Thursday, April 23, 2015

REVIEW: 'Louie' - Louie Helps a Friend After He Loses Something Very Important and Life-Threatening in 'Cop Story'

FX's Louie - Episode 5.03 "Cop Story"

Louie runs into an old acquaintance.

The bulk of "Cop Story" centers on Louie hanging out with his old friend Lenny - played by Michael Rapaport. Lenny is a police officer but more importantly has an aggressive and annoying personality. He feels comfortable being obnoxious all the time. The episode does an adequate job of pushing Lenny to the extreme. So when Louie breaks and needs to call him out on all of his annoying traits, the audience can sympathize with what he is feeling. That's only a part of the story though. That dynamic really couldn't have filled an entire episode of story. There's only so far and so much of Lenny one can understandably take. That limit is reached fairly early in the story and the show wisely realizes that it needs to pivot in a way that makes their dynamic have genuine meaning.

Lenny really just wants a day out with Louie who was once close to being his brother-in-law but now is just his only friend. That is sad. Lenny's personality repels people so frequently that one brief encounter with Louie on the street is enough to make him wanna be best friends with Louie again. That is the state of Lenny's life. He has spent 19 years on the job and is still just a patrol officer. No one wants to be partnered with him for too long because he just pushes them away. He's not oblivious to the way that he is though. He recognizes that his life is terrible and it's entirely his fault. But he can't change who he is as a person. He wants to have friends and a girlfriend to start a family with. Those are his dreams. But they also seem unattainable considering his unpleasant and abhorrent need to be the one speaking at all times and delivering his opinion despite not knowing anything.

Lenny wants to go to a Knicks game with Louie. But their evening plans keep going from bad to worse - starting with them being unable to get into the arena to Louie calling Lenny out for all his horrible ways to Lenny then losing his police gun somehow on the streets of New York City. That finally piece is a horrifying prospect. He simply cannot lose his gun. He would lose his job or his gun could be used in a violent crime. He desperately needs to find it but his flailing around in despair is chaotic and not helping him find it at all. He doesn't know what to do in this situation. So he just lets out nonsensical words and sounds while destroying Louie's apartment until he huddles up into a ball against the wall.

After all the horrible things Louie said about Lenny and how he has caused him nothing but pain throughout this evening out on the town, Louie looks at Lenny in distress in his apartment and has to find the gun for him. He needs to be the sensible one of the two who can retrace all their steps and hopefully find the weapon again. It's a daunting task. One that wouldn't be seen as easy to accomplish. A lost gun is likely not to be found again very easily. Lenny knows that and that's why he's spinning out of control right now. Louie needs to find it in order to make him not seem like a jerk for calling Lenny an awful person. Louie was right to say all those things to Lenny. And yet, it was also important in that moment to remember that Lenny has feelings too. Louie has been physically hurt by Lenny, but Louie's words are delivering pain to Lenny as well. Couple that with the reveal that he's lost his weapon and this evening has become so disastrous for both of them.

Louie eventually does find the weapon. Its discovery actually comes seamlessly out of the episode's structure. The first half of the story with Lenny is so focused on making him this abrasive person who torments Louie and the audience that it's easy to overlook the delicate work the script is doing to set up the second half of the episode. The episode brings attention to Lenny's gun the moment he first shows up at Louie's apartment. He's being a jerk by pointing it in Louie's face. And yet, that establishes the device's importance to the plot. Even though Lenny puts it away and doesn't think about it for awhile, the act of losing it is inherently a part of the script. It simply fell off him when he was trying to impress Louie with his invisible basketball moves. It happens early in their evening together while also keeping things simple for Louie to eventually find it. It's not a high stakes plot that delves into the severity of losing a firearm and the danger it can have on a community. That's not what this story is about. Yes, it does showcase how easily the weapon can be lost especially in the hands of a non-stable person. But there's also a simplicity in the way that Louie is able to find it and bring it back to Lenny without any problems along the way. It is humorous that he has to carry it the whole way because he doesn't have the pockets and running in to even more police officers on the street. But mostly, it's just a rewarding experience when Louie pulls out the gun for Lenny who thought it and his life were lost forever. All Lenny can go is tackle and embrace Louie. That's the only form of gratitude he can deliver as he has grown so emotionally exhausted because of this whole experience. Louie is there for him in his time of need which gives the episode a strong moment to end on.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Cop Story" was directed by Louis C.K with story by Louis C.K. & Robert Smigel and teleplay by Louis C.K.
  • The opening sequence is also its own self-contained story about Louie at a store arguing with its owner. It's a very funny start to the episode. It begins simply as the store's one worker not wanting to help Louie because the store is closing soon. It's a very relatable plot beat. And then, it pivots into a discussion about generational differences and expectations and how that effects how both of these characters see the world both personally and professionally. It was very profound and very funny.
  • Louie returns to the bar twice trying to ask the bartenders if anything lost was found. He was vague about what he lost so they couldn't be very helpful. And yet, he couldn't explicitly say what he lost either which was quite the conundrum for him and to the annoyance of the person working behind the bar.
  • Louie tried teaching Lenny how to knit and messed it up.