The Season 5 Premiere of 'Louie' Doesn't Back Down From Complicated Portrayals Of The Complicated Women in Louis CK's Life

It's tempting to casually toss off the Season 5 premiere of Louie, as if the show arrives with an effortless return to the day-to-day life of the unlucky, chronically hated television version of stand up comedian Louis CK, but just because it's not a deep, winding exploration of mortality yet doesn't mean the show has lost its edge or its ambitions. But after a fourth season that reached greater and greater creative heights, even while drawing both concern from female viewers and adulation from them about his portrayals of women, Louie (and Louis) haven't backed down at all, defiantly returning with a whole new patchwork of complicated, not always likable female characters, and that fearlessness may not always be 100 percent successful (yet another basic human interaction is immediately rewarded with sex, a trope the show has overused at this point), but it's making cable television a more exciting place.

The show welcomes us back with a slightly extended standup riff, which by the end of last season felt a little extraneous. At the very least, the show became more interested in long-form storytelling and melancholy, intimate asides about how relationships form, whereas this seems to be designed to let us know: this here season is about the laughs. It's still observational, but back to the absurdist style of the first few seasons.

If Broad City and Girls both capture New York life in the summer perfectly, with how stupidly hot it is and how it's the perfect time to make stupid decisions, Louie captures the leaden frustrations and regrets of wintertime. It's just replaced some of its myopia with jokes, as Louie realizes in the first little scene, where his mundane observations, capable of capturing the attention of the comedy club, put his therapist to sleep, using the same tone is boring. So he's challenging himself by writing a new type of season... by writing the old type of season.

The actual plot of the episode absolutely radiated palpable discomfort and anxiety as Louie attempted to attend a school potluck dinner. How do you forget that chicken, Louie?! That would never happen to the real fried chicken scions of the world. And even though the episode obviously taped months ago, the show manages to hit on just the right hot-button things to demonstrate how frustrating the public school crew are. Marina, played by stand up Judy Gold, isn't just dismissive of fried chicken (maybe the only thing worth saving in this horrible, horrible world), she's also an anti-vaxxer who's decided that her surrogate's body is somehow an extension of her own and talks over everyone she interacts with, even her girlfriend/wife.

I love Louie when it presents these fantastic women with non-boring, weird habits in their private lives, which Louie bumbles through. The surrogate, And I respect the inclination to give Louie the character, who's a total mess, another disaster of a sexual encounter, but I don't think that always needs to be used as a punchline to Louie's interactions with women, even if the intentions are to show that pregnant women are neither frumpy gross asexual nothings nor "fertility goddesses" (note that Julianne's water breaking isn't some elegant thing). These characters are too interesting for that.

Besides, we all know that Pamela is the closest thing he'll get to a soulmate — can't wait for her character to return, hopefully putting that terribly unclear scene from Season 4 out of our minds.

Image: KC Bailey/FX; Giphy (3)