It may also be why we're at last getting to meet his ex, who's been a notable off-screen presence before. Janet, played by Susan Kelechi Watson, appears in the season premiere "Something is Wrong," a practical but caring presence who, judging from the glimpse of another man getting dressed in the background, has been able to move on to something new (C.K. shares some thoughts on Watson's casting here).
Louie hasn't quite moved on yet himself, but he's ready to try. The first five episodes that were sent out to critics find the character attempting to date a series of women (and, in a way, one man) and gamely fumbling through the humiliations and awkwardness that come with this process. Tonight's episode, while not the strongest of the batch (numbers three and five are the real gems), does show us that Louie's ventured into a relationship, albeit one with a woman (played by Gaby Hoffmann) he's not that attached to, a fact she's aware of and calls him on. Melissa Leo, Parker Posey and Maria Bamford also turn up in the first few installments to provide different romantic possibilities in Louie's life, and while he may take the occasional emotional (and physical!) pounding, he soldiers on, gaining experience if not always understanding.
That openness, that willingness to see where life's going to take you, no matter how scary that is, has proven to be the show's most generous and prevailing sentiment, even when its tone has been more morose. "Louie" isn't always funny and it doesn't always aim to be, but it has in its best instances an unforced and unparalleled sweetness that nothing else on air can equal. And moments in the third episode of this season, which takes place in Miami, offer an aching ebuillience that's both new and earned, coming with an understanding that joy, when it's found, has to be pursued.
C.K. is no longer editing episodes himself -- he brought on board longtime Woody Allen collaborator Susan E. Morse to do that while he's focused on merely writing, directing and starring in the show. That he's willing to relinquish an aspect of production also seems a sign of growth, of finding a creative team he trusts to help him maintain the show's distinct, unforgettable voice. "Louie" still has, in charming way, the slightly rough around the edges feel of a '90s indie film, and it inhabits New York with an appreciation for its periodic, tiring junkiness and its potential for unexpected magic. It's something you experience when the city's new to you, and something you can arrive back at again after falling out of love with it for a while -- and as "Louie" seems to know well, it's even better than second time around.