‘Louie’ Stares Into Existential Abyss in “Cop Story” (TV REVIEW)


As Louie knows more than perhaps anyone else currently inhabiting a television show (aside from the posterboy of such things, Don Draper), life’s tragedies are almost hilarious in their brutality. The humor, of course, lies in their unrelenting dedication to torturing us — a torture only complicated by our constant itch for understanding. In this sense, Louis C.K. has expanded the philosophy of Louie by allowing his title character to experience the other side of this emotional brutality. Instead of a lone planet bouncing off other lone planets on a quest toward some mirage of a sun, Louie now seems cozy with the reality that we’re all lone planets – but maybe we’re just bouncing off each other out of emotional boredom and a lack of anything else to do.

After a brilliant opening scene which I won’t dastardly spoil for you here, Louie spends the rest of “Cop Story” attempting to endure a forced reconnection with Lenny (Michael Rapaport), an immature New York police officer and the former significant other of Louie’s sister. Lenny’s personality is, at best, debilitatingly intolerable. In a fit of brief empathy, Louie convinces himself that he can look beyond that and actually try for legitimate conversation and a less-than-atrocious evening at a basketball game.

After that outing falls through, the unlikely pair end up at a bar where —  a couple drinks in — Lenny starts to exorcise his greatest emotional shortcomings with the obvious hope that Louie might join him under the clouds or, at the very least, offer the umbrella of friendship. This sentiment goes about as well as you can imagine, especially when paired with Lenny’s largely self-centered outlook. When Louie tries to make a clean break from the rest of the night’s proceedings and Lenny counters that attempted exit with an admission of awareness (i.e. he knows he’s a heel), we not only start to feel sorry for the unbearable Lenny — but we also start to feel sorry for Louie, with his inability to handle any of this with grace.

This episode takes its most compelling turn, however, when Lenny suddenly realizes he’s misplaced his gun. Panicked after realizing he didn’t accidentally drop it somewhere at the sadness-tinged bar from earlier in the evening, Lenny completely breaks down at Louie’s apartment. It’s moving to watch the character cradle his head and scream-cry into the abyss that he fears is about to be his life – not only for the audience, but also for Louie, who calmly exits the apartment in search of the gun. In keeping with this season’s philosophical expansion, we might as well see the gun as a less-than-sly but wholly effective representation of control. Doing so paints a far more detrimental portrait of Lenny, and an understandably graceless one of Louie. Without control, what will our existence offer us? Without control, are we not on a conveyor belt toward indifferent perishment?

In short, Louie’s occupation as a comedian often gives him an excuse for loneliness, if not an encouragement for the maintenance of that loneliness. For all the Lennys Louie has met and will continue to meet along the way, that same loneliness lacks that flattering attachment to art. Loneliness without celebrity is just loneliness, and Louie seems to be at odds with both.

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