Sunday, February 28, 2016

REVIEW: 'Horace and Pete' - Horace, Pete and Sylvia Need to Figure Out What Their Futures Should Be in Episode 5

Louis C.K.'s Horace and Pete - Episode 5

A half-hour staged play featuring Louis C.K., Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Steven Wright, Kurt Metzger, Aidy Bryant, Tom Noonan and Jessica Lange.

It's devastating to learn that Uncle Pete has passed away at the top of the fifth episode of Horace and Pete. The previous episode left things pretty ambiguous with the final lingering shot of the door as Uncle Pete walked out of the bar - for what was to be the last time ever. It hinted that something bad was about to happen to him. This episode confirms that grim fate immediately. It will be such a loss for the show too. Alan Alda has been fantastic as Uncle Pete. Both his performance and the writing gave new meaning and depth to a very familiar character archetype. He gave purpose to this bar and the people who would come into this environment every day. His death is significant for the plotting of the season though. It gets to re-introduce the big theme of tradition versus individuality and change.

The first episode of Horace and Pete saw a huge conflict brewing within the family that managed Horace and Pete's. Horace inherited the place after his father passed away a year ago. He and his brother, Pete, were the latest generation of Horace and Pete to take on the management of this 100-year establishment. It's a place where tradition and reverence for the past make up its identity. As long as it has been standing, this bar has been managed by a Horace and Pete. Sometimes they are brothers and sometimes they are cousins. Horace's dad ran the place with Uncle Pete. And now, the responsibilities of the place have fallen onto Horace's children, Horace and Pete. That first episode set up the reveal that Pete was really Uncle Pete's son and not Horace's brother at all. It also introduced Horace's sister, Sylvia, who wanted to sell the place in order to get a lucrative payoff. This place has been filled with tradition. And yet, that tradition hasn't been a good thing for this family.

Horace and Pete's is a place typically filled with hatred and animosity. It's great that a Horace and Pete have always managed the place. But that often came at the detriment of their respective families. Horace's life is a mess right now simply because he has taken up management of this place. He had screwed up many other times in his life before he had the bar. The last few episodes have made that abundantly clear. But the bar has always had a presence in Horace's life - as well as his siblings. Pete has never lived or worked any place else. This bar gives him great comfort and stability. It allows him to earn a living without having to worrying about how and when he'll get his prescription for his health problems. And yet, this bar has often been very disrespectful to the woman of the family. Uncle Pete didn't want to take Sylvia seriously simply because she didn't understand or respect the traditions of this establishment. That animosity lead to quite a divide between Sylvia and her brothers.

But now, Uncle Pete is gone. He was the last connection to the old guard. Now, it's up to Horace, Pete and Sylvia to determine what they want this place to be. The bar was able to continue being the same old place it has always been because Uncle Pete was still alive and working there. He would continue doing the exact same things he has always done because he had such a respect for the tradition and legacy of this place. He held those values close. They were how he made since of this world even though his way of thinking was no longer acceptable in today's society. But that's exactly what this place is. This bar has a respect for tradition. That has made it a place that welcomes such weird and divisive loners in this world. As Martha shares her heartbreaking story about when she first started drinking, she doesn't tell it with any kind of self-pity. She tells it simply as a story about her life. This is a place that would allow her to share such a story and not let it define her. This was a place where she was respected for being more than just the latest fling of the late Horace.

Horace and Pete's is a place that welcomes lively discussions about the world. Any kind of opinion is free to be spoken in this place. The bar regulars are a part of this community because the bar cherishes the perspective they bring. Uncle Pete was allowed to spout out his unpopular and disrespectful views of the world because this was his bar. He could say whatever he wanted. This is a place that doesn't judge someone simply because they say "Fuck this country." No one gets wildly upset when Kurt says that phrase in this episode. When that is followed up by a "watch it," it's not because Leon feels passionate about what he's saying. It's because it's what he believes one is always suppose to say when someone else says that about this country. This is an environment that fosters that kind of language. That's what tradition has given this place. It's a place for these people to go in order to talk about this things openly and without judgment.

But that still means that Horace, Pete and Sylvia need to decide what to do about the bar. They are the ones in charge now. They have a number of possibilities for this place. They could keep doing things the way that they've always been done. They could honor tradition at the expense of ruining the rest of their family. Pete takes up the mantel of telling a customer why the place is called Horace and Pete's and the significance behind that name for the past 100 years. He feels passionate about that speech now because he had that tender moment with his father before he died. But Sylvia is still pushing to sell. It's fueled by her desire to get enough money to help cover her current medical expenses. Cancer is really doing a number on her in more ways than she expected. It's changed her world radically. But more importantly, she doesn't want to hold onto these traditions just because that's the way things have always been done. That leaves Horace caught in the middle of his two siblings - just like he has always been.

Horace hasn't exactly been happy this season. In fact, he has messed up a lot of his life just because of his commitment to the bar and his inability to act in a rational way that connects with other people. He has his first genuine thought when he comes up with a compromise to let Sylvia in on the business and the three of them change the place to make it a successful bar once again. It's a future that could make everyone happy while still holding onto some of the tradition that is embodied in this establishment. It's a willingness to change that could make this business much more successful for everyone involved. Right now, the bar is defining all of their lives. It's the one thing they have. It connects them together. The future is scary. Selling the place doesn't guarantee their lives will be better. They'll just be richer. And yet, the connection to this bar is still strong. They don't want to be the ones to just step on the history of the place like it means nothing. It's a complex dynamic that the show doesn't give an easy solution to. That's what makes this episode so engaging and gripping to watch. Horace proposes a new solution that embraces change while still being respectful of everyone involved. But it's still uncertain if that future will be any better than what their lives have been like in the past four episodes.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Episode 5" was written by Louis C.K. and directed by Louis C.K.
  • As Kurt wonders why more people don't just "peace the fuck out" when their miserable lives keep getting more shitty, Pete has the line of the episode when he declares "Because maybe it'll get better." He says that after just having lost his father to suicide and a difficult conversation with his siblings about the future of the bar. He needs to believe that right now.
  • Sylvia does make a pretty compelling point when she tells Horace that it's okay that not everyone in this world likes him. She believes that if 10 people don't hate you by the time you're in your forties, than you're just an asshole who is a burden on everyone in your life.
  • Horace and Pete needed to embrace change and adapt to the world. Mostly because neither one of them has a son named Horace or Pete who can take over for them as the next generation of managers for this bar. That final shot between the two is one filled with hope that the future may get better for the two of them.
  • C.K. remains very cryptic and coy about how many episodes of this show he plans on making. But this episode does end with the tag saying this concludes the first act. That means there will still be plenty more episodes of this show to dissect in the future.