‘Louie’ – ‘God’: If I had a hammer

Senior Television Writer
08.31.10 45 Comments

Eric Leibowitz / FX

A review of tonight’s “Louie” coming up just as soon as you give me your pencil…

Though there were technically two vignettes in “God,” the joke about the gas station glory hole was just there to set up the much longer, darker flashback to Louie’s childhood and his issues with the Catholic Church. This was one of the darkest, most deliberately non-comic episodes yet, and also one of the most fascinating.

I’m not a Catholic, but my best friend since childhood is, and between him and the various bits of pop culture I consume dealing with the subject(*), there are times I feel like a lapsed Catholic by proxy. And “God” took a unique, disturbing approach to the scourging (which was also one of the big parts of “The Passion of the Christ”) and crucifixion of Jesus, and how Louis C.K. (and many other Catholics I know) feels the Church uses the story to scare kids into believing and behaving.(**) The way C.K. shot it, and the way Tom Noonan (who’ll always be The Tooth Fairy from “Manhunter” to me) played it was so disturbing.

(*) One of those bits was a fantastic, understandably short-lived ABC drama from 1997 called “Nothing Sacred,” about a young, unconventional priest. The Catholic League organized an advertiser boycott because in one episode the priest considers giving up his calling to have an affair with a married ex-girlfriend, while in another a woman asks for his advice on having an abortion and he doesn’t strongly argue against it. I bring this up mainly to note that one of the key characters on that show was a nun played by Ann Dowd – who happened to put on a habit again here to play Louie’s teacher.

(**) I’m almost reluctant to go too much into this, because I worry that discussing religion can be just as polarizing and irrational as discussing politics, but we’ll give it a shot. Keep in mind, always, that Rule #1 around here is to be respectful of other commenters. You can disagree, but if you can’t do that without insulting someone, your comment gets pulled. Remember, as always: talk about the show, not each other.

And then we came to the conversation with Louie’s mom, which was interesting on a bunch of levels at once. First, we’ve already seen an episode with adult Louie dealing with his mother, who was much loopier and less sympathetic than she appears here. (Before that episode aired, C.K. said on Twitter that the episode was fiction, and, “I love my mom a lot.”) Second, we’ve already seen an episode with the actress who played young Louie’s mom, Amy Landecker; she was the girlfriend in “Bully” who was turned off by how Louie responded to the high school kid. Given the number of available actresses in New York (especially now that “Law & Order” is out of business and everyone needs work), he could have easily found someone else to play one part or the other, so I suppose the recycled casting is supposed to give us a glimpse into Louie’s Oedipus complex. (UPDATE: Or not. CK, or someone purporting to be CK, showed up in the comments to the AV Club review and gave a different explanation for Landecker’s return.) And third, what Louie’s mom has to say about the need to be good, whether there’s a God or not, was one of the warmest, most honest moments in a series that’s had plenty of honesty to offer over these last 11 episodes.

The season’s last two episodes will air back to back next week. I’m gonna miss this show during the hiatus. Even when it doesn’t make me laugh much, either by design (this episode) or because I didn’t think the execution worked (last week’s two stories), it’s never dull.

What did everybody else think?

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