and Uncle Pete's conversation at the end. Not only did it inch ever so carefully towards the two of them dealing with Pete's discovery of their true relationship, but it somehow, for a moment, made racist, sexist dinosaur Uncle Pete seem incredibly sensitive and wise. He's still coming at the larger issue from his usual reactionary place, but there was a nugget in there that actually touched Pete – or, perhaps, just Uncle Pete's use of the word “son” in imparting this advice to him. Spectacular work, as usual, from Alan Alda, and pretty splendid from Steve Buscemi as well.

That long shot of the door at the episode's end was an interesting one, mainly in the way it serves as a reminder that we should think of this more as a series of filmed plays than as a traditional TV show. In a play, the spotlight could follow Uncle Pete to the door, then stay there for a few moments before the curtain call to make sure the impact of the final scene lingered just a bit more. Watched in this medium, though, it raises a question in the viewers' mind about whether Uncle Pete is going to come back in the door and continue being sincere with Pete for a moment. In that way, it captures the hope (and then disappointment) Pete may have been feeling in the wake of that discussion.

Or maybe Louis C.K. just liked that particular shot of the door.

What did everybody else think?