The 'Louie' Scale: 'Goodbye to Your Childhood'

The 90-minute "In The Woods" spent most of its time with pot-smoking middle-schooler Louie, a cautionary tale for Lilly. But how devastating was it?

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It's no secret that Louie is more than a comedy. The show can range from the happily hilarious to the utterly depressing. So for this fourth season, we're going to plot each episode on "The Louie Scale" to figure out just how comedic or dramatic it was.

"In The Woods" is a 90-minute, primarily stand-alone episode of Louie, spending nearly all of its time in a flashback with our title character as a 13(ish)-year-old in middle school. The episode (movie?) is a fairly straightforward cautionary tale of teenage drug use: young Louie, promising science student and mom BFF, starts smoking a lot of pot and in the process begins sleepwalking through school, alienates his friends and his mother, betrays the trust of the one teacher pulling for him, and commits grand larceny. The best moments of "In The Woods" come from the episode's guest stars: Amy Landecker as Louie's mother, F. Murray Abraham for a fleeting moment as Louie's absent father, Jeremy Renner as Louie's cat-kissing, wall-slamming drug dealer (one can only imagine what Philip Seymour Hoffman would've done in the episode). 

The tragedies of "In The Woods" come from the people Louie shrugs off – his mother calling him "boring," which feels like a cutting slur, and his betrayal of Mr. Hoffman, who blows up at the principal for accusing Louie of theft. His mother eventually forgives him; Mr. Hoffman doesn't.

The crux of "In The Woods" is Louie figuring out how to deal with these people now that he, by smoking pot and stealing from his school, has stepped into what Renner calls "real man shit."  Is that what Louie meant five episodes ago, arguing with his ex-wife, when he said that public school was where you dealt with problems in "the real world?" "This is your man shit mess, you clean it up," Renner's Jeff Davis says to young Louie. There are consequences to Louie's actions. And in that way, maybe it is speaking to last week's episode, just a little.

"In The Woods"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.