In terms of thematic issues, Louie tends to treat episodes as individual installments rather than conducting season-long arcs. But it’s fitting that the Season Three finale, “New Year’s Eve,” returns Louie to his lonely and isolated state that he’s been dealing with not only for much of this season but throughout the entirety of the series.
The Late Show three-parter had Louie meet new highs in his career and had him accomplish things he never dreamed of, but the end result was much of the same and frankly, what he’s come to expect — which is to say that so many things you do are out of your control. Louie feels the need to take back part of this life by hosting Christmas morning for his daughters, but as we see through a hilarious opening sequence, even something as pure and simple as this doesn’t come without pain for Louie through several unforeseen circumstances.
Matters get even worse when Louie’s ex shows up to take the kids away for a three-week vacation (with their stepdad too, no less), which literally puts him into a world of darkness, shutting the blinds and effectively shutting himself off from the outside world until the day of New Year’s Eve, where he gets a call from his sister (played by Amy Poehler), who wants him to come to Mexico with her family to visit their mom. Louie declines, saying how he’ll be alright, but his sis knows that not to be the case, especially with the kids gone, and convinces him to reconsider (through some pretty great acting by Poehler in a very small scene).
Maybe it was the call from his sister, or maybe it was the dream he had of his grown daughters pitying him for being so alone, but he finally packs up his bags and appears to be on his way to the airport when he encounters Liz (Parker Posey), the girl he met and went on a crazy date with earlier this season. This must be fate, Louie is most surely thinking. At his lowest, he comes across a women he’s been trying to reconnect with, someone who made a huge impact on him in just one night and who he cares for deeply. And judging at least by the reciprocal reaction she initial shows to him, she is just as happy to see him. But once again, the unexpected hits, as the sight of Louie appears to have triggered Liz’s rare and violent disease. Louie takes her to the hospital, where the nurses and doctors start grilling him for answers like he’s a loved one. Moments later, she’s dead.
Louie has never been afraid to go much darker than your typical comedy, but it’s never without reason. Here was Louie, ready to get out of his funk by reconnecting with (literally) the girl of his dreams. Life dangled the carrot in front of his face for a brief moment of bliss only to crash him down harder than ever. The juxtaposition of Louie walking out of the hospital room to the New Year’s Eve countdown and having all the ecstatic people around him as he wonders off is both beautiful filmed and incredibly heartbreaking.
The strangeness of the situation could have caused Louie to react any number of different ways, but after going through the Late Show fiasco, he now has a better idea of how to handle himself when life throws him curveballs: sometimes you just have to forget what’s expected of you and do something for yourself. So instead of hopping a plane to Mexico, he takes one to Beijing, with seeing the beauty of the Yangtze River the only thing on his agenda, hoping it’s half as great as it’s portrayed in the children’s book “The Story About Ping,” but when a local duck farmer finally takes him to it (at least the part of it that’s nearby), it’s yet another disappointment for Louie, as it’s nothing more than a tiny stream through a swamp.
Instead of being dejected however, Louie is amused. It figures he’d travel around the world to try to try and find something only to be left underwhelmed. But maybe his journey wasn’t just to stare at a pretty river. Wandering through a garden, he comes across a lady who, without hesitation, invites him in for a meal with her family. Louie can’t understand anyone, but the feeling is warm and welcoming, giving him a temporary but genuine feeling of being accept and wanted for the first time in a long time.
Louie is sure to get back to his lonely life probably as soon as his meal is over, but knowing that moments like that are still out there will be enough for him to keep going, which is oddly enough a perfect metaphor for the greatness of this show. C.K. is never afraid to tell painfully true and heartbreaking stories within the confines of a 22-minute sitcom. I’m so grateful for the artistry he brings to the medium, and even more so for the order of at least one more season.
– If you ask me, Lily’s doll looked pretty great considering how much Louie dismantled it the night before.
– Great job by Louie’s ex (Susan Kelechi Watson) this season. I hope to see more of her in Season Four.
– I too wish to simply throw my Christmas tree out the window the second the celebration is over.
– Newscasters names: Fanny Chapcranter and Flappy Howserton.
– “The Story About Ping” is a nice way to continue the duck motif from last season’s “Duckling” episode (also with the shot of all the ducks in the back of that local’s awesome three-wheeled tractor). Fun to know that C.K. has a soft spot for those cute swimming birds.
– The fact that C.K. and his crew went to Beijing for about 10 minutes of screen time is amazing. Ever the showman, he knew that no set could recreate what he wanted to capture, and he will go to great lengths to do whatever he wants.
– That’s it for Season Three. Thanks for reading. I’ll be going low-brow this fall, covering It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia starting in a few weeks.