Not much has changed between the end of Louie
season 1 and the beginning of season 2, which premieres tonight. And that's impossibly good news for old and new viewers alike, though perhaps not so good for the character of Louie, played (and written, and directed, and produced, and edited) by Louis C.K., whose life as a divorced single dad and comedian in New York City is just as full of frustration, cynicism and dark surprise as ever.
We don't necessarily pick up where we left off with Louie
, because we didn't really leave off
anywhere. Episodes take on a vaguely familiar frame with the way each inter-cuts segments of C.K.'s stand-up with short stories about the mundane, unavoidable, often depressing yet strangely rewarding tasks of daily life. The stories are more like vignettes, resembling documentary in the way a beginning or ending is never forced, a moral never arrived upon, though lessons happen often (and often cruelly).
Continuity happens not through plot, but through the character of Louie, whom we must constantly remind ourselves is not exactly
C.K., but more like a potent version of his stand-up persona: Dark, honest and whip-smart, but gentle and self-deprecating at his core. The way he smiles at the end of his sets tells us that, for all his limitations as a parent, adult, lover, or neighbor, he's laughing at himself, too -- just as we all must if we want to keep from going completely insane.
For one of the funniest shows on television -- and make no mistake, the decision has been made, it is
-- there's very little that is lighthearted or "fun" about Louie
, though the show doesn't scrimp on the dirty jokes or toilet humor. But more often that not, these jokes play into the larger, darker comedy that drives the series, which in turn drives us to ingest the episodes like they're pure oxygen. They're just that honest, even at their most absurd, as in tonight's first episode, "Pregnant," when Louie's pregnant sister comes to visit, and a medical emergency leads to one of the most harrowing yet riotous trips to the hospital I've ever seen.
Even the tiny pockets of laid-back domestic (if not "bliss," then...) comfort between Louie and his daughters are brutal yet charming in their honesty, like another scene from tonight's premiere, in which Louie is helping his youngest brush her teeth. She says, innocently, "I like mom's [house] better, because she makes good food. And I love her more, so I like being there more," and Louie does an admirable job of masking his disappointment and helping her rinse and spit -- until the second she steps out of the room, and he flips her off.
In one of his more memorable stand-up sets from within the first few episodes, C.K. talks about how being a parent gives you the capacity to love another human being so profoundly and deeply, yet at the same time regret every decision that led to her birth. It's this sort of seemingly impossible yet completely relatable contradiction that Louie
excels at wading around in, and the show is not afraid to get dirty in and expose the depths of C.K.'s dark subconscious. It's nothing less than a gift that we get to dive in there with him for half-an-hour every week this summer. Louie returns to FX tonight, Thursday, June 23 at 10:30pm after Wilfred.
(Image courtesy of FX)