Let's get the hyperbole out of the way: No one, nowhere - not on TV, in the movies, in theater, in any spoken medium - is writing romantic comedy right now as brilliantly as Louis C.K.
Much as we (I'm encompassing me, fans, the people who gave Louis two Emmy awards, and perhaps you) may have enjoyed the first three seasons of Louie, what he's been doing in Season 4 is nothing short of mind-blowing. The first two episodes were perfect little stand-alone short features, the second of them like American Fellini, and the third is already culturally historic due to the Fat Girl's monologue.
Then, in a series of episodes (titled "Elevator"), Louie returned to the ongoing linear story format, the central storyline being: Louie meets and falls in love with Amia (Eszter Balint), a Hungarian woman who doesn't speak English. It's the real thing - a rarity for Louie - blessed and cursed with its finite nature: she has to go back home, where a husband and child await, and there's no negotiating. In last night's episode, as promised, after a mere month of bittersweet joy, Amia left, with Louie bereft.
One of the deep pleasures of this season has been the recurring role Louie has written for Charles Grodin, a world-class curmudgeon and one of the great comedic actors of our age. His character, Dr. Bigelow, grudgingly assisted Louie when he had back trouble early on, and has become an unwilling mentor figure to our hapless hero. In last night's encounter, Louie accosted Grodin as he was walking his three-legged dog, and told the good doctor of his terrible situation:
Louie: Look, I liked the feeling of being in love with her, I liked it. But now she’s gone and I miss her, and it sucks! And I didn’t think it was going to be this bad, and I feel like - Why even be happy, if it’s just gonna lead to this? It wasn’t worth it.
Dr. Bigelow: (shakes his head, grimly smiling) Misery… is wasted on the miserable.
Dr. Bigelow: Y’know… I’m not entirely sure what your name is, but you are a classic idiot. You think spending time with her, kissing her, having fun with her, you think that’s what it was all about? That was love?
Dr. Bigelow: This is love. Missing her because she’s gone, wanting to die – You’re so lucky, you’re like a walking poem. Would you rather be some kind of a… a fantasy, some kind of a… a Disney ride? Is that what you want? Don’t you see, this is the good part, this is what you’ve been digging for all this time. Now you finally have it in your hand, this sweet – nugget – of love. Sweet, sad, love, and you want to throw it away. You’ve got it all wrong.
Louie: I thought this was the bad part.
Dr. Bigelow: No! The bad part is when you forget her, when you don’t care about her, when you don’t care about anything. The bad part is coming, so enjoy the heartbreak while you can, for God’s sakes!... Lucky son of a bitch, I haven’t had my heart broken since Marilyn walked out on me, since I was thirty-five years old. What I would give to have that feeling again…! Y’know, I’m not really sure what your name is, but you may be the single most boring person I have ever met. No offense.
Critics throw around the word "Chekhovian" a lot, but in the finale of last night's penultimate episode (Louie's been running them in twos every Monday night on FX, because: he can), a scene in a restaurant where Louie and Amia finally transcended the frustrating wordlessness of their relationship, Louis C.K. went head to head with Anton C., and what he delivered was every bit as funny, sad, and soul-moving as anything Masha, Vanya, Sonya, and the rest ever said or did.
So if you're a fan of romance and comedy and/or a human with a beating heart, and you haven't been on top of this? Go forth and watch Louie, and be sublimely fulfilled.