Louie: Elevator Part 3, Review
We've reached the halfway point in this mini-epic six part story! Here's Joe's review of Louie...
The third part of this six-part story makes evident that even though, all told, “Elevator” is the size of a feature-length film, it would be incorrect to look at it that way as it brings back characters from earlier in the show’s life with the apparent assumption that you have some familiarity with them.
One of these is Charles Grodin as Dr. Bigelow, an especially welcome surprise as very few Louie characters get more than one appearance and he’s especially great. He works well as a twist on the wise old man archetype. He’s wise but his platitudes are brutally honest and actually pretty depressing. Furthermore, he doesn’t understand why he’s being burdened with having to be a part of Louie’s story in the first place. Louie himself recognizes he’s doing something weird and kind of stupid by asking the guy for general, non-medical advice, and yet he still gets some good stuff out of him that functions as a good capper for the episode.
The other, more momentous appearance (I mean in terms of how it affects the world of Louie; Charles Grodin is still super-cool) is the reappearance of Pamela, played by the endlessly awesome Pamela Adlon. Pamela has been Louie’s only love interest who’s reappeared multiple times, presented as maybe actually “the one” for him (at least from his perspective). The last we saw her was all the way back in 2011 in Season 2’s heartbreaking finale in probably my favorite scene of the entire series in which, just before getting on a plane to Paris, she shouts to Louie “Wave to me!” which he mishears as “Wait for me!”
I’d always hoped Pamela would come back (not too far-fetched considering Adlon’s a producer on the show) and that Louie would get another chance with her, but her return here isn’t exactly a joyous occasion. Pamela’s actually ready to pursue a relationship with Louie now, but he seems pretty pissed off at her. It’s unclear exactly what Louie’s problem is. He’s obviously got mixed feelings about Pamela being back as she mostly shunned him back when they used to hang out, even after he professed his love for her in an awkward and touching scene. He likely spent a lot of time trying to get over her after her leaving as well. Further, the last thing he thought she said to him was “wait for me” and maybe he’s expecting her to address that and explain herself.
Of course, Louie has also just met Amia, but they’ve only gone on one date so him telling Pamela he’s “with somebody now” is obviously done partially out of pride or revenge or some combination of these things. It would be nice to have a better idea of what Louie’s thinking but he’s not really the type of guy who readily explains his feelings to people. However, Pamela’s scene does do a good job of making us feeling some of Louie’s annoyance with her. Yes, a big part of what made her so appealing was the way she made fun of him all the time, but here it comes off more like she’s just a straight-up asshole (maybe she always was?) without it being very attractive. When she shouts “Nobody wants to be with you, Louie, stop lying!” at him, it’s cruel and Louie looks genuinely hurt.
That said, you also feel badly for Pamela when Louie rejects her, leaving her alone in a diner. Out of all the women on Louie, Pamela’s been the most fleshed-out character and no one else interacts with Louie the way she does. It’s a little upsetting that her reappearance here, after all this time, is such a short and negative one. However, according to the episode titles this season, Pamela has a few episodes named after her, so thankfully, it seems pretty assured that this will not be how things end with her.
The remainder of the episode continues the two stories of Louie dating Amia and Louie and his ex-wife considering the possibility of putting their daughter Jane in private school. There are really lovely moments here, like Louie, after learning Amia will return to Hungary, begging her to stay (very little of which she can understand) and Louie’s conversation with Jane where he explains that he’s just doing his best to help her become “a person that can live in the world.” The latter scene continues to add dimensions to Jane’s character and helps to demonstrate how bringing up kids can be really wonderful at times. This is a great thing for the show to do because Jane was coming close to just being a crazy pain in the ass all the time.
There’s also the merging of the two storylines, in which Amia meets Jane, they discover they both play violin, and they perform a duet together in the apartment stairwell. Amia’s actress, Eszter Balint, is a professional violinist and the girl who plays Jane (Ursula Parker) plays violin as well, so this is really just a nice scene of beautifully-played music, not to mention a good way to demonstrate how Amia can get along with Jane (which makes it all the more bittersweet that she’ll be leaving).
Amazingly, there are some actual, straightforward comedic moments too, like Louie beating the shit out of a piano with a baseball bat, Louie and his ex-wife playing with their phones instead of discussing the problem with Jane, and the opening and closing scenes with Louie’s brother. I also like Louie’s line to Amia’s aunt (Ellen Burstyn): “Hey I got a great question for you: what is your name?” Turns out it’s Ivanka, by the way.
Overall, this story is getting more interesting and more complex with the reintroduction of Pamela. Louie continues to provide completely unique television as there aren’t many dramedies out there that usually forego continuity but then suddenly stick a six-part miniseries in the mix as well as bring back a character from two seasons ago. I didn’t find this episode as nicely contained as “Elevator Part 2,” but it’s another solid, sweet, sad, fun, episode that ends with a helpful Charles Grodin moral: “Just pick a road and go down it. Or don’t.”