In last night’s hour-and-a-half-long episode of "Louie," we were treated to another one of Louie’s parenting pratfalls, this time when he discovers his twelve-year-old daughter Lilly smoking pot, something his younger self is all too familiar with. It’s something every parent who grew up in the seventies must combat at some time— when your kids start doing the same drugs you did, and you’re forced to reconcile your own past mistakes with your children’s future ones.
In The Woods
Louie and his friend, comedian Todd Barry, find themselves at a music festival, populated by hundreds of hipsters, all wearing the garb of their people—huge, floppy hats, large sunglasses, fanny packs—and flying past Louie on skateboards. Louie rejects Todd’s idea of finding chicks at the event, looking around him and saying, “these girls are like fifteen!” before sniffing some kids smoking pot next to him, and grumbling “I kinda liked it when it was illegal.” After pointing out that some of the kids present are as young as his daughter Lilly, we see Lilly tentatively trying a joint with some of her friends. At first we think this is Louie’s imagination running through the idea of his daughter experimenting with pot, but after he smacks the joint out of real-Lilly’s fingers and drags her away by her wrist, we realize that no, Lilly and Louie were just at the same party and Lilly really just take her first few tokes.
Louie is seething as he takes her outside and screams, “You’re twelve years old,” which was, as we come to find out, the same age Louie was when he began smoking weed. Like a good dad, who has clearly been where Lilly is, Louie takes her to Five Guys for not one but two burgers, giving her a chance to work through her munchies, despite his fury. Over the beginning strains of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter,” Louie tells Lilly she can’t handle this—that she thinks she can, but she can’t, and Lilly challenges him by asking “what do you know about it?” prompting Louie’s flashback to his own eighth grade year and his first experimentation with pot.
Little Louie (played brilliantly by Devin Druid) is a sweet kid who jokes with his mom (played by Amy Landecker) as she drops him at school and who enjoys the process of discovery and exploration, volunteering for one of his farts to be lit on fire in science class. Their teacher, Mr. Hoffman (Skipp Sudduth), recognizes Louie’s good nature, even encouraging Louie to ask his own daughter out to the dance, preferring him instead of one of the other “hormonal creatures in this school.”
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Little Louie is awkward, gets picked on by Danny the school bully and barely asks a popular girl to the dance, just confirms she’ll also be there at the same time. At the dance, Louie’s friend Brad produces a joint he stole from his brother and the two head into the woods to smoke it, where they meet the bully Danny and all end up bonding over their mutual new love of pot. As Clapton’s guitar wails in the background, the scene shifts, and we see the three breaking up weed on an album cover for a joint—they’re now marijuana aficionados, hanging out all the time and having a ball.
But in the scenes that follow, Louie becomes sullen and increasingly withdrawn into the rock and roll world behind his headphones. He clowns around his friends in the boys’ bathroom, blowing up sticks of dynamite in the trashcan and falls asleep in class. When the boys run out of pot, it’s Louie, not Danny the tough bully, who volunteers to go straight to the “drug dealer’s” house to pick-up.
Avenger (cameo) assemble!
The shining spot of the whole 90-minute episode are the scenes with drug dealer Jeff, played hysterically by Jeremy Renner, who challenges Louie to steal some scientific scales from school in exchange for two ounces of weed each. His only words of wisdom are “don’t get caught.” After volunteering to help clean up an experiment after school one day, Louie violates his teacher’s implicit trust in him and steals three scales from the lab, coming home with them in a duffel bag where his mother has begun to get suspicious of his drug use, but can’t find any proof.
Things unravel for Louie pretty quickly; he skips school, the bully’s brother comes in and yells at them all, calling them wasted. When his absentee father (played by F. Murray Abraham) comes home in order to scare him straight and be Louie’s policeman, Louie shrugs him off with a razor-edged “Fuck you.” Even Louie’s partner-in-crime Brad says he can longer hang out with Louie after his parents find out.
But for Louie, that isn’t hitting bottom. That doesn’t come until the principal brings Louie and Mr. Hoffman into his office to accuse Louie of stealing the scales. Mr. Hoffman defends Louie to the hilt, actually asking the principal if he’s stupid because there is no way that Louie, the “sensitive, intelligent kid,” could have done such a thing. The guilt he never felt in front of his mother, father or principal begins to eat away at Louie for deceiving the teacher who believes in him so ardently. Louie goes back to Jeff the dealer’s house (where Jeremy Renner is busy talking to his cat and trying to put drops in its eyes) to beg for the scales back and right the $3,000 wrong he’s created.
Without the weed to give back, Louie finds himself deep in the hole and deep in trouble. Jeff puts him in a chokehold and tells him “You’re not a kid, you’re a man now. You stole property … that’s larceny!” and that he better figure out his “man-shit, without any of it getting on me.” Renner is convincing as the scary dealer and it’s him that Louie listens to before any of the other “authority” figures in his life. The principal calls Louie into his office and tells him that though they both know Louie was responsible for the theft, he’s going to drop it and he foreshadows when he says, “I feel bad for you, for when this comes back to visit and you someday have to face what you did here.” But it isn’t until Louie is a parent himself, thinking back to his own downward spiral, that he changes his own parenting technique. Instead of lecturing Lilly, he hugs her and says, “I love you and I’m here. That’s all I got.”
Little Louie eventually cleans up his act, seeing a social worker and admitting to Mr. Hoffman that it was indeed him who had committed the crime. Adult Louie’s anger fades and his response towards Lilly makes us wonder if all he’d wanted as a child was for his parents to be there for him?
This anti-drug episode felt a little routine and preachy at times. Louie really cemented the idea of one little joint being the gateway to grand larceny, but when, at the end of the episode, the screen fades to all black and the words on the screen says “Dedicated to Phil Hoffman,” you remember how strong the grip of drugs can be around some people’s necks, that like Jeremy Renner’s earlier chokehold, can be impossible to escape. Louie’s D.A.R.E. message resonates more where it is unexpected—not in its “Don’t Smoke Pot” overtones, but in the more subtle explorations of the hypocrisy of warning your children against something you have done. What did you think? Did you feel the episode was predictable? Let me know in the comments.
Follow Abbe Wright on Twitter at @AbbeWright.