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The penultimate episode of Louie's second season saw him hosting a reclusive house guest in the form of his niece. As the two unlikely companions venture out into New York, Louie learns that looking after a child who never speaks can be as bad as caring for one who never stops. Though it wasn't quite up there with last week's hour-long installment, “Niece” still provided the humor and heart that this series does better than almost any other.
If his opening standup segment was any indication, C.K. must have had a run-in with a disagreeable young store clerk before his show. Attacking an age group for their right to be indignant with him led to some hilarious lines; “You're twenty! Which is a mathematical guarantee that you have no skills and nothing to offer anybody in the world.” And let's face it, Louie is really going after anyone not old enough to be him, so don't feel singled out if he happened to guess your age. In addition to kicking off the episode with a laugh -several actually- C.K.'s onstage performance served as a good lead-in to an episode in which his onscreen persona is dealing with someone he deems far too young to be so miserable. As it turned out though, with what she has to deal with, Amy might actually be justified in her loathing for life.
Undoubtedly Louie was dreading hosting his manically depressed sister and her thirteen-year-old daughter, but that was still a more appealing option than caring for the kid by himself. Louie stammering under the shock of Karleen dumping Amy off of him was quite the sight, especially since the best argument he could come up with was, “I don't know anybody her age.” Which is how Louie ends up chasing after a girl through Grand Central, while her mother heads off to Philly. Amy herself was a delight, well not for Louie, but showing him struggling to get anything out of her was an excellent way to spend the episode. The actress, Gideon Adlon, is every bit her mother's daughter. Physical resemblance not withstanding, you can just see Pamela Adlon(who plays Louie's unrequited love interest and friend on the show) in the brusqueness of Gideon's character. She honestly didn't have to work hard though, as Louie scores laughs just from his tendency to call young children, “dude.” He really does see them as just smaller, dumber versions of adults, and treats them as such.
Once the two of them hit the town the episode was hitting even higher notes on the comedic scale. Louie is so desperate to see some sign of life from his near catatonic niece that going to a rock club with a thirteen-year-old is an idea he's willing to entertain. Watching him shield Amy from some of the more enthusiastic audience members at Fontana's had the added humor of knowing if anyone got hurt it would probably be Louie himself. Compared to that wild scene, a comedy club was like daycare, and it was there that the episode reached it's highpoint.
After watching Amy eat up Godfrey's act(who previously appeared in the series when he took Louie to a club in the season one finale), Louie's decision to also involve the audience in his set was sweetly misguided. Trying to win Amy over by venturing far out of his element was one of Louie's more selfless acts. And of course, watching Louie fail to be funny is as entertaining as watching him succeed; especially when the audience is completely shutting down his attempts at banter. Godfrey poured salt on the wound of onstage embarrassment by getting Amy to open up in the time it took Louie to visit the men's room. He did at least learn a lesson from his younger counterpart, and it made for a poignant moment, especially considering Louie had just referred to Godfrey's act as being easy. But his fellow comic can see the connection between Louie's inability to work the crowd and his failure at connecting with Amy. “It's called empathy, man.” And it's really just that simple; whether he is dealing with college-aged store clerks, interacting with comedy club crowds, or simply trying to get his niece to eat something, Louie will just have to learn how to talk to people that aren't like him.
He wasn't quite there yet by the time he and Amy were walking home, and with the scene involving a homeless man(What is that; the fourth this season?) Louie finally reached his breaking point. He's already been steaming over the cold shoulder Amy has been giving him, pile on the aggravation over what her scumbag of a father has been teaching her about charity, and you can't blame Louie for venting. In his moment of frustration he lets his tongue slip and gives Amy an emotional sucker punch with the line about her dad running off. Though she plays it off as exhaustion, Amy is clearly smart enough to see past the outburst to how hard Louie is trying. It also doesn't hurt that in letting her go to the two places she wanted, Louie has probably done more than Amy's parents have in a long time.
By the time Louie has carried Amy home and tucked her in, the call from the hospital in Philly didn't even feel that surprising, even though it would mean a continued storyline for the first time in the series. The episode could have easily ended with the assumption that Amy's mother would be back to pick her up, but the news that Karleen had been hospitalized and Louie would be looking after her for longer than expected was actually more comforting. We didn't need to hear Karleen had been acting crazy in a fountain to know she wasn't equipped to raise a child on her own right now, so Amy being with Louie for the time being is definitely a good thing. Whether Louie is going to be permanently raising his niece remains to be seen in the season finale, and it will be interesting to find out how C.K. handles what could be a big change for the series.