During the first six episodes of Horace and Pete, the comedian Louis C.K., the drama’s creator, writer, and director, presents an array of characters who all see the world differently. They inhabit an old Brooklyn bar, a place out of time, where plot lines unfold through dialogue. Uncle Pete, an elderly misanthrope, romanticizes tradition—the bar has been run by his family for seven generations. His middle-aged niece is repelled by the same history, knowing that many of her forefathers beat their wives. Yet her contemporary, Cousin Pete, suffers from a mental illness that renders the outside world a terrifying place. For him, the bar is the safest place of all.
Meanwhile, bar patrons include a white woman who explains what it’s like to live with Tourette syndrome, a black man who laughingly relays his attitude toward a bar-mate’s racism, bickering men from all sides of the ideological spectrum, a gay hipster looking for a drink, a once-glamorous alcoholic staving off loneliness, and many people and themes besides that no single writer could render from personal experience.
In this, C.K. proceeds as all fiction writers do, writing for characters who are mostly unlike himself. He keeps this up in episode seven (spoiler alert), when his character, Horace, sleeps with a woman customer. The next morning, she jokes—or is she serious?—that she used to be a man. And this prompts a heated debate: If a trans woman wants to have sex with a straight man, is she obligated to reveal that she was born male?