Man, Louie sure is a weird show. This six-part “Elevator” story has fit together pretty cohesively up until now, in part because of how it’s remained relatively grounded. In contrast to many previous Louie episodes, there haven’t been sudden forays into the realm of the surreal. Well, okay, Tony the super from the first part felt kind of like a weird creature of fantasy, but there weren’t any women running away from Louie mid-conversation to board a helicopter or garbage men invading his home and destroying his stuff.
But “Elevator Part 4” brings back the surreality with news broadcasts where the broadcasters use complete gibberish to discuss the impending doom of hurricane Jasmine Forsythe (which is a great name for a hurricane, by the way) and no one notices/minds Louie taking a break from the counseling session he and his ex-wife Janet are having to walk over to a window, open it, stick his head through, and scream his lungs out.
This stuff is yet another indication of how much Louis C.K. just doesn’t give a damn about the television conventions you and I have been trained to expect. Searching for continuity and consistency in this show and being denied it is genuinely a constant issue for me. I don’t always think this is a good thing; I often feel the show’s storytelling quality takes a hit because of how resolute it is in not adhering to convention, especially on those confusing occasions it messes with its own rules and actually does have continuity (e.g., Pamela). But I still admire Louie for messing with my brain by subverting my television expectations again and again. At its worst, it’s still an interesting experiment.
And “Elevator Part 4” is hardly the show at its worst. In fact, it’s another really awesome installment of this mini-epic. It’s just also a completely bizarre thing that you can’t get anywhere else on TV. Something else I’ve had to reeducate myself on is incorrectly viewing this six-parter as a feature film (I’ve mentioned having to dismiss this way of looking at “Elevator” before, but I keep subconsciously doing it anyway). It’s interesting because it very much is a part of the “Elevator” series, but considering the relative lack of surreal stuff up until this point, if this were a film, it would be one that would totally lose its audience at by introducing sudden flashes of satirical unreality over halfway through its running time. However, we’re willing to get on board with the surreal stuff here because it was introduced at beginning of this particular episode. And yet! It’s still part of this overall pretty grounded six-part thing!
You see what I’m saying?! It’s a weird show!
This is a great episode though and it actually functions as an isolated piece of television all the more because the continuing plots of “Elevator”—Louie’s daughter Jane being sick of school and Louie dating Amia, a Hungarian woman who speaks no English and will be heading back to Hungary in ten days—aren’t furthered as much as they were in the previous parts, but rather are used as catalysts to explore Louie’s relationship with his ex-wife Janet. In fact, there’s only one small scene with Amia and Louie’s kids that paints an idyllic portrait of how great Amia is for Louie and his kids, hitting home how sad it’ll be for everyone when she leaves.
The rest of the episode focuses on two scenes: one of Louie and Janet in counseling and then a flashback to an earlier time in their marriage. Both have a number of very funny moments and lines, but the flashback is particularly charming. It’s really sweet to watch a young Louie and his wife getting along really well because they both come to the realization that they could get a divorce now while they don’t have any kids, and it’ll be a good thing for everyone. Of course it’s also tragic because we know that, in this very scene, Louie manages to impregnate Janet, so they’re stuck dealing with each other forever after.
The actors playing young Louie (Conner O’Malley) and Janet (Brooke Bloom) are both very good (especially Conner who gets Louie down pretty damn well), but I have to admit C.K.’s total disinterest in continuity makes this scene confusing. He’s got a big thing about casting whichever actor provides what he wants from a character, regardless of whether it makes any biological or chronological sense. This is why present-day Janet is played by Susan Kelechi Watson, an African-American woman, even though Louie’s kids are, and have been since the beginning of the series, about as white as white kids get. Complicating things further, Brooke Bloom, young Janet, is white.
So, apparently, between this flashback and now, Janet changed into a black woman. Considering the guy playing young Louie looks not entirely unlike the real Louie, maybe C.K. is putting in some kind of message here about how Janet has changed but Louie didn’t or something…? But, come on, let’s be frank here: it’s confusing.
But, hey, another great episode of a weird-ass show.