Louie Review: "New Year's Eve" (Episode 3.13)
After a three-episode arc that was in my opinion the best thing Louie has done so far, the season ends on a bit more traditional note. Well, traditional for the show, which is to say it’s fragmented and messy and not altogether successful. It’s one of the more shocking juxtapositions the show’s done, not because the material itself was nearly as shocking as what we’ve seen in some episodes (Melissa Leo…), but because the good was so good while the bad was so weird and, well yes, bad.
Although the talk show host storyline is finished, “New Year’s Eve” picks up soon afterwards. It’s Christmas morning, and we see his daughters opening presents cross-cut with Louis’ preparations. This begins funny, but once we see what Louis had to do in order to get the doll looking “perfect” for his daughter, it goes beyond that to be the most hilarious thing Louie has ever done. That’s a high bar, but I don’t think I can praise this portion enough, a complete tour de force of editing that makes a small joke into an epic dilemma.
The rest of Louis’ Christmas is moving and entertaining. Louie featured some perfect awkwardness between Louis and his wife’s boyfriend, and successfully made the book Ping look enchanting. Amy Poehler’s brief role as his sister—only slightly distracting given their relationship on Parks and Recreation—alongside her husband was memorable, and his decision to stay on the couch seemed fitting. Even Louis’ dream about his daughters grown-up and discussing him was excellent.
But when Louis leaves the house, things enter an almost dream-like state that just doesn’t really work, and the episode soon goes downhill. Meeting up with Liz, Parker Posey’s character, on the bus was strange, but her immediate death felt pointless and unnecessary. Of course, I’m never thrilled when Liz is around anyhow, but removing her in this fashion continues the depersonification of her character. It only emphasizes the way Liz has always been there solely for the sake of Louis’, and when no one in the hospital seems to care that she dies it highlights this disappointing aspect of the show.
Inspired by the children’s story Ping from earlier, Louis decides at the airport to skip out on visiting his family in Mexico and instead goes Eat, Pray, Love-ing in Beijing. From the music to the myriad of kindly foreigners, I felt this entire part of the episode was mildly offensive and at the very least misguided. It also could have worked, at least a bit, were the episode to end when he finds the Yangtze River and some sort of happiness there. But instead it continues, and the kindly Chinese people invite him into their home while Louis tries to speak with them by attempting at their accents. It’s a grating way for the series to end, and more than a bit disappointing.
Episodes of Louie like this are difficult for me to grade because they really are almost like two or even three short films shown successively, even when they have more continuity like “New Year’s Eve.” And that’s true for the season as a whole, too, which ends here. It’s intentionally fragmented and disparate, filled with experiments, some successful and others disappointing. I’m sure almost everyone has felt that way, even if their preferences were different from my own. So while I’d prefer that the season’s finale were another in a series of great episodes, that it isn’t seems more fitting, since this is more what the show’s about. And next season, I hope that there are still parts that don’t click with me, simply because that will show that Louie is still trying new things and continuing its tradition of making each season more ambitious than the last.