This was a very difficult episode to watch/blog, less for the episode’s own structure and issues than for my current malaise. I’m in a difficult place for the moment, exhausted, mentally as well as physically, stressed at work worse than I’ve been for many years, and unable to concentrate on anything, not just writing.
Into this, thirty-five minutes of Horace and Pete, in which Louis CK rigorously pursues his goals without a moment of relent or relief, is not the best prescription. I confess that reaching the end of this production, extraordinary though it is, is something I’m looking forward to.
Episode 8 was a nothing of an episode in many ways, its central story wrapped up in vignettes that felt more like fillers, necessary to bulk out the episode rather than complementing/contrasting the main thrust, none of them of any significance in themselves.
Such as the opening, of Sylvie walking through the apartment, pouring herself an orange juice, smiling and, before long, laughing. She’s happy. Is this relief at the good news she received last week? Or has she had a fuck? Yes, she’s had a fuck and he’s Reg E. Cathey, veteran of The Wire, and by the way, Horace has had Rhonda over (and under, and sideways) again, and it’s all awkward, or rather it would be but Reg’s humour at the situation forces the scene towards warmth for once. Shame he couldn’t have stayed.
There’s a couple of scenes at and around the bar. Kurt is holding forth as usual, about taking acid, and coffee, and Artificial Intelligences. Leon is still drawing with a ballpoint in his tiny notebook (I wonder if we’re ever going to see what it is he’s drawing: I remember a Clive James review of a Seventies TV play which included a background character silently drawing, things seen later to be most unpleasant.)
Well-dressed Nick comes in and is immediately button-holed by attractive, ragged-haired blonde Lucy, with her mouth working. It seems she and Nick have fucked and he immediately abandoned her, which has majorly displeased her. Nick, on the other hand, suggests that there was a reason specific to her, something Lucy has forgotten, and removes himself to the end of the bar.
Lucy, we learn by the end, first from her behaviour and her increasingly aggressive tongue, and only finally by her admission, is an alcoholic, and she’s been cut off by Sylvie and Horace. She’s free with her insults, free and creative, to everyone’s amusement, until she begins abusing the customers, not Horace, at which point she’s escorted, gently, firmly, defensively, off the premises.
That ends the episode. But none of this has been what the programme has been about. The spine of the episode has been Pete,the outsider, the overlooked. Horace accompanies him to his annual check-up at the mental hospital, where Pete is judged on whether he’s safe to continue living outside. Pete’s tense and nervous, reacting badly to the Doctor’s insensitive light-heartedness over what, for Pete, is a life or (living) death decision. The Doctor apologises, before stating that that’s his way and he’s gotta be him and carrying on regardless. Twat.
But this is foreshadowing. Pete’s ok, he passes the audition, he can carry on. But. His medicine, probatol, on which he is completely dependent, has been found to have serious, liver-damaging side-effects and has been discontinued. in a month or so, when his current prescription runs out, Pete will have to return to the hospital.
Buscemi’s reaction is stunning, instant, unstemmable tears. He won’t even get to have Easter.
Back at the bar, with Horace, Pete’s fears are elaborated upon. Horace is well-meaning but, just as he has been in all such situations, he is completely ineffectual. He lacks empathy, and despite having known Pete, as if a brother, all these many years, he hasn’t the faintest idea of what Pete’s condition means, what it does. Everything Horace says is meant to downplay what’s happened, turn it into something you can get along with, but that’s what Pete’s life outside is: it’s dull, restricted, event-less, but he can get along with it. Returning to the hospital means surrendering, forever, anything remotely resembling autonomy.
He’s considered doing what his Dad did, and shooting himself.
That too is beyond Horace’s comprehension, but it’s not beyond Tricia. She’s the tourettes sufferer, whom Pete tried to avoid earlier in the series because she reminded him of the hospital. She keeps in touch with other survivors, one of whom also needs probatal. She knows it’s been discontinued and she’s thought of Pete.
And she gets it. She understands him in a way no-one else, certainly not Horace and Sylvie, can do so. She accepts his fear, the impulsion towards suicide, as both natural and understandable. But she also praises him for his bravery, the bravery he’s shown all along, for facing up to his demons. His bravery, though Pete disputes the term, has enabled her to handle her own problems. The two leave the bar together for somewhere quieter and more private.
Overall, and allowing for the effect of my own issues, the episode felt essentially complete. On checking the guest cast online, I’ve accidentally exposed myself to a spoiler about episode 9, a tragedy in the bar, which has already directed my anticipations towards Pete.
Hopefully, I will be better equipped to deal with that when the time comes round.