Review: ‘Louie’ – ‘Late Show (Part 3)’

Senior Television Writer
09.21.12 61 Comments


A review of last night’s “Louie” coming up just as soon as I tune in every night for “The Crying Cleaning Lady Show”…


“Daddy’s Girlfriend” aside, this season of “Louie” has been more interesting than dazzling, but the conclusion of this “Late Show” trilogy earned every second the show had spent building up to it. Just an incredibly powerful, funny, heartbreaking, inspiring episode.

I am, frankly, disappointed in myself for not recognizing sooner that “Louie” had modeled this whole story on the first “Rocky” movie. You’ve got your aging, coulda-shoulda-woulda contender who never quite maximized his abilities, a fluky opportunity to turn around that wasted potential and take a shot at the championship, a crotchety old-time trainer with inscrutable methods, our hero struggling to decide whether he wants the title, etc.

“Late Show (Part 3)” added in our hero running through the streets(*), putting on a surprisingly good fight, and celebrating his moral victory in the end by crying, “I did it!” (“Yo, Adrian!” is replaced by “Yo, Letterman!”)

(*) In a “Rocky II” touch, he’s followed by a group of kids. I wonder if that was planned, or if the kids saw a camera crew, joined in, and C.K. realized the parallel was too good to chase them away.

But what made this episode great wasn’t the movie homage, but the way Louis C.K. used the structure to tell a universal story about striving to be more than you are, and how the fear of failure and of success can be equally crippling. Louie wants this job. He wants it, as badly as he’s wanted anything. But if he goes for it and loses, then he assumes he’s doomed to the fate Lars Tardigan told him about in the first part. And if he succeeds, he’s signing up for a new lifestyle that’s going to take him away from his kids.

How great was C.K.’s performance in the scene where Lilly and Jane bring him the good luck card? In talking about the Emmys this week (which could honor “Louie” season 2), I’ve heard some people say that C.K. shouldn’t get too much credit for essentially playing himself. Well, there’s playing yourself and then there’s playing yourself showing that much emotion – that mix of pride in his girls, and himself for making them this great, but also recognition that he’ll lose moments like this if he gets the gig. A gorgeous, devastating moment.

And how perfect was the moment where Jack Dall’s third piece of advice becomes real thanks to Jerry Seinfeld? I had assumed the “If someone asks you to keep a secret, their secret is a lie” to be referring to the initial meeting with Lars Tardigan – and I guess ultimately it was, since Tardigan was using Louie to drop Letterman’s price. But Louie’s realization  that Jerry was also lying(**) and the way it pumped him up to do a great job with the test show(***) was splendid.

(**) Here’s a question: was Jerry also being played by Tardigan? Is there a chance the entire thing was an elaborate game that Jerry was in on? That seems too David Mamet for this show, but we can at least have some fun arguing it.

(***) And, as Louie suspected, there was a “Pelican Brief” character (Julia Roberts’, to be specific) named Darby.

It was such a pleasure to watch David Lynch push and prod and bully Louie over these last two episodes, particularly when it inspired that hilariously awful attempt to make Dall laugh in the office. (Seriously, what was that?) And it says something about C.K.’s place in the industry right now that he could so easily get Susan Sarandon (yet another Oscar-winning guest this season) and Paul Rudd to play themselves for the show-within-the-show.

This has been a more continuity-heavy season than the previous ones, so I’ll be curious to see if the finale – or any episodes next season – acknowledge Louie’s brush with greatness, or if we’re done dealing with career questions for now. But Louie, like Rocky, got in the ring, gave it all he had and showed he was as good as the champ. And while that’s not the job itself, the knowledge that he was good enough to get it is something.

What did everybody else think?

Around The Web