Louie is a rare breed of television. Never before, at least to my knowledge, has a comedy series so successfully remained consistent in its style and humor while still achieving not just moments of genuine emotional resonance, but entire episodes worth throughout. One of the many reasons the series is so successful and unique is because of its active recognition that comedy and tragedy are just two sides of the same coin which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Its subtly and seamlessly blended concoction of absurdity combined with my immense anticipation for the premiere may have contributed to my feeling that despite being an excellent episode of Louie, which included the demolition of a car and a motorcycle accident, “Something Is Wrong” nevertheless felt slightly underwhelming.
For two seasons the show has worked to establish its world in which the slightly fictionalized depiction of the titular character probably very closely resembles the actual Louie C.K., a divorced father of two daughters and stand-up comedian, but has always maintained the option to deviate. “Something Is Wrong” found the series taking advantage of this option to deviate more so than it ever has before both in content and structure.
After a rousing stand-up sequence from the Comedy Cellar in New York City concerning Louie’s dilemma of discovering not so much that his vision is beginning to fade but that his dick is in fact just becoming blurrier, the audience was introduced to Louie’s girlfriend of the last six months, April. Throughout the series, Louie has never had a steady girlfriend as he’s always pined for a woman whom repeatedly refused to ever enter into either a romantic or sexual (except for that one time) relationship with him, Pamela, superbly casted and played by Pamela Adlon, whom also played Louie’s wife on the short-lived HBO sitcom, Lucky Louie. I’m pretty positive Pamela Adlon also served as an executive producer on Louie but since her character left the show in last season’s finale, I’m not sure. Since Pamela’s departure it appears Louie has moved on, at least to the point where he could date someone for six months, though not totally be in it for the long haul as this scene found the two of them breaking up. This is another example of how the series continues to remain fresh and relevant even when dealing in tried and true television tropes like a break-up scene in that April essentially dumps herself for Louie whom can’t muster up the gall to do it himself.
The first half of the episode depicted April as the type of woman fans of C.K. have come to recognize as being his type – basically a smart, hard, no non-sense woman with a tendency to bust balls every now and again, as evidenced by her comment on Louie’s big bowl of ice-cream at the diner. Whether this tendency is the cause for Louie apparently wanting to end the relationship, or another, or simply that Louie isn’t over Pamela is never explicitly stated. Part of the allure of scenes like this in Louie is that the audience is forced to pay close attention to the details to receive any pieces of a possible explanation. Ultimately the scene served as not only a masterfully written introduction of a new and sure to be recurring character, but even more so as a depiction of the painful awkwardness that comes with ending a relationship, even if all the heavy lifting is done for you. Speaking of heavy lifting, the sequences surrounding Louie experiencing difficulties parking his car in what turned out to be a construction zone were as hilarious as they were appropriate as bookends to the break-up.
The destruction of Louie’s car led to his purchase of a motorcycle in an unusual case where the entire episode was comprised of a single story line as opposed to two independent plots. I wonder whether this format will be continued throughout the season. Naturally Louie goes from just browsing with a heavily scarred salesman to enjoying a leisurely cruise complete with a lovely French soundtrack to being surrounded by a gang of bikers which cause him to crash his bike. I loved how Louie went from “just browsing” to letting himself be convinced by the salesman of how financially smart buying a motorcycle is to lying in a hospital hallway hearing a doctor tell him at length how stupid riding a motorcycle is. Fortunately no serious injuries are sustained so Louie gets to limp out of the hospital and miss a cab, but not before calling his ex-wife, whom now has a name, Janet, as well as a face, and body, both of which are African-American. Louie hasn’t said much on the casting choice save for that he was less concerned about the actress’ race and appearance than with her performance. You can check out more on this here and here.
The final scene finds April making one of those post-break-up visits to retrieve her laptop and upon seeing Louie limp (he tells her he was hit by a truck to avoid the embarrassment he suffered in telling Janet) she sticks around long enough to prop him on the couch with a blanket and make him soup and a sandwich. Whereas in the first half of the episode April came off as a bit abrasive and pushy, not to mention anxiety inducing, in this segment she demonstrates extreme generosity, sweetness, but most of all, insight. After her initial introduction it would not be unreasonable to consider April as slightly paranoid having interpreted an expression on Louie’s face and a repeated insistence of just being tired as a definite desire to end their relationship, however, after witnessing the foresight and consideration she exudes in rejecting Louie’s weak, guilt-ridden invitation to “stay”, the audience knows for sure just how intelligent and mature this woman is as well as how ready she is to take their relationship to the next level and how frightening this must be for Louie.
Louie’s third season premiere not only delivered on extremely potent humor but also masterfully constructed an exquisite portrait of the difficulties inherent in examining one’s life and attempting to move forward, and did so without sounding half as heavy-handed as this sentence.