Louie C.K.'s aptly titled television show Louie has been been critically acclaimed since its first season in 2010. It's primarily classified as a comedy, but there's always been a bit more to it, and this fact has never been more clear after the long-awaited release of the show's fourth season.
Of its 14 episodes, only three are traditional individual shorts. The remaining season is comprised of a 6 part episode about a Hungarian woman who gets trapped in an elevator and her non-English speaking niece, a 3 part episode on Pamela coming back to New York and being romantically interested in Louie, and "In The Woods" which is essentially a 66 minute coming of age film based on teen marijuana use. I was initially disappointed when I realized the old lady in the elevator portion of the plot was resolved in the first of six episodes. I thought if anyone could make 132 minutes of hilarious material out of such a simple premise it would be Louie C.K., but instead more character-driven, revelatory relationships are explored such as patient/doctor and ex-husband/ex-wife as Louie attempts a relationship with a woman who does not speak his language in the other five episodes of the story arc. There's a level of surreality hinted in these episodes as Jane (about age 8) is able to greet this girl in Hungarian and play impromptu violin duets with her. I interpreted it as some visual metaphor for the innate empathy or oneness among the female kind, but moments like this have popped up before within Louie and they've become more interesting to me each time. The news breaks in these episodes are equally surreal and provide some of the best laughs of the season. The Pamela episodes deal with the concept of emotional intimacy, particularly when physical attraction is less than ideal or on unequal terms. "In the Woods" is framed well within the rest of the series as Louie's junior high flashback is replayed in the present day life of Louie as he catches one of his daughters smoking pot. The 1970s school setting is established incredibly well, particularly with the fun but zany science teacher, what a great character. Jeremy Renner has a good small role as Louie's drug dealer. Once again, the child actors found for this show are very well cast.
Continuing to go beyond the genre of short comedy, Louie season 4 continues to showcase Louie C.K.'s skill in both writing and directing, serving not only entertainment but also bountiful food for thought for people of all ages. Despite the fact that the laughs may be fewer and farther between in the fourth season, it's still a funny show to be sure. Right now, Louie C.K. is in a good spot to continue writing and producing with this series and has gained the trust of network host FX as evidenced by his ability to push back the scheduled release of season 4 and negotiate a relatively low number of episodes for season 5 (a whopping seven). With creative control and time in his hands, Louie C.K. is a visionary at his prime.