This episode gets points for being the weirdest, most unhinged Louie of the entire series, which is impressive for a show that chucks out continuity and reality on the regular. Nearly all of “Untitled” takes place in a space between the real world and dreams. It’s unclear for the majority of the episode whether or not what you’re seeing is taking place in Louie’s head.
Honestly, this is the sort of thing that has the potential to easily piss off the audience. It’s easy for the show to indulge any flights of fancy it feels like and then go, “just kidding, it was all a dream!” This typically infuriates the viewer who was invested in the proceedings until they were told none of it mattered and didn’t even really happen.
This episode mostly gets away with it because it lets you in on the joke pretty early on. There are only a few early scenes where Louie is ostensibly awake and after the first dream sequence (which is impressively quite terrifying), it fast becomes clear that nothing in “Untitled” will be what it seems.
Still, even dream sequences that you know are dream sequences can come across as cheap because there’s no impetus for any of the scenes to connect to one another or even to make sense in isolation. In other words, in a dream, the writer can throw in any old shit he wants.
Technically, Louie doesn’t altogether sidestep this problem; the episode is effectively a string of nonsense. But it mostly worked for me because my feeling is that, in representing dreams, the most annoying thing you can do is show images that don’t make any real sense but imply there’s a deeper meaning. That often feels like a lame way to cram in loads of metaphors to stand in for real plot.
Instead, you can go to great pains to keep the viewer up to speed (a la Inception) but that invariably makes your dreams feel a lot less dream-like. The other option is to go balls out and embrace just how nonsensical dreams really are, which is the approach “Untitled” goes with. It’s honest about it, even containing the line “dreams don’t really mean much.” And it mostly does a decent job of capturing the disjointed and impossible-to-grasp way that dreams actually feel, which is no easy feat.
There’s some structure through repetition here, which is nice because it’s nice to have points of reference so the episode doesn’t feel completely aimless. The freakish naked man with the drawn-on eyes is the main repeating attraction and it’s great how his first appearance is genuinely scary, but he gradually just becomes an annoyance. There’s also Jon Glaser (one of my favorite people who luckily turns up in a lot of the shows I watch), who plays an obnoxious comedian called Crazy Glasey. Stealing Louie’s joke and later his coat, there’s mounting evidence that Crazy Glasey is taking Louie’s identity from him.
There’s also structure (and again I’m surprised, because of past Louie seasons, that there’s as much as structure as this) with the opening and closing as Louie ultimately realizes he’s been having these dreams because, at the outset, he blew off the problems of a woman he barely knew. I do like how this structures things, though I’m not a fan of the woman herself because she fits the rather tired female trope Louie has established for itself at this point of breaking down into hysterics and, eventually, sleeping with Louie. (It is really funny how he throws a blanket over her when she’s crying, though.)
A lot of moments here are funny. Louie’s explanation to his daughter Jane of why it’s okay to keep lobsters in a tank at a supermarket is “Those people are food.” And I loved when he tried to reason with his dreams, “I’m going back to sleep, please don’t be scary now.” It also feels like a clever bit of a meta-commentary on the way the series casually drops characters in and out, that Louie’s comedian friends (Todd Barry, Nick DiPaolo, Jim Norton) are all over this episode even though much of it can’t be accepted as real. Then of course there’s also Charles Grodin who shows up playing a pediatrician as well as the doctor he played last season. It’s like Louis C.K. is acknowledging his weird past casting and poking fun at how little he cares about it.
“Untitled” is a goofy episode. Very little happens that we’re supposed to care about so it’s not one of those Louies that’s going to make you feel a lot (aside from some fear, perhaps), but it’s nice that this show can commit to a throwaway mindfuck and make it this much fun.