At its best, this season’s “Louie” was one part absurdist comedy and one part cringing drama. The two-part season finale struck the perfect balance between the two, and it was mostly thanks to Pamela. Her presence marked a return to the controversial “Pamela” story that began two weeks ago.
Last week, Louie took viewers on a trip into his own childhood, giving them an extra week to ponder the was-it-or-wasn’t-it-rape sequence between Louie and Pamela in “Pamela Part 1.” Now, with the second part of that story wrapping up the show’s fourth season, it became both clearer and less clear.
One thing that was definitely established was just how unorthodox Louie and Pamela’s relationship is. She’s a firecracker of a damaged person, while he’s a brooding mess. Neither are emotionally healthy, and yet they’ve found a dynamic that works… for now.
Looking at it that way, the maybe-rape sequence might’ve been little more than foreplay.
Does Louie come on too strong at times? Yes. Does Pamela like to push men to their sexual limits and then leave them hanging there, enjoying the rush of the tease? Absolutely. That combination is just asking for scenes that can be misinterpreted. What looked on the outside like Louie being too aggressive may have been exactly the kind of courtship that works for her.
If nothing else, it muddies the conversation about that scene from two weeks ago. This week, Pamela continued sexually tormenting Louie by attempting to leave after a romantic date under the stars. This time, he permitted her to go… but without the excitement of the chase, she seemed disappointed. And so she went to him, working him back up by sending him pictures of her underwear while standing in front of him.
She pushed for a dirty picture exchange, with the two of them turning their backs to one another, until it finally escalated to the point where she was ready to sleep with him. Perhaps she needs this sense of the chase — the sense that he wants her so badly he’s almost completely out of control.
And yet, Louie was thriving on her energy as well. Pamela is maddening to him in so many ways — like when she decided he needed to get rid of all his furniture and threw it all out while he was away. Still, he can’t seem to say no to her.
It’s probably not a recipe for a solid, long-term relationship, but then Louie doesn’t seem ready to handle that anyway. He did just come off of a relationship with a woman he couldn’t even communicate with, and fell back into Pamela the second that woman was no longer an option.
But I don’t think the end of this season is about Louie finding true happiness. It was about compromise and settling for the fleeting happiness of now. Pamela can’t be the woman he wants, with the lovey-dovey talk and all of that. And he’s never comfortable with how outrageous she can be.
When they’re completely vulnerable — and naked — they can look at one another and decide that they’re okay with these limitations. That naked tub scene was visually uncomfortable for a reason. Neither of them is the fantasy for the other one, so in a way they might be settling. Or maybe it’s about putting unrealistic expectations on the shelf and seeing how reality feels for awhile.
As a fun aside, Pamela was given an opportunity to act as the voice of the audience. Was it the years of questions about how Louie’s two blonde-haired, white daughters can have a black mother that led to him finally addressing it? Pamela couldn’t figure it out, and still didn’t quite believe it when Louie told her that his ex-wife’s mother was white. It was as simple as that, apparently.
Another meta moment came at the comedy club, when Marc Maron showed up excited about his television show getting picked up. “Maron” is an actual show, airing its second season on IFC right now. In truth, Louis C.K. had his show several years longer than Maron, and the success of “Louie” helped pave the way for the very existence of “Maron” and other modern comedian-based shows.
Ironically, the second season of “Maron” is airing right now — and nobody seems to notice. He’ll probably get more attention for this one appearance on “Louie” then he will for the back half of his own show’s season, airing Thursday nights at 10/9c.
And yet, in the world of “Louie,” it’s Maron who’s starting to get attention while Louie’s career is stuck in neutral. Pamela encouraged him to just go and get his own show if it bothered him that much, but that conversation petered out. A seed for later, perhaps?
Jerry Seinfeld, who appeared earlier this season in a scathing guest spot, explored that very concept years ago, coming from a very similar premise. While Jerry Seinfeld the actor was enjoying tremendous success with NBC’s “Seinfeld,” Jerry Seinfeld the character was still just a working comedian. And while “Seinfeld” was a ratings monster, when the character of Jerry finally got a chance to make his own TV show, it didn’t work out at all. Sometimes fiction doesn’t imitate life.
Perhaps C.K. is trying to say that he might be ready to explore his own rise to fame in a fifth season of the show. He took 20 months between Seasons 3 and 4 of the show to recharge and rethink what he wanted to say. Maybe he intends to step away this time and figure out how to respond to Louis C.K.’s rise through Louie’s filter.
I can’t imagine FX not being interested in a fifth season, considering the show’s attention and consistent ratings. I imagine if and when C.K. is ready, they’ll be more than happy to greenlight a Season 5. And we’ll all be anxiously waiting for it.