Louis C.K.’s Horace and Pete review: Episode 3
Craig Skinner | On 15, Feb 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
In our review of Episode 2 of Horace and Pete, we zeroed in on one particular idea that the episode seemed to be focused on: the fact that Horace (Louis C.K.) is a good listener. It’s something his sister comments on and something we then see play out with his daughter, as the pair try to connect in a meaningful way. And it’s something C.K. returns to in a big way in Episode 3.
The third episode of the web series opens with an almost 10-minute monologue from a woman (Laurie Metcalf), who we later learn is named Sarah and was married to Horace when they were younger. C.K. holds the camera on Metcalf throughout. She talks about her current situation, she’s remarried, and the feelings she has for her husband’s father, who is 84. Going into detail, both physical and emotional, about her experiences with her father-in-law, Sarah talks about how she grew fond of this man and then slowly became erotically infatuated with him, following an incident when she was sunbathing.
She then describes a time when she knew that he was visiting and in a panic she retreated to her room, only to then masturbate, fully aware that he could hear her. Her and her father-in-law are now having an affair, we learn, but only after Sarah has led us slowly to this revelation, in a way that carefully and subtly introduces the idea and allows us to understand the excitement and electricity she feels about the relationship.
While the episode opens just on Sarah – a character we’ve not seen before – there’s no doubt that we’re in Horace and Pete’s, the bar. It’s a testament to the general look that C.K. and co. have created, albeit a rather simple one, that we can be confident about the location, even with just a certain colour in the background and a little specific lighting. When the camera does finally move from Sarah’s face, it’s to Horace’s and is accompanied by the line, “Why are you telling me this?”. It’s kind of amusing in retrospect but when caught up in the episode, the line is simply a minor pause in the thrilling tension that C.K.’s smart script and Metcalf’s stunning performance has managed to build.
Another, more significant pause comes at the halfway point of the episode and sees Horace get up from the table and take a moment in the bathroom. Unlike the previous two episodes, this new one doesn’t have an intermission, but this moment is incredibly close to one. Horace takes a deep breath, and so do we, before venturing back into the emotionally charged conversation.
We learn that Sarah and Horace were married when he was only 21 and she was 32 and that their relationship collapsed when Horace cheated on her with her sister, a situation that obviously mirrors the scenario Sarah is now finding herself in. She has sought out Horace for advice, because he is someone that she believes will understand what she’s going through emotionally, more than because she thinks he will hold the magic key to extricating her from the problem she finds herself in.
The conversation between the pair returns us to the themes of connections between people and legacies in relationships – between people and also between people and the bar – that Horace and Pete has mined so fruitfully so far and explores what happens when these crumble and disappear. Interestingly, Horace likens leaving a relationship in which you’re not happy by sleeping with your partner’s relation to ending a business, commenting: “It’s like an insurance fire. When a building burns to the ground, no-one asks any questions, you’ve just got to really burn it down.”
He’s very pragmatic about the situation, commenting that you can’t stay in the relationship “just to make the truth not true”. This runs counter, in a way, to the conversation he had with Sylvia last week about the bar, in which he justified being open still just because the bar always has been; Horace sees the logic in carrying out an insurance fire on a relationship but not on a business, although perhaps the fallout from the sabotaging of his own marriage has made him risk averse when it comes to repeating such behaviour.
Horace and Sarah share a son and daughter together and while Horace is now reconnecting with his daughter, his son won’t speak to him at all. He reveals, in a heartbreakingly naturalistic moment, that he follows his son on Instagram and sees that he seems to be doing well. Sarah confirms that he is and Horace inwardly crumbles; C.K. is developing as an actor and in this moment he does a great deal, his face going red and contorting just slightly, as he struggles to hold back floods of tears. It’s a tense and beautiful moment in an episode that has already seen a masterclass in performance from Metcalf.
The episode ends on a deliberately sour note, as Uncle Pete enters the frame – very pointedly from above and to the right – to deliver the line, “I can’t believe you married that cunt.” It’s horrible and unpleasant and very much in keeping with the character that Uncle Pete has been set up as and the way in which he’s been used. It’s a stark reminder that while we may be sitting in front of our screens empathising and engaging, even though the characters are discussing hurtful infidelity, many with entrenched views are brittle and unwilling to bend.
Horace and Pete available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription. It is also available to stream and download from Louis CK’s website in up to 1080p in any country.