Louie: "Looking for Liz/Lilly Changes" (3.9)
“Looking for Liz/Lilly Changes” was, as the title implies, such a bifurcated episode that it’s difficult to treat it as one entity, especially since one half was so significantly better than the other. What unites the two was their basic story, two searches that are, in different manners, complete busts. But these two halves, one ending with a sex joke and the other focused on Louis’ children, also do a good job approximating the two main halves of the show. Few episodes of the series have encapsulated what’s good and bad about the show as well as this one.
The “Looking for Liz” half of the episode begins with Louis having a sort of subliminal dream about Liz, the character played by Parker Posey in a pair of episodes earlier this season. When he goes back to the bookstore he met her in before, he meets her replacement, a seemingly nameless character played by Chloe Sevigny, who like her predecessor isn’t so much a person as a collection of strange quirks. She decides, for no good reason whatsoever, that Louis was in love with Liz and needs to find her, and she sets out with him to do so.
Sevigny’s character is one in a long line of women who aren’t people; they’re caricatures. In the show’s third season, this pattern has become even more egregious since Pamela Adlon’s character left the show. She was one of the show’s few women who felt fleshed out, a real three-dimensional character who wasn’t there for the sake of a concept. This season we’ve had Sarah Silverman arrive, but she seems to be just playing as herself, which isn’t the same thing as developing a female character. Even Maria Bamford has largely been reduced to a string of gags.
Contrasting this first half, which felt phoned-in and repetitive (does the bookstore only hire quirky women, or something?), the second half’s search was both funny and excruciating, which is exactly the sort of thing that I hope for from Louie every week. Louis goes to pick up his daughters after school only to find that Lilly is being bullied. When he tries to get more information from her about this, she gets angry and shuts him out. In return he gets angry, and goes to the restroom to contain himself, only to find that when he’s finished Lilly is nowhere to be found and her sister Jane claims that she left the apartment.
This commences in a search with far higher stakes and also much more comedy. At this point it’s hard not to wonder how Louis C.K. managed to cast such talented girls as his daughters in the show, because as with many of the show’s stories, this half relies upon them to really work. The deeper part of this short, that Louis would rather do anything than speak to his ex-wife about losing their daughter, is sad and awful and completely understandable at the same time. It’s another of the show’s almost nightmarish scenarios that manages to draw laughs at the same time.
For once I’d be happy to have two ratings to give an episode of Louie, because I disliked the first half almost as much as I loved the second. I have a bit less respect for the early short than I do for many of the show’s less successful segments because usually they’re at least trying something new, while here we had something that treaded water and, taken the rest of the show as a whole, is almost mildly offensive. Even so, I enjoy when Louie doesn’t forget its own past, and I can’t help but hope that Liz’s role in the episode builds to something more enjoyable. I’m disappointed, but I keep the faith, and “Lilly Changes” is a good illustration of why.
•I found the editing of Louie’s dream to be a pretty obnoxious way of showing that he’s thinking of Liz. There have got to be better ways of doing that.
•Ok, what is the New American Haggadah?
•“She changed how I feel about everything, in one night.” – I was pretty disappointed in this line in particular. It’s a cheap and easy way of reducing that episode, and cheap and easy shouldn’t be part of Louis.