Anytime you see “Part 1” in the title of something, expectations are then created for the subsequent parts. “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2” more than lived up to its predecessor. It not only carried over many of the same themes but did so distinctively enough to stand on its own legs and then some. This episode did a lot mostly by way of contrast; it continued C.K.’s perspective of dating, which is really the pursuit of true love, as at once life affirming and frightfully harrowing, it expressed what I’ll refer to as the postmodern man’s dilemma in approaching women as well as the plight of contemporary women being approached, but most of all it contrasted the romantic ideal of spontaneity with its potentially tragic origins in what is certainly one of the most captivating character portraits in television, deftly portrayed by Parker Posey.
The episode opened with Louie performing stand-up in which he continued his material about how he still gets so nervous on a date that recently after saying goodnight to his date he went home and “farted for the rest of my life.” Ever cautious to not be perceived as someone who is sympathetic only to men, Louie described in graphic hyperbole how difficult it must be for attractive women to put up with the omnipresent male gaze by describing it as a torrential downpour of semen.
As exaggerated as his description obviously is, his sympathy is genuine and interestingly so as his take-down of the criticism that pretty girls have it easy because they get free drinks was in contrast to a similar criticism C.K. made in one of his specials in which he mocked very young women of maybe 21 or 22 years old whom when asked, “What do you do?” they reply, “Men just want to fuck me and buy me drinks.” Though I don’t believe the points each joke made are incompatible or contradictory, I just couldn’t help but recall their similarities and differences. I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition created by the gross or crude nature of much of C.K.’s material because it simultaneously masks and heightens his genuine sensitivity to the concerns of those whom he often makes light. These jokes were very funny in due as much to C.K.’s delivery as to their actual content, but even though “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2” went on to have many more truly funny moments, these stand-up jokes were really the last conventional ones to be told throughout the episode.
Picking right up from the ending of “Part 1”, Louie picks up the book shop clerk presumably outside her building and they immediately head off to a “cool bar” she knows. Once they arrive is a pivotal scene because the audience, not Louie, learns that the bartender refuses to serve Louie’s date hard liquor because of “what happened last time.” So clearly the endearing eccentricities this character expressed in “Part 1” have a history of being expressed in less than socially acceptable ways. Embarrassed, she offers to leave the bar saying she doesn’t really want to drink and instead suggests walking around the city which Louie is elated to hear as he hates loud, crowded bars. In retrospect, I love this moment because had there been a different bartender present the date probably would have gone down much, much differently. Instead of having all the crazy and wonderful experiences they had sober, the two may have simply gotten drunk, stumbled home, and had a thoroughly unsatisfying experience much like the one Louie shared with Maria Bamford in “Part 1”.
The dialogue C.K. wrote for these characters is really on point as it feels totally natural and authentic yet efficiently progresses the plot and expresses big, complex ideas. I’m thinking specifically of two examples. First, the short conversation about not actually wanting to go to North Dakota, despite being the place she’s always wanted to go, because then she’d loose that desire. Second, her transition from calling out Louie for being fat and herself for having “no tits” then following up with a declaration that the two must be honest otherwise they can’t continue spending time together. This leads into a recalling of what was most definitely this character’s defining experience, being diagnosed and fighting through and recovering from carcinoma as a teenager.
When first watching this scene I was immediately put off by how Louie’s date (whose name neither he nor the audience has yet to learn at this point) cut off Louie’s thoroughly sweet and thoughtful initial reaction to this potentially awkward over-share, but looking back this seems less rude and more like the character became so caught up in reliving this traumatic experience that she simply could not wait to pour it out, as illustrated by the maelstrom-like nature of the camera spinning around Posey during her tale. Ultimately I like the character’s spontaneity, recklessness, and brutal honesty, but this was also the first big sign after the bartender incident that these seemingly romantic tendencies are born of very, very harsh perspectives. This makes sense to me as from my understanding when one is faced with profoundly bleak realities one can either recoil into depression or strike out into the world with newfound determination to get the most out of every single moment, yet this enthusiasm for life is still innately connected to the realization of one’s own mortality.
C.K.’s gift for timing and pacing shine throughout this episode, especially right after this very heavy scene when Tape Recorder Liz pulls Louie into a thrift store dressing room to persuade him to put on a dress in which she thinks he’d look pretty. Again, my initial reaction to this apparent game-playing was that Louie should really not enable this woman’s craziness or play into her “test”, but in so doing I now believe Louie very smartly helped Liz trust him a bit after she exposed herself in a very vulnerable way. Also, having Louie put on women’s clothing, a sparkly one-shoulder dress no less, was a clever way of reiterating C.K.’s position expressed during the opening stand-up that both sexes should probably try on each other’s gender roles more often. The opening stand-up was again alluded to when the couple stopped by a pool hall with large windows and a man from inside the hall blatantly checks out Liz in full knowledge that Louie can see him doing so.
The evening continues with more life-affirming zaniness including the delectably hedonistic montage of trying various foods at Russ and Daughters and intervening in the affairs of a homeless man as Liz puts it, “to really help.” This was the second parallel I noticed to a bit from one of Louie’s stand-up specials, the one where he corrects his friend visiting from the Midwest whom when first arriving in the streets of New York City stops to speak with a homeless man and tries to help him as if she was the one acting weird.
Finally, the episode culminated in one last exercise in which Louie begrudgingly climbs what appears to be dozens of flights of stairs. The actual climbing is very funny as again Louie tries to resist only to be literally screamed at until he concedes, ultimately singing a little melody about how because he’s “44 and has clogged arteries,” he’s about to die walking up stairs. Once the pair arrives on the building’s roof, however, the episode comes full circle in its final scene on what ends up as a very solemn, if not paradoxical note.
On the roof of the building Louie can’t stop worrying about Liz’s safety as she insists on casually straddling the roof’s edge until she finally states emphatically that the only way she’d fall is if she jumped and she, “would never do that because [she’s] having too good a time.” This beautiful, seemingly happy ending is immediately undercut (and incredibly shot by C.K.) by a transformation that finds Liz’s gleaming elation quickly replaced by darkness both literal and figurative thus culminating the episode in the message that even when you’re sucking the marrow from the bones of life you’re no farther from that which scared you into the process in the first place than when you began. This speaks to the transitory nature of using unconventional, potentially life-affirming experiences like cross-dressing, indulging in new, delicious foods, providing true charity to those in need, or gazing into the starry night sky from a city roof top, to alleviate the crushing ennui which can result from confronting difficult circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, these experiences are wonderful and I recommend them all to everyone, however, I believe “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2” expresses the sentiment that these are essentially mere band-aids over the bloody, gaping spiritual wound from which we all suffer.
Since writing this review I’ve learned that Liz is a pretty strong example of the character archetype of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (for which its Wikipedia page is quite illuminating), a phrase coined by film critic Nathan Rabin to describe, “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures,” (The A.V. Club, 2007). As many other critics have pointed out though, Posey’s depiction, much like that of Kate Winslet’s in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, transcends this archetype as Liz is clearly not some vapid, magical being, but a fully fleshed out human being with just as many flaws, if not exceedingly more, than the piece’s protagonist. I’m so happy to learn that this is an objectively recognized archetype as not only have I seen this character many times in film and TV, but I’ve also known many MPDGs throughout my life. These individuals are as alluring and intriguing as they are sporadic and flighty, but one of the main points of painting so through a portrait of Liz throughout both “Daddy’s Girlfriend” episodes is that despite these personalities’ connections to that which we all seek to fill our lives with meaning, that pursuit for love and completion is very different from when you’re in your early 20s to when you’re in your 40s.
Louie set out to meet someone not only for himself but for his girls and as smitten as Louie clearly is with Liz, he also seems to recognize that she’s probably not the best fit for his family. This, in combination with the fact that it would be far too daunting (and frankly I think it’d ultimately be boring) to top this episode’s appearance, I sincerely doubt we’ll see Liz any time in the near future. But considering the very loose and fluid continuity in which Louie exists, this makes sense and isn’t surprising.
Most of my friends who occasionally watch Louie are often somewhat disappointed or turned off that it isn’t striving to be a more conventional, laugh-a-minute breed of sitcom. Of course to each his or her own, but I for one couldn’t be more excited by the artistic directions C.K. takes his series. He clearly is an artist who deserves to be as creative as he pleases with his work and for all those looking to just split a side laughing with the comedian, they can check out any of his stand-up. I’m perpetually even more eager to see where the series goes next because for all of Louis C.K.’s cynicism and realism, the man is truly a romantic and those who dare to keep aiming high, even in the face of unprecedented lows, are the most exhilarating to watch.