Louie Review: A Story About Ping
After the equivalent of a moral victory that arrived in last week’s conclusion to an epic trilogy, we kick off the season finale with a low:
Louie’s exhausted and sick on "New Year's Eve," with a blanket over him. It’s Christmas time and he tries to put on a happy face for his kids, who tear into their gifts, all the while thanking the non-existent Santa when it’s Louie going to ridiculous lengths to make it all happen.
I’m no parent, but I’ve heard stories of what my father went through to obtain and/or build the perfect gift. I am NOT looking forward to it. The scene in which he attempts to fix the damaged doll is funny yet disturbing. It almost comes off as an ode to Darren Aronofsky’s work – crying, scrubbing, flushing, melting.
I still don’t understand the significance of the three eyes. What’s he trying to say there? Have I been so trained and massaged by his shows to give everything meaning that the third eye HAS to mean something? Or is it simply Louie’s way of pointing out that the doll manufacturer half-assed the job and he put in way more work on it than they did?
When he basically lobotomizes the doll and gives an exasperated celebration, it reminded me of Tom Hanks in Castaway when he’s able to crack open a coconut. That moment, much like the rest of the episode, is fitting. Fitting because Louie is on his own personal island and he feels he can’t get off it. He’s desperate to please her girls, but as we see in his dream sequence later, they turned out fine, and he’s sad and alone. Where - and when - will he draw the line and save himself?
Louie’s then hit with two brutal smashes: the Story About Ping (essentially a story of family ALWAYS being together) and watching the elevator doors close on his ex-wife and her new boyfriend with his two daughters looking the perfect family.
Though I think I and many others would have loved to see more of guest stars Amy Poehler and Parker Posey, their brief cameos were fitting. Amy, as Louie’s younger sister Debbie, showed that Louie is NOT all by himself; that he has a support system and that people around him do care. Her performance was touching, marked by the holding back of tears and a wavering voice. It’s one of the trademarks of the show – portraying funny people in a real light.
At first, I was extremely put off by Parker’s seemingly forced injection into the storyline. Still don’t know how I feel about it. She was quick and fleeting, as was her brief joyous reunion with Louie swiftly followed by her even quicker demise. We spent a two episode story arc on this woman who almost changed Louie’s life and this is her reward? Thrust into the mix then cast aside in a flurry? How could Louie do that to her?!
Ah, but see? Louie accomplishes what he set out to do here – to make us feel cheated and hurt. Liz was a lesson. A peek into Louie’s future and a big middle finger to formulaic writing and plot. She died with no one at her side except Louie – who for all intents and purposes was still a stranger to her. She was unsure and scared and in denial. Her passing wasn’t how Hollywood has painted it all these years: dragged out with a speech to a loved one. ‘Uh, bye?’ is all we get. Pair that with the inability to let her death soak in because the entire medical staff is merrily ringing in the New Year and your whole ‘chi’ is thrown off.
Here’s when we get another dose of Louieality, Louie’s surreal narrative that leaves us with more questions than answers. We first experienced it in the episode about his father. This time, he ends up in China looking for the river depicted in The Story About Ping. Once again, the man who leads him to it is a fitting choice – he drives a truck with a bed full of caged ducks – Ping and his family?
His quest to find this amazing river that he and his youngest daughter were amazed by from the book they read together ends with disappointment. It’s a small brook. His journey doesn’t end there – he pushes forth and we have a faint idea of where he’s headed. He wants company. He just wants ANYONE to be with. He finds it with a random family. He gives us that happy Story About Ping moment in the weirdest way possible.
Would I have seen THIS as the season finale? No. Not the sendoff I was hoping for, but like I’ve peppered throughout this review... it’s fitting. We couldn’t end with Louie’s moral victory last week; that would have been the expectation. Instead, we float away from him as he gets cozy with some random Chinese family on the outskirts of Beijing. A happy moment wrapped in a very sad existence.