"Louie has a difficult day."
I'm not sure if those words are the episode's universal descriptors, but when I pressed the Info button on my remote control while watching the Louie season 3 premiere, "Something Is Wrong," that was the description I got. The description was hilarious to me because returning fans could agree that it's both generic and accurate enough to describe just about every episode of the show.
Newcomers may have absolutely no idea what to expect from an episode where the show's protagonist has a difficult day, but the twisted joy derived from the first two seasons of Louie came from its constant ability to pay little mind to expectations and focus instead on poignant, often awkward and uncomfortable observations about the world. The show's regular disregard for continuity in actors, relationships, and even reality have led to rave critical reviews and a devoted following to one of the most intelligently written and least understood comedies outside of premium cable.
After last season when the praise really started pouring in and Louie C.K. managed to collect $1 million by selling tickets to his stand-up special by foregoing all retailers, I was worried that now the veil of obscurity would be lifted and Louie would no longer be the scrappy underdog. I feared that like season four of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, season three would find Louie thrust into the spotlight, its charm and insight weighed down by overly deliberate attempts to perform up to expectations. But then Louie had a difficult day. No more, no less. And my fears were relieved.
"Something Is Wrong" begins with one of the oddest breakups you'll ever see, in which Louie breaks up with his girlfriend of six months, April (Gaby Hoffman), with nary a word spoken. Louie, with his piece of pie and three scoops of ice cream, sits mostly silently as April pieces everything together using his various pained looks as puzzle pieces. The genius in the conversation is that it's unclear at first whether he actually does want to break up with her and she's just projecting her own insecurities onto him, or if he's just so cowardly that he can't even admit to wanting to break up when she ends up putting the offer to end the relationship on the table. The two project a long term relationship in a short amount of screen time with his meek "you should quit" and her stern retort of "what kind of advice is that" alluding to the fact that this conversation and the one to come is likely one that's happened or borderline happened numerous times before. It's a fine, subtle piece of acting and all C.K. has to do is sit there and react.
From there, Louie is off to find his car, which was earlier parked in a spot under the gaze of numerous enigmatic and contradictory parking signs. Finding it enveloped on all sides by construction work, Louie strikes up a conversation with an uninterested worker more involved in his texting:
Louie: What are you guys even doing?
Worker: (shrugging) I don't know.
It was here that people like me who read too deep into things could pick up a bit of self-awareness on the part of C.K. His car, a by no means inexpensive Infiniti, is certainly an automobile the real-life Louie could afford thanks to his newfound popularity. Perhaps to comment on how the fame hasn't affected him, or just to add humor and irreverence, the Infiniti is immediately demolished by a backhoe for no other reason than just because.
This leads Louie to a motorcycle store staffed by a guy whose entire body is a warning sign against motorcycle riding, and in a clever inversion of the breakup, Louie talks himself into purchasing a motorcycle while the staffer looks on, ambivalent and somewhat confused.
One accident and a hospital trip later, Louie recovers at home, the frustration of April having melted away to genuine concern as her trip to pick up the laptop she left behind turns into helping him around the house. As she prepares to leave, Louie utters one, seemingly innocent word: "Stay." Judging by the puppy dog eyes he flashes, the word is anything but innocent and April launches into a frustrated tirade about how the one word he has spoken at the peak of his vulnerability has long-lasting emotional and relational implications and how his just manning up and admitting that will save them both trouble. However, just as he remained tight lipped earlier, he cowers again and April storms out the door.
Things do go wrong in "Something Is Wrong," but in typical Louie fashion the "thing" is never addressed and in fact, it's questionable whether the events are related to each other at all or whether the "thing" that's wrong is just Louie himself and how he affects the world around him. There are moments of outright hilarity in the episode, such as when his car is just inexplicably and completely destroyed, and profundity, such as April's vocalizing of the implications behind Louie's seemingly simple request. In the fashion we've come to expect, there's no arc, no real point, but most importantly, no indication that season three of Louie will be any different from what we've come to know and love. For those of us who have loved the show from the beginning, this is a good sign—the irreverence will continue, the thing being wrong will continue to be wrong, and we will be glad about it.