“I’ve got two little white girls in my house,” Louie says during the opening stand-up routine of last night’s “Halloween/Ellie” episode. “When they complain, it kind of drives me crazy, because I know what the world is like around them. They have no idea.” The little white girls in question — or at least their onscreen doppelgängers, excellently played by Hadley Delany and Ursula Parker — have become the show’s most important characters in Louie’s second season. They’re the chatty catalysts who goad, compel, and educate their father in equal measure, and he’d do anything for them. Which is what made “Halloween” so excruciating to watch.
Let’s set the scene: The kids are out trick-or-treating in the city (Jane’s a fairy, while Lily, in blackface and a faux-fro, is done up as Frederick Douglass). As the day grows darker, the kids beg dad to stay out just a little bit longer. Louie acquiesces, a plan that backfires when two costumed goons begin following them down the street, shouting the kind of mock-friendly greetings that always sound more threatening than actual threats. Louie quickly pushes the kids forward, but eventually, the goons catch up, finally cornering them.
It’s a stomach-mushingly tense moment, one that recalls last season’s “Bully,” in which Louie, while out on a date, is threatened by an asshole teen. What makes these kind of vaguely defined confrontations so difficult to watch — much less experience — is the multi-pronged fears they compel. If you’ve ever been cornered while with a loved one, you know that not only is your safety at risk, so is your reputation: Will you look like a wimp for backing off from your aggressors, a hero for standing up to them, or a chump for doing neither?
Louie tries to reason with the goons, who look like George and Lennie after a trip to Ricky’s. “Girls, your daddy is brave,” says George. “He doesn’t want to show it, but he’s scared inside.” It’s hard to tell whether the family’s in real trouble, or whether these are just guys who get their kicks by being cruel. You never see a weapon, and their threats are all done in character, so to speak. Still, it’s difficult to watch.
And then, Lily to the rescue: “Stop being scary,” she says, poking Lennie with her fairy wand. “It’s not nice. Halloween’s for fun.” Louie’s right: His little white girls may not know much about the world, but while that naïveté makes them vulnerable, it also makes them fearless enough to speak truth to power.
The goons back off a bit, even more so when Louie picks up a metallic fixture from the trash. He tosses it into a storefront window, setting off the alarms and sending the goons into the night, where they’re hopefully decapitated by a garbage truck. As the brood waits for the cops to arrive, Louie picks up one of the goon’s cigarettes from the street and takes a long, scared-shitless drag.
The audience could probably use one, too. In fact, “Halloween” leaves so many lingering questions — Would they have actually hurt those kids? What would I have done in that situation? — that it’s a relief to jump right into “Ellie,” the episode’s second installment. Louie, along with several other hired-gun comics and writers, are in a conference room, helping punch up the script for an awful-sounding cop flick. When Louie’s casually tossed-off story suggestions prove to be the best of the bunch, he’s asked out to lunch by a caustic studio exec named Ellie. “Get a sitter,” Ellie tells him. “This is your future, honey.”
As it turns out, Ellie is a VP at Paramount Pictures — the same studio (cough) that released Louis C.K.’s ill-fated Pootie Tang. She’s also an awful person, the kind of showbiz survivalist cyborg who thinks drawing a spreadsheet makes her an artist. “I can green-light,” she says, “do you know what that means?” She then dramatically removes her glasses and announces: “I am a person who knows when someone can do things … after today, nothing’s ever going to be the same.” She’s so smug, you find yourself wishing the two goons from “Halloween” would show up and hit her with a fairy wand.
Louie then pitches his idea. “I’ve always wanted to make a movie where a guy’s life is really bad,” he says, “and then something happens and it makes it worse. But instead of resolving it … he keeps doing dumb things, so his life keeps getting worse and worse.” (Sounds a bit like Eddie: The Movie.) Ellie, clearly mortified, starts looking around and checking her phone, praying for a way out. “I just need to go say hello to some people,” she says, abandoning Louie for good.
“Ellie” isn’t the most revelatory Louie episode — it’s basically a big eff-you to Hollywood — but after the squirm-inspiring “Halloween,” it’s a welcome reprieve. And, as an added bonus, it’s followed by a pair of hilarious stand-up stories that cover C.K.’s two favorite low-brow bailiwicks: farting and masturbation. Both tales are too intricate to excerpt here, but suffice to say, if you ever need to crash at C.K.’s pad, be sure to bring your own pillow.