Louie: Elevator Part 1, review

Louie starts a six-part episode with one of the weirdest offerings ... so far.

This might be the weirdest episode of Season 4 so far. Perhaps that’s a hard claim to make stick because there’s nothing as obviously unreal as the garbage men from the premiere or the bizarre courtship between Louie and Blake in the second. But the weirdness here, I think, stems from the fact that the storylines in this episode (of which there are two) feel terribly inconclusive. Again, maybe an odd argument to try and make. Louie is hardly known for neatly wrapping everything up every week. But still, the stories here come off a bit like random happenings that barely develop.

A big reason for this is likely that this is in fact only the first part of a six, that’s right, SIX-part episode. I’ve seen people suggest, with multipart episodes of TV shows, that one cannot fairly judge the individual pieces and that we need to wait for the whole thing to be out before we stick an opinion on it. And while I think it may be worthwhile to look back and consider all six (SIX!) parts of this extra-long episode as one, extended piece once it’s over and done with, television has worked with this half-hour (or more accurately, 22-minute or so) format for quite a while now and has pulled off some great stuff with it. So it seems perfectly fair to me to critique how this particular piece of television functioned on its own and how it made me feel. Plus, otherwise, I have to hold back my true feelings for six episodes in a row? Six? Come on, guys.

Supposedly, all of this is meant to be one part of a larger story, but it still feels like the first half is completely unrelated to the second (which is when the elevator from the episode’s title shows up). Louie and his kids are taking the subway to their mom’s house, when one of them, Jane, the younger, spacey one, believing herself to be in a dream with no real consequences, hops off the subway train just before the doors close, so that Louie and his other daughter, Lilly, are forced to go back and collect her.

This story didn’t do much for me. I get that the concept of your kid getting left behind on her own is thoroughly terrifying for a parent and maybe I’d be more impacted by it if I were one, but I think the bigger issue is that the handling of the situation takes a lot of the gravity out of it. Yeah, Louie is freaking out, but we regularly cut back to Jane as well, who is simply standing on the subway platform waiting for her dad to come get her. We can see that she’s never in any real danger, which pretty well eliminates any real sense of tension there might be (unless, for some reason, that’s the point). Louie freaks out, Jane stands there, and then they get back to the station and get her. Louie is pissed at Jane, his ex-wife is pissed at Jane, but everything is essentially fine. There’s are some good little moments (like a woman chastising a frazzled Louie for cursing in front of Lilly), but otherwise this feels like it might’ve just been based off of a real-life occurrence that wasn’t translated to TV in such a way as to make it very engaging.

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But, hey, maybe Jane’s insistence that she’s still in a dream will turn out to be an important framing of the entire six-part episode. Maybe everyone’s inside her dream and we won’t know it until the twist is revealed at the end of the whole thing! If this turns out to be the case, just remember who predicted it first: me, buddy.

The second half is about an old woman (Ellen Burstyn, who sure must get sick of being typecast as an old woman, huh?) who lives in Louie’s apartment building and gets stuck in the elevator. This half of the episode is much more entertaining. I love the way Louie, just because he happens to be trying to use the elevator right after the old lady gets stuck in it, gets roped into having to stick around and keep her company. It’s a good, relatable situation in which Louie is trying to be a decent, humane guy, but he would also really prefer to not be stuck there, wasting his day keeping a stranger company.

The other great part about this story is the inclusion of Clark Middleton as the building’s super (like the super in the premiere episode, he’s also named Tony; every super in NYC being named “Tony” seems like an accurate detail). He’s a really odd guy who keeps shouting into the elevator even though the old woman is very much in earshot of him. His delivery on everything (even when he’s screaming it) is bland, almost inflectionless. It’s like deliberate anti-acting and it’s consistently funny.

Still, the plot (likely because it’s only the first part of it) doesn’t go too much of anywhere. Louie ends up going to the old woman’s apartment to get her medication for her and then to wake up her niece (Eszter Balint) who goes nuts at seeing a strange guy in the place and chases him out, screaming at him in (I think) Hungarian. It’s got a nice little ending where she apologizes and makes Louie some kind of delicious-looking apple pie-ish thing. It’s a very slight story, but one that has some mild conclusion, albeit a not hugely satisfying one. But, with five more parts on the way, I guess there’s a lot more to come with Louie and this lady.

So, all in all, nothing too exciting here, though I’m interested to see why Louis C.K. felt this story was so worth exploring that it needed to be, all told, the length of a dramatic  feature film. Also, one of the final jokes in Louie’s stand-up here is some of his best so far this season. When do you know that love someone? “When you share your innermost secret racism with them.” 

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4.5 out of 5