FX’s Louie’s ambitious “Elevator” arch has revolved around themes of connection and Louie’s often frustrated desire to understand and be understood in return, particularly when it comes to his relationships with the women in his life. As the storyline comes to a close, the final chapters are infused with something of a sense of impendimg doom, as the approaching catastrophic Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe makes its way up the Eastern seaboard and Amia’s inevitable return to her home country looms on the horizon.
As “Elevator Pt. 4” opens, Louie’s ongoing relationship with Amia seems to be going pretty damn well. They continue to go on dates (taking advantage of the hockey tickets Vanessa gave him back in episode two) and spend quiet evenings at home with his daughters, who also find themselves growing attached to her. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, this is the warmest, happiest relationship we’ve ever seen our schlubby protaganist involved in.
While things seem promising on the Amia front, unfortunately Louie’s relationship with his ex-wife Janet seems to be in a post-divorce nadir as they continue to butt heads over how to raise their daughters. Louie and Janet continue their argument over the girls’ schooling in the office of an $800 per hour counselor, who offers largely useless advice and barely acknowledges Louie, instead mostly directing her counsel to Janet. As the two women talk, Louie physically removes himself from the scene and leans out the window, releasing a primal scream which falls on deaf ears to both women and to the busy city streets below. It’s yet another moment in the “Elevator” series in which Louie is barred access to the shared discourse between the women in his life and is left in the cold, frustrated and unheard.
Upon leaving the office, however, Louie and Janet briefly reconnect over their disappointment with the ineffectual counselor (Louie’s observation that for $800 an hour, they could just have Jane killed instead was hilarious) and their shared desire to be on the same team when it comes to parenting. Things quickly become strained again though when Janet presses Louie on his relationship with Amia. For Janet, the fact that Louie’s new love interest doesn’t speak English, is leaving in a month, and hasn’t been intimate with Louie means their relationship is friviolous and not at all serious, just another immature whim of his, and she expresses annoyance with him for bringing a woman into her daughters’ lives whom will soon be taken away from them. “Can’t you just figure out how to live a life already?,” she chides.
After the two part ways, Louie flashes back to the early days of his marriage to Janet, where after two mostly unhappy years, they agree it would be best to divorce while they both have so relatively little of their lives invested in each other. (In typical Louie fashion, young Janet is played by a white actress because whatever. As young Louie, Conner O’Malley, also looks nothing like his current day counterpart, but captures his voice and mannerisms with uncanny precision.) Once they agree to separate, the wall between them (both metaphorically and literally, as for a portion of the scene, the two are divided by a glass wall) is removed and they’re suddenly much more relaxed and easy-going with each other. In their happy haze of relief, they’re not only able to be more honest with each other than they’d been in years, but they also have the best sex of their lives. Later, they joke about the terrible, yet hilarious possibility that Louie just got Janet pregnant and though the scene closes on their uproarious laughter, we know that that is exactly what happened and the end result was Lilly, Jane, and a delayed, yet inevitable, divorce.
The following installment begins with news reports of Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe’s swath of destruction, claiming the lives of Lebron James, the entire Floridian peninsula, and one sad bird as casualties on its march up the coast. (The news reports that pop up throughout the last two episodes are hilarious, perfect examples of the type of surrealist bits that Louie excels in.)
While the monster hurricane barrels ahead, so too does Louie in his pursuit of Amia, bringing her to his set at the Comedy Cellar. Even though she doesn’t speak the language, she seems absorbed by his performance and is also able to quickly suss out what a creep Jim Norton is. Later, she joins Louie for drinks with his fellow comedians, who wonder why Louie is investing so much of himself into a relationship that’s just going to end in sadness when Amia returns to Hungary. Why bother at all, Todd Barry asks, then launches into a triumphant relaying of a typical day in his life as a single forty-something comedian, a day filled with the the small victories of free donuts, the occasional nap, and the corrected spelling of his name on the sheet of paper taped to the door of his makeshift dressing room. While his audience of friends and club patrons is rapt throughout and burst into applause at his tale’s self-congratulatory conclusion, Barry’s story inadvertantly reveals the downside of the unencumbered bachelorhood he extols. Sure, Barry doesn’t have to worry about navigating the often rocky terrain of a committed relationship or fitting picking his kids up from school into his busy breakfast/gym/nap schedule and he sure as shit seems content with his lifestyle, but it’s a hollow sort of happiness rooted in immature selfishness. At the end of the day, there’s none of the connection that Louie seeks, just the corporeal pleasure of a complimentary pastry and the freedom of not having anyone to answer to.
Though certainly prone to his own bouts of immaturity and selfishness, Louie clearly wants more and, spurred on by Janet’s dismissing of his relationship with Amia and Ivanka’s bon mot that, “If you didn’t screw the cow, she’s not your cow,” he finally seals the deal with Amia. She seems reluctant initially, trying to brush him off with a quick kiss, but Louie is persistent and she eventually decides to sleep with him. For Louie, it’s a victory, but in the morning, it’s clear that Amia regrets her decision, as she basically storms out of his apartment, leaving Louie bewildered and wondering what went wrong.
Against a blustery, fall backdrop eerily reminiscent of Hurricane Sandy’s 2012 arrival, the final segment of “Elevator” opens with the imminent NYC arrival of the increasingly apocalyptic Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe and Louie’s increasingly desperate attempts to learn what Amia’s thinking. Whereas the language barrier between the two initially seemed to take the pressure off the courting process for Louie, he is now frustrated by their inability to communicate verbally and, needing to know precisely how Amia feels, practically drags her to Ivanka’s apartment to translate. Amia’s not willing to discuss the situation in front of her aunt, but Louie steamrolls ahead, which just leads to a lot of screaming in Hungarian and plate smashing. The chaos unfolding in Ivanka’s cramped kitchen is finally interuppted by the chaos unfolding outside, as Louie learns that Janet’s neighborhood is currently bearing the brunt of the storm and is being evacuated (and also that all of Brooklyn is already dead). Immediately, Louie decides that he must come to the rescue of his ex and his daughters and straps some plastic bags on his feet, grabs some supplies (a banana, two birthday candles, and a completely useless lightbulb) and heads out onto the storm ravaged streets.
The monster storm has completely shut down the city (except for the comically oblivious and chipper Hertz representative) and Louie’s voyage to Janet’s apartment is fraught with peril in the form of whipping wind, raging rapids in the streets, and unhinged freaks looking for non-specific dogs or screaming in their underwear. Moments of crisis can either bring out the best or worst in people and in Louie’s case, it’s clearly the former as he prevails and eventually makes it to Janet’s apartment. As good as it was to see Louie get a chance to play the hero, it was even better to see his inherent decency in the kindness he shows his ex-wife. Throughout the “Elevator” series, Louie and Janet have argued and disagreed and often seemed to be speaking different languages, understanding each other even less than Louie and Amia, yet here they are able to connect on a basic human level. In her time of need, he without thought risked his own safety to come to her aid. Despite their difficult history and their continued annoyance with one another, that essential connection between the two has not been frayed. As Louie carried a frantic Janet into the safety of his rented truck, I couldn’t help but think that these two crazy kids just might make their divorce work after all.
Having survived the storm, Louie finally reconnects with Amia when she brings him to a fancy restaurant in order to have the Hungarian waiter translate her goodbyes. Through the tearful, emotional waiter, Amia tells Louie that although she’s grateful for their time together and will miss him, her life is back in Hungary. Clutching both her and the waiter’s hands, Louie tells her he feels the same, that “I’m gonna miss you so much, but I wouldn’t trade it. I’m so happy.” Aside from the old “It’s better to have loved and lost” sentiment, Louie’s also expressing relief that Amia’s feelings for him were akin to his own, that their connection was real and not just something he projected onto her out of his own loneliness. In fact, as this lovely scene comes to a close with Louie and Amia just holding each other’s hands and smiling, it’s probably the happiest the audience has ever seen Louie.
As the “Elevator” series ends and Amia’s returned to Hungary, however, we see Louie wallowing in the throes of missing Amia and basically reversing his earlier stance that his ensuing sadness would be worth it. This season of Louie has had more continuity than any of the previous seasons and “Pamela Pt. 1” picks up right where we left off, with Louie continuing to be berated by Charles Grodin’s Dr. Bigelow, who calls him the most boring man he’s ever met and encourages him to embrace his misery because it’s not only the true essence of love, but in fact the best part of it.
Rather than deal with the pain, Louie attempts to cash in on Pamela’s earlier offer of pursuing a “guy/girl type thing.” Of course, Pamela tells him that ship has long since sailed. While, as she points out, Louie certainly seems to like the fact that Pamela is mean to him, she also seems to get off on treating him cruelly. I had no doubt that once Louie showed renewed interest in her, Pamela would reject him, partly out of a refusal to be his back-up plan, but also out of a desire to always have the upper hand. This lopsided dynamic has come to define their relationship and seems to work in its own strange, twisted way, so it’s also no surprise when she helpfully offers to babysit Lilly and Jane while he performs at the Comedy Cellar later that night.
We’re then treated to an unusually long bit of standup (they’ve been particularly scarce this season) where CK riffs on the often condoned (though occasionally mildly “frowned upon”) injusticies women have dealt with throughout history and right up through the present day. The intrinsic differences between the sexes is a frequent topic in CK’s standup and he often portrays women as the more intelligent, nurturing, yet crueler sex and men’s subsequent subjugation of them as rooted in insecurity, stupidity, and fear. It’s a funny bit (one that served as CK’s opening monologue on his most recent SNL hosting gig) that uses such wide-ranging bullet points as women’s suffrage, wife beater tanks, and the hidden body of God’s murdered wife to make a point about the largely ignored inequities women still face.
CK’s standup and his show in general tend to take a respectful, though irreverent view of women, so it’s no surprise that the scene that follows felt jarring and has proven to be somewhat controversial. When Louie gets back to his apartment, he finds Pamela sleeping on the couch (a sight that takes both him and the audience back to his first glimpse of Amia). In what is, at best, a study in cringeworthy awkwardness and, at worst, a little rapey, Louie attempts to recreate his take-charge sexual approach with Amia with a grossed out and clearly resistant Pamela.
Personally, I read this scene as yet another misreading on Louie’s part, thinking Pamela would be turned on by his adopting a pose of masculine, sexual forcefulness much in the way that he’s turned on by her bitchiness. I don’t think he was intending to be a creep, but perhaps that’s the point – that a lot of the violence and harm done against women is unintentional and rooted in something other than malice, be it insecurity or plain stupidity, but that fact doesn’t make the end result any less unpleasant. I also found Pamela’s reaction somewhat hard to read. Even though she was fighting Louie off, I felt that she remained ultimately in control throughout, agreeing to just a kiss and then grimacing and acting disgusted in a manner so over-the-top that it seemed to suggest a sort of power play, yet another act of cruelty against him more so than a sincerely appalled reaction to his kiss. Then again, it’s entirely possible that she felt cornered and offended by his sudden, unwanted physical forcefulness. While Louie’s self-congratulatory fist pump after she flees his apartment reveals he views their first kiss as a raging success, Pamela’s true feelings about their encounter remain yet unknown. Either way, it was an uncomfortable scene to watch and though Louie is taking a break from this storyline next week, I’m interested in seeing where this all goes when the “Pamela” thread continues in two weeks.
Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs is a Senior Writer for Pop-Break, regularly covering Game of Thrones, Louie, Futurama, and Boardwalk Empire, as well as other delectable nuggets of TV, film, and music throughout the year. Since graduating with Highest Honors from Rutgers University with a degree in English, Kimberlee currently finds herself in a financially comfortable, yet stifling corporate environment where her witty and insightful literary and pop culture references are largely met with confused silence and requests to, “Get away from me, weirdo.” Still, she’s often thought of as a modern-day Oscar Wilde (by herself) and one day hopes her wit, charm, and intellect (again, self-perceived) will make her a very wealthy, very drunk woman. She’s also the mother of a darling little boy, Charlie Miles (aka Young Chizzy) who she hopes will grow up to not be too embarrassed of all of the baby pics she relentlessly shares of him on various social media sites.