Of the six Emmy nominations “Louie” got last year, five directly involved its creator and star, Louis C.K. Its only win, though, was for Melissa Leo’s guest role.
C.K. will probably get several more nominations for the 2014 Emmys as well, but if there’s justice he’ll be joined by Sarah Baker, who guested on the first of Monday’s (May 12) two episodes, “So Did the Fat Lady.” Her open, direct, funny and just wonderful performance was a thing of beauty — even if her character would object to that word.
The speech she delivers to Louie after she calls herself a “fat girl” and Louie objects, telling her she’s beautiful — because that’s what he feels like he’s supposed to say — is riveting, both for Baker’s performance (raw and resigned at the same time) and the way C.K. keeps the camera floating around them, shifting focus from her to him to the both of them and back around. Camera moves like that are often showy just for the sake of being showy, but here they add to the discomfort Louie is feeling, and we’re meant to feel, as he/we get called out for his/our double standards about men’s and women’s bodies.
It’s a remarkable piece of TV, and part of a necessary conversation both in and out of the world of Schlubby Guy-Hot Wife sitcoms (read this excellent A.V. Club piece for much more on that subject). Louie gets his moment of enlightenment when he does, at last, take Vanessa’s hand, but his little victory isn’t the point here. The point is the amount of work it takes on her part to get him to that smallest of epiphanies, that she just wants to hold hands in public with a guy she likes.
It’s a performance from Baker that’s going to stick with me for a long time — probably even longer than the concept of the bang-bang as carried out by Louie and his long-absent brother.
The second episode Monday, “Elevator Part 1,” is the start of a multi-episode arc about Louie and his downstairs neighbors, including Ellen Burstyn. That portion of the episode felt a little slight, but maybe it gets introductions out of the way for whatever comes in the next few episodes.
The opening sequence, however, plays out Louie’s, and my and just about every other parent’s, waking nightmare when Jane walks off the train to test her dad’s Subway Rules. It’s harrowing for how real it plays, with Louie and Lilly racing back to Jane and Louie’s ex’s and his shared exhale after it’s all over.