What’s the worst thing you ever did in middle school? I thought back to my ugly, pimply past during last night’s marvelous Louie, and I’m happy I couldn’t think of anything truly despicable. Sure, there was some “boys will be boys” mischievousness, like the time I brought itching powder to school or when I rummaged through a stranger’s backpack or two at my summer camp, looking for money to buy Chipwiches with, but nothing on the level of stealing scales from my friendly science teacher to get weed, or being such a unresponsive bore that my mom called me “vacant.”
I was a young, barely there kid, and so was Louie. He’s fairly intelligent, loves farts, and just the right amount of awkward, but things go terribly wrong when he’s about to approach a total pre-teen babe at a dance, and her boyfriend steps in. From there, it’s a shame spiral into weed, playing the DEVIL’S MUSIC, more weed, telling Salieri to “F*CK OFF,” and even more weed. It’s an awful time to be alive — I would rather live through my first year out of college again, when I was broke, unemployed, and miserable, than have to be 12 again. You’re not sure of who you are as a person yet, so you latch onto the personalities of those around you. So Louie befriends the class bully, because they share a fondness for marijuana, and before long, he’s buying pot from Jeremy Renner and committing larceny.
Wisely, “Into the Woods” is mostly flashback, with Louie catching Lily smoking a joint in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park, and then remembering the time he did the same thing. I’m not a parent, but I imagine it’s tough to tell your kid to not do something you did — who are you to preach moral superiority? You can say “learn from my mistakes,” but my parents used that shtick on me, and I don’t remember it ever working. Kids are going to f*ck up, and hopefully they get it out of their system before they do something truly horrible. Otherwise the guilt of remembering everyone you let down will slowly rot inside. One of the things I loved about the episode was how it never drifted into Very Special Episode territory (it was just a lowercase “very special episode”). The fallout from Louie’s addiction, or whatever you want to call it, felt real — there was no big, melodramatic moment where the cops came busting through the door, commanding Louie to DROP THE ILLEGAL NARCOTICS. There was only a bunch of small f*ck ups, which is how these things work. “Into the Woods” was maybe the most accurate depiction of what it’s like to be a teenager since Freaks and Geeks. No wonder young Louie wore a Lindsay Weir jacket.
(It’s worth mentioning that everyone in this episode was fantastic, from Devin Druid’s slouched imitation of Louie, to Amy Landecker as his stressed mom, to Skipp Sudduth as the greatest science teacher I never had. A+ performances all around, even without Philip Seymour Hoffman.)
“Into the Woods” was an almost perfect episode of television — the soundtrack was spot on, the direction was hazy and on point, the story told so personally that, yup, it actually happened to Louis C.K., and hey, Jeremy Renner sang the theme song! — and if it had been a movie, which it basically was, it would have been one of my favorites of the year. I can’t believe next week’s already the finale.