Louie 5×05 ‘Untitled’: Afraid of…

Louie 5x05 Cover

Well.  Louie has a strange connection between fantasy and reality.  For the most part, every episode of Louie is meant to straddle that line closely, where the concepts that the episode is dealing with reflect ideas that we deal with in reality, but they’re dealt with through this absurdist lens that makes them easier to swallow.  The notion that we are all growing older and fading away into irrelevancy is a pretty dark one, something we see in the bleakest shows television has to offer (The Sopranos and Mad Men), so Louis C.K. dilutes the horror of those ideas with comedy, using absurd comedy or dark comedy to have us laugh at the insanity of existence.

Louie 5x05-1

Source: FX

With that in mind, “Untitled” reminded me quite a bit of Mad Men’s “The Crash” from Season 6, an episode where most of the SC&P office is shot up with speed and everybody is high out of their minds.  It’s an absurd episode where there are characters tap-dancing, running back and forth across the office, and at the core of it there’s some concept that the episode is trying to communicate.  “Untitled” operates in the same fashion, where half of the episode is composed of nightmares and the other half is (on a plot-level) unrelated to the nightmares.  It’s an episode where nothing really happens, but it’s meant to add up to some central idea that we’re supposed to untangle.

Louie 5x05-2

Source: FX

If anything, that central idea boils down to fear.  Louie is a show predominantly about fear, about the fear of connection, of lack of connection, of fading away, of death, of many things that we have to contend with in our lives.  In “Untitled”, Louie is forced to see many things that unsettle him, first in the “real” world of Louie, then in his dream state throughout the second half of the episode.  Within the “real world”, Louie has to deal with his children existing outside of his control, having problems that he can’t really fix.  Jane begins to exhibit some of the same existentialist thought that Louie often experiences, and it unsettles him to see his daughter speaking like that.  In the waiting room, they share a similar mindset when it comes to the rude woman in the room, and that is meant to presage Jane’s dialogue in the doctor’s office.  In addition, Lilly spends time at a friends’ house and watches A Clockwork Orange, which Louie finds horrifying.  He’s losing control of his children because they’re growing up and finding their way in the world, and eventually he has to come to terms with that.

Louie 5x05-3

Source: FX

That focus on fear, and more specifically, lack of control, is apparent when Louie sees Crazy Glazy replicating his jokes to abundant applause.  When Louie confronts him, not only does Crazy Glazy not care that it’s the same joke (if anything, it’s because Crazy Glazy knows that his new version works better than the old), but he also doesn’t care that Louie is upset.  Louie can be replaced in a heartbeat in his career, once the audience doesn’t care about his comedy style anymore, and Crazy Glazy’s presence shows that.  The rest of the episode is a descent into hell, with Louie being stalked by a shirtless bogeyman who bites him, Louie having to go on stage with his crotch replaced with a flash-colored swirl, and a couple sexual scenes involving a rabbit costume.  It’s as bizarre and fantastical as Louie has ever gotten, and it’s incidentally hilarious in its complete absurdity.

Louie 5x05-4

Source: FX

The nightmare sequences are a way to display not only Louie’s various fears, being it mockery, sexual humiliation, sexual deviance, the unknown, but the sequences do so in a way that muddles all of them into a sensory assault.  One fear blends into the next into the next, in a way that takes fantasy and reality and blurs the lines between them.  Fear operates in a way that is very real and present in our lives, but also is fantasy, something that we contort until it reflects a very different reality than the actual one we are living.  The nightmare scenes take all of these fears and blend them together because fear isn’t something that is necessarily compartmentalized for us.  Our fear manifests itself in a feeling, and when we’re overwhelmed we’re not necessarily sure what it is we’re afraid of.  In fact, it’s difficult to figure it out, period.  We can search for what we’re afraid of, but sometimes we repress it so much that it shows itself in ways that we’re not easily able to comprehend.  If “Untitled” is saying anything about fear, it’s saying that our fears are nonsensical.  We don’t understand them, we don’t know how to deal with them, and they appear out of our contorted view of the world.

“Untitled” isn’t the best episode of Louie, but it may perhaps be the most interesting.  It takes the absurdist lens that Louis C.K. uses to look at the world and pushes it to its extreme by visually assaulting us with dream sequences that don’t necessarily make sense, but aren’t really supposed to.  Because our fears don’t really make sense either.  They occur in our own mind, which operates in such a fashion that it doesn’t let us fully understand ourselves.  The answer is that there is no answer.

So what did you think of “Untitled”?  Was the nightmare material fun or terrifying or stupid?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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