'Louie' Review: "In the Woods"

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FX's ‘Louie’ season 4 keeps the dramedy rolling with Tuesday's 90-minute installment "In the Woods,"  as Louie's discovery of his daughter smoking pot leads him to reflect on his own experiences as a boy, getting into trouble with his mother, school, and a local dealer (Jeremy Renner).

Last week’s ‘Louie’ episodes “Elevator Part 6 / Pamela Part 1" saw a hurricane complicating Louie's ultimate goodbye with Amia, after which Louie forcefully attempted to take Pamela up on her offer of a relationship. So how does "In the Woods” continue the cycle of amiable misery?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Louie’ season 4, episodes 11-12, “In the Woods"!

Louie attends a music festival, feeling out of place by all the young concertgoers, and realizing that some of the pot-smokers are no older than his 12 year-old daughter. Suddenly, Louie spies Lily actually among the smokers, and whisks his daughter out of the park in a manic huff. Louie takes the girl for a burger and assures her Janet will be furious, though Lily questions what Louie could possibly know about the situation.

Louie remembers being dropped off by his mother (Amy Landecker) at school at the age of 13, in which Louie had a cordial relationship with his affable chemistry teacher Mr. Hoffman. That day at lunch, Louie and his friend Brad dodge being bullied by a boy named Danny, before Louie stammeringly attempts to ask one of the popular girls to the coming dance. Later that night, Louie’s mother laments that she isn’t around for him more, and offers him $10 for after the dance.

Louie goes to the dance and approaches Mr. Hoffman’s friendly daughter Danielle, before Brad drags him out to the parking lot and reveals a joint he’d gotten from his brother, Upon retreating to the woods to smoke it, Brad and Louie realize that neither of them have matches, before Danny appears and offers his lighter to share with the three. The three quickly forge a bond, and continue their marijuana habit as friends throughout the year.

While Louie’s relationship with his mother deteriorates, the three friends become delinquents, and Louie offers to further their stash by buying directly from known dealer Jeff Davis (Jeremy Renner). Louie nervously travels to Jeff’s house, wherein the spacey dealer agrees to sell to Louie, offering even more if Louie can obtain some of the expensive scales from his school.

The next day after Mr. Hoffman’s class, Louie volunteers to clean up, and uses the time to swipe several of the scales from storage. A while later, Louie’s mother turns over her son’s room in search of drug paraphernalia, noting later that something seems different about Louie. Meanwhile in the present, Louie and Lily return home, wherein Louie tells his visibly upset daughter they need to have a talk.

After sleeping through Hoffman’s class, Louie cuts school to deliver the scales to Jeff, receiving a large bag from the dealer and his ladyfriend. Louie and his friends smoke a bit of the stash later on that night, reasoning they should have a party to make more friends, before Danny’s brother bursts into the room and beats the boy up, calling Louie and the others losers for their adolescent drug habit.

Following school the next day, Louie arrives home to find his father (F. Murray Abraham) waiting on his bed, telling Louie that his mother has become fed up with the drug use and that he’ll be in charge from now on. Not having seen his father for a month, Louie promptly rejects the authority and curses out his father. That night, Louie and Danny leave a party in the woods to find Brad at his house, wherein Brad explains that his mother found his drugs, and subsequently forbid him from hanging out with Danny and Louie. Danny grows violent, for which Louie is forced to hold him back and questions why everything upsets Danny so quickly.

The school principal calls both Louie and Mr. Hoffman into his office, explaining to Hoffman that Louie is responsible for the recent scale disappearances, which constitutes grand theft, given their expensive price tag. Hoffman refuses to believe the principal however, citing the lack of evidence against Louie beyond hearsay, and believing Louie to be far too nice a boy to ever commit such a crime. That afternoon, Louie returns to Jeff’s house and asks for the scales back, though Jeff relays that he’d since sold them to his dealers, and violently asserts that Louie will have to live with the grown-up consequences of his criminal actions.

The next day, Louie finds Danny being arrested for attacking Brad, before the principal insists he knows Louie to have committed the scale theft, and expresses his relief at not having to deal with the boy once he graduates to high school. Louie returns home to find his mother ready to unload about his troubling changes of late, as the woman reminds her son that they used to be friends, and he won’t be welcome in their home if he continues on with his vacant behavior. Louie flees to the woods to sleep, while in the present fixing a plate for Lily after her nap.

Sometime later, Louie makes up with his mother and attempts to make amends to others, first dropping by Mr. Hoffman’s house to confess that it was he who stole the scales to trade for drugs. Louie apologizes for his actions, leaving the house, and a stunned Mr. Hoffman behind. Awhile after, the school guidance counselor assures Louie that he isn’t such a bad kid, and had only used the drugs to cope with his parents’ divorce, even as Louie insists the state of their marriage never really bothered him.

Back in the present, Lily questions if her father has a longwinded speech for her, though Louie only jokes that her childhood is gone, and assures her that he’ll both love and support her no matter what.

OUR REVIEW:

We were among the many that found last week’s dual ‘Louie’ installments a bit questionable by the end, as most good will established either by the conclusion to the “Elevator” series or the burgeoning nature of Louie’s relationship with Pamela ended up scattered by the difficult final scene. Of course, in typical ‘Louie’ fashion, disregarded continuity leaves us hanging until next week’s “Pamela” finale installments for any sense of fallout, though we confess ourselves a bit relieved to have a less charged ‘Louie’ hour to contemplate.

Indeed, this week took a trip into Louie’s past, as the frightening discovery of Lily smoking pot leads Louie into a recollection of his own conflicted relationship with the drug, or at least how it affected his relationships with adults in his youth. Attitudes on marijuana have certainly undergone a major shift over the course of the real Louis C.K.’s life, neatly pointed out in the opening scene as Louie recalls how he liked it better when pot-smoking was a more criminal practice, though it’s difficult to say exactly where “In the Woods” lands on the issue.

On the one hand, neither Louie nor Lily experience many real physical consequences to their respective drug uses, though Louie’s side of the story most fervently points out how the drug alters relationships between parental figures and children, something that would naturally frighten the present-day Louie. In the past, Louie’s marijuana at least creates consequences in a number of regards, both in turning friends against one another, and creating adult conflicts with unsavory characters like Jeremy Renner’s Jeff, ultimately highlighting young Louie’s disdain for absentee parenting. In particular, the young Louie seems most shaken to disappoint his teacher, who seemed to take more of a personal interest in the boy than either of his parents, and subsequently leads us to believe the episode’s message lies moreso in parenting than drug use itself.

Those increasingly irked by the lack of actual laughs in the current season of ‘Louie’ won’t find much remedy by tonight’s installment, though “In the Woods” admirably made up for Louis C.K.’s overall absence from the hour with strong guest performances from Renner, and a returning Amy Landecker as Louie’s mother. Given the episode’s dedication to Philip Seymour Hoffman, as well as the teacher’s name, it’s not hard to read into the idea that Hoffman himself was originally slated to portray the science teacher, though Skipp Sudduth proved a serviceably warm replacement.

By the end of a muted hour, it’s difficult to say what about “In the Woods” needed a full 90-minute runtime, or why Louis C.K. chose this point in the season for such an ambiguous story, but it’s at least an ambitious hour with some strong performances throughout.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of awkward ‘Louie’ laughs? Did tonight's installment hold up to last week's duo? Let us know in the comments and check back next week for more all-new ‘Louie’ episode recaps of finale installments "Pamela Part 2" and "Pamela Part 3" on FX! Hooray for continuity!

Filed Under: FX, Jeremy Renner, Louie, Louis C.K.
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