The boxing metaphor used in “Late Show Part 2” is one of those things that feels obvious, largely because it works so well. Any field in which you’re being put on display to the public and given direct criticism can make it feel like you’re taking body blow—that’s why Rocky was so popular in the first place, we can all relate to how it feels to be pummeled emotionally—but stand-up comedy more than almost anything else because you’re interacting so directly with a crowd. Every night out there is another round in the arena, and very few people can take it night after night. Still, while there was a lot of the classic training sequence going on in “Late Show Part 2,” that wasn’t the most interesting part of the episode, in fact it felt there almost because Louis C.K. felt it had to be part of it, that this was an essential part of gearing up for an overwhelming event. Luckily for us, though, that’s just a small part of what he had in store for us with Louis’ preparation for the Late Show.
The episode began with another cold open, like much the rest of this season, and it was particularly affecting because it finally made Louis’ wife into more of a human. She’s been in and out of this season, not to mention appearing while portrayed by a different actress; she’s more of a presence that’s just lingered around. The negativity that exists between the two of them has clouded the show, and here we finally get a real confrontation between the pair, an actual conversation rather than a few hurried words. Because he sees her as such a negative person, Louis is speaking to her about his opportunity in order for her to shoot him down. He’s afraid, and wants someone to make the easy choice for him. But she’s a complete pragmatist, and sees how obviously dumb this choice would be. She does make the easy choice for him, but it’s not the answer he wanted to hear.
Of course, she’s not the only person he consults with. First Jay Leno calls him, in what would feel like a heartfelt urging not to take the job were it not Jay Leno… and particularly not an extremely bad-at-acting Jay Leno. Every word he speaks rings with falseness, which is a surprise given how good even Dane Cook looked when under Louis’ camera. Not only does he seem to be clearly given this “heartfelt” advice for self-serving reasons, he isn’t even able to pull it off. Then Louis speaks with his good friend Chris Rock, who tells Louis not to listen to Jay or anyone else, to just do what’s best for him. However, when a prize as big as this is at stake, it’s not something Chris is willing to forego just for the sake of friendship, and by the end of the episode Louis learns that his friend is gunning for the job, too.
This was all good material, bringing some real depth to the episode and making what seems like a simple thing more complex. But really, David Lynch stole the show, and he is what everyone will remember from this episode. While not deaf here as he was in Twin Peaks, little about Lynch’s performance has been altered. He’s still a strange, strange man, who speaks in a loud monotone, keeps a gun next to his stopwatch used for timing comedians and seems straight from, well, a David Lynch movie. . He’s there to train Louis for taking over a talk show using jokes and methodology of the ‘70s, despite his doubts about Louis’ suitability.
While the boxing metaphor is effective but obvious, bringing David Lynch into the show like this is a completely unexpected stroke of genius. He manages to perfectly encapsulate the strangeness of show business, and alongside Gary Marshall last episode also has the aspect of showing how old and out-of-touch the men in charge really are. Like Marshall’s, his office is all old wood and a sort of classic baroque design that feels pulled out of a British period drama. His presence is funny and off-putting and he keeps both Louis and the audience from ever getting their grounding.
“Late Show Part 2” has the difficult task of being the middle episode of a storyline, without really a beginning or ending, but this works well given Louie’s fragmentary nature. It’s one of those episodes of the show where everything works, and while by no means filled with laughs, is more importantly stuffed with well-executed ideas.