Louie Review: Late Show Part 2
“I’d hate to see what the future might hold for you if you can’t make this happen for yourself” -Janet to Louie in Season 3, Episode 11, “Late Show Part 2”
When we last saw Louie a few weeks ago, he was caught dumbfounded, mulling over a potential offer to take over David Letterman’s job as the host of The Late Show. This week’s meandering but compelling episode, “Late Show Part 2” examines Louie’s reaction to the offer, as well as its potential consequences. On any other show, the protagonist being offered something as monumental and potentially life changing as the chance to audition for The Late Show would be treated as the best thing to ever happen to the character. Here though, the concern in Louie’s head is not whether he’ll get the job, but whether he should even try. The episode opens with a painfully bleak conversation between Louie and his ex-wife. He breaks the confidentiality agreement he signed to inform her of the opportunity and asks her for her opinion. It doesn’t take long for her to see through Louie’s ruse. He wants her to tell him no, that he couldn’t do this to their children and that it’s a horrible idea. Instead she takes the opposite approach, immediately calling him out and demanding that he give it a go.
“I’d hate to see what the future might be if you can’t make this happen.” Louie’s ex-wife tells him. When he protests that taking the job would be mean he’d see less of the kids, she tells him, in the most subtly heartbreaking moment of the episode, that they don’t need a father, they need a role model. To some extent she’s right: what has Louie’s career been leading up to if not this moment? Likewise, it’s understandable for her to want her girls to see their father hold a steady, definable, day-to-day job. Still though, Louie defines himself primarily by the relationship he holds with his two daughters, and it’s heartbreaking to picture him having to give them up for anything, even a gig as prestigious as hosting The Late Show. I like that the conversation is played ambiguously. We don’t know for sure which one of them is objectively right during the course of the conversation, a directorial feat that is especially impressive when you consider how easy it would have been to just turn Louie’s ex-wife into a shrill, nagging stereotype.
Later that day, Louie and his prepubescent agent visit the office of Jack Dahl. Dahl, (played excitingly by David Lynch, but more on that later) has been assigned to teach Louie how to host a talk show, and begins by having Louie try his hand at reading cue cards. After fumbling through his delivery of a corny Nixon joke, Dahl instructs Louie to work on timing and come back the following day. The next day, Louie’s speed has improved slightly, but he’s still clearly in way over his head, finding the awkwardness of pretending to introduce himself to an imaginary crowd almost too much to bear. Briefly and to the obvious terror of his agent, Louie attempts to self-destruct, arbitrarily refusing to wear a suit for fear that it might ruin the image that he has so carefully cultivated for himself over the years. For the most part, Dahl ignores Louie’s rejections and sends him instead to a gym where he is to begin an effort to improve his appearance. Much to Louie’s chagrin, he’s immediately put into the ring with an experienced boxer and, not so unexpectedly, is knocked out almost immediately. He doesn’t even have the job yet, and already he’s being forced into uncharted territory.
I’ll admit it, the “twist” at the end of the episode caught me by surprise. Probably it shouldn’t have. There’s a lot of talk in this episode about how Louie, now ostensibly a player in the late night war, can’t really trust anyone. I guess I had sort of assumed that Chris Rock calling his agent and demanding to know why he didn’t know Letterman was retiring was just going to be a one-off joke, but, as we learn in the episode’s closing moments, it seems that Rock has betrayed Louie and made himself a contender for the job. I’m excited to see how this all will play out in next week’s final installment to this three-part mini-arc. As always, there’s an exciting air of unpredictability to the show, and it will be interesting to see both how Louie reacts to his best friend stabbing him in the back, and to find out whether or not he’ll get the job that’s been causing him so much grief. No matter how it plays out though, “Late Show Part 2” offered an exciting middle chapter to what is turning out to be an exciting trilogy.
-As a big fan of Twin Peaks and a number of his movies, I probably got too excited when David Lynch showed up. I thought that his presence really elevated the episode as well. The scene where Louie watches him open an imaginary Late Show through the monitor had a wonderfully surrealist, Twin Peaks like vibe to it.
-I loved the runner of the jokes on the cue cards being woefully outdated.
-I’ve never really been a fan of Jay Leno, but I really enjoyed his performance tonight. When he calls Louie up, it’s hard to tell what his real motivation is. Is he trying to provide encouragement to a friend or trying to sabotage him? The scene is nicely played by Leno, and I appreciated the bit of humanizing given to him when he points out that he too was once a young and hip comedian, but that such a persona is hard to maintain when you have to write fifteen minutes of jokes a night.
-I always like when Chris Rock shows up. His friendship with Louie has been well established by this point, so the reveal that he too is now a contender to take over for Letterman is immediately alarming.
-I also really enjoyed the little scene of Lily excitedly getting an old woman in trouble for stealing from a grocery store. “I did good, didn’t I?” She asks her father as a security guard apprehends the old woman.
-What do you all think? Seinfeld’s definitely showing up next week, right? Will Louie fight for the position or roll over and give up?
By Chris Vanjonack