Season 5, Episode 3, “Cop Story”
Air date: April 23, 2015
Louie continues its long history of wringing laughs, if not necessarily answers, out of heavy subjects. “Cop Story” doesn’t feel like it strikes particularly new ground for the series, but nevertheless takes a long hard look at the fear of obsolescence and being left behind by an indifferent world.
Louie first confronts a confident young store owner (Clara Wong) about her dismissive attitude towards him, but she remains unfazed by his “the customer’s always right” indignation. Her attitude isn’t openly hostile, but mostly rude in its implications–she doesn’t need him and isn’t willing to expend her time and effort courting his business. It’s a fine line between indifference and impudence in this case, and the scene tries to emphasize the former. She never changes her stance, but instead shifts the conversation towards Louie’s discomfort around younger people:
“We’re the future, and you don’t belong in it. Because we’re beyond you, and naturally that makes you kind of feel bad. You have this deep down feeling that you don’t matter anymore.”
Louie doesn’t have much of a response to that, but the clerk does offer a silver lining for him. She appeals to his fatherhood, reminding him that the forward progress that makes him feel stupider is an indication that his daughters are growing up in a better world filled with smarter people. It’s enough of an answer to provide Louie with some degree of comfort, but the rest of the episode is devoted to someone who doesn’t have the same outlook.
Lenny (Michael Rapaport) is a loud, boorish police officer with an abrasive personality, and he’s eager to catch up with Louie when they run into each other on the street. Obnoxious and not terribly bright, he insults Louie at every turn and revels in his assertive physicality (triumphantly administering ball taps and mock basketball dunks). Louie has an amazing talent for humanizing even the worst caricatures of people, and Lenny’s thinly veiled depression is particularly poignant. Rapaport is great here, slowly drawing out Lenny’s vulnerability from a what starts as a bitter rant about men like him being selected out. As his defenses start coming down, Lenny can barely even articulate his own depression; Louie meanwhile can’t help but try to change the subject.
Tensions between the two come to a head before they ultimately realize that Lenny lost his gun at some point in the evening, causing him to break down in a whirlwind of panic, frustration, and despair. The gun is finally found after a frantic search, and a grateful Lenny sobs in Louie’s arms. The episode ends with a reference to Of Mice and Men, with Louie slowly raising the gun to Lenny’s head as he’s comforting him. It’s dark, tragic, bold, and hilarious, and the perfect punchline to an episode that’s otherwise a little thin on jokes.
“Cop Story” is one of Louie’s more meditative episodes, offering insights, points, and counterpoints for one of modern society’s greatest insecurities: becoming old and obsolete. The punchline at the end is hardly reassuring, but rather stands as a tragicomic concession that there might not be an easy solution for those lost or left behind.