I’ve peeked through my fingers at some of Louie’s more cringe-worthy moments many times before, but this week’s was certainly the first episode in which I hid my eyes out of fear. I’m usually nonplussed by horror movies, but “Untitled” really creeped me out. Horror movies tend to follow a type of logic and the villains typically have some semi-understandable motivation (psychopathy, misguided revenge) or at least an identifiable cause (zombification, demonic curse) for the horror they unleash. The boogeymen that stalk us in our nightmares, however, don’t adhere to any sort of logic as they’re merely the dark product of a sleeping mindscape, a surreal swirl of negative memories, dread, anxieties, and fears. CK doesn’t give us a mini-horror flick with “Untitled,” but rather forces us to live his nightmare.
I can’t think of another episode of television, other than The Sopranos’ “The Test Dream,” that so accurately recreates the dream landscape as “Untitled” does. Louie’s ongoing nightmares are surreal, non-linear, and not overtly symbolic, but permeated with such a thick sense of dread and anxiety that watching them play out made it feel as though you were trapped in that nightmare with him. When Louie opens his apartment door and looks into a pitch dark, black hole of a hallway, the dread and foreboding is palpable and almost just as scary as the eyeless humanoid goblin who runs out of the blackness to bite him (admittedly, I jumped every damn time that thing came on screen). Though nightmares are deeply personal and unique experiences (Louie can’t even articulate his dreams to his friends, just summing them up as “scary shit that scares the shit out of me”), they can also feature some pretty universal, primal fears, as when Louie dreams of suddenly being unable to speak on stage (a fairly common anxiety dream), nonsense words sputtering from his mouth, or the more unsettling, but also fairly common body horror of being eaten or having your penis suddenly transformed into a swirled knob of skin. As the episode goes on, some of the dream sequences become less frightening and more comical (Bobby Kelly’s lips and those The Shining-esque furries, for example), but the tension looms even into the hazy, tenuous reality of Louie’s sleep-deprived waking life (loved how CK looked over his shoulder, waiting for that goblin to attack, while talking to Nick DiPaolo in the deli).
That surreality and almost chokingly thick fog of anxiety hang over the episode and often make it difficult to tell which scenes are occurring in reality and which are Louie’s fever dreams. A seemingly innocuous medical check-up leads to Jane’s (Ursula Parker) bizarre complaint to her doctor (the return of the charactersically unconcerned Charles Grodin, chalking it up to dehydration) that she sometimes feels like she’s sweating on the inside of her face and is able to see electricity. (Jane’s extremely bright and very quirky, but this scene made me worry for her mental state.) A hacky comedian (Jon Glaser) cheerfully steals Louie’s joke – a terrible bee pun I can’t see CK making in real life – and also probably his jacket. The recently-divorced mother of one of Lilly’s friends breaks down in hysterical sobs after Louie declines to help her move a fish tank out of her bedroom (it’s been keeping her up at night) and he coolly comforts her by gently covering her head with a blanket and backing out of the apartment.
Amidst all the creepiness, there are some funny moments in “Untitled” – from the aforementioned awkward attempt at soothing a crying woman to the cameos from Todd Barry and Nick DiPaolo, who helpfully point out that, in addition to having bad dreams, Louie’s also ugly and stupid. It’s Nick who ultimately sets him on the right path, however, suggesting Louie think back to what was going on in his life at the onset of the bad dreams. This leads Louie back to the crying woman’s apartment, tool kit in hand, to help with her to-do list and temporarily fill her husband void (labor-wise and sexually, of course). Once the fish tank is relocated, both she and Louie are finally able to sleep peacefully again and the episode closes with on a smiling, slumbering Louie as a woman’s pleasant voice sings, over a jaunty, retro tune, “I dream of dying babies / And why do they smile? / I hate those dying babies / Why don’t they just die? / Their smiling faces give me diarrhea / Please die, you dying babies / In my diarrhea,” the perfect palate cleanser for the preceding nightmares.
‘Untitled’ Rating: 9 out of 10
Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs is a Senior Writer for Pop-Break, regularly covering Game of Thrones, Louie, Futurama, and Boardwalk Empire, as well as other delectable nuggets of TV, film, and music throughout the year. Since graduating with Highest Honors from Rutgers University with a degree in English, Kimberlee currently finds herself in a financially comfortable, yet stifling corporate environment where her witty and insightful literary and pop culture references are largely met with confused silence and requests to, “Get away from me, weirdo.” Still, she’s often thought of as a modern-day Oscar Wilde (by herself) and one day hopes her wit, charm, and intellect (again, self-perceived) will make her a very wealthy, very drunk woman. She’s also the mother of a darling little boy, Charlie Miles (aka Young Chizzy) who she hopes will grow up to not be too embarrassed of all of the baby pics she relentlessly shares of him on various social media sites.