In my review for the first part of this season finale about Louie on a rather depressing tour, I doubted that the conclusion of this two-parter was going to go to any of the really dark places previous Louie finales had. I didn’t foresee any sudden deaths (a la Parker Posey’s at season three’s end) and expected more of the sad, slice-of-life vibe part one had established. Well, I was both wrong and right. “The Road: Part 2” is primarily just about Louie’s depressing, boring experience in Oklahoma City, but he has time to squeeze an abrupt death in there too!
Up until that death, this part feels a little more grounded than the first as it’s based almost exclusively in one setting and has a clearer progression of events. Louie is in Oklahoma City for a week sharing a condo with his opener, a comedian named Kenny (Jim Florentine) whose act basically covers a spectrum from dick jokes to fart jokes. The episode is divided mostly between scenes at the club where Louie and Kenny are performing and at the condo they share.
The theme introduced in the first part of “The Road” of everything being an awkward pain in the ass for Louie continues here. Obviously, Kenny is a very different kind of comedian and person from Louie, who clashes with him instantly, so that they have to have a shared space is a little slice of hell for C.K. Furthermore, the club owner immediately takes a dislike to Louie (he wants him to dress in a suit and Louie refuses), the owner’s attractive (and racist!) daughter keeps staring at Louie like there’s something wrong with him, and Kenny’s filthy material clearly plays better with the local crowd than Louie’s depressing stuff about getting old does.
It’s a great idea to show Louie bombing a bit. In real life, the guy is the biggest comedian going, but it’s believable that there are (or at least, not long ago, were) crowds for whom his material just doesn’t scan. C.K. is generally accepted as amazingly clever and funny, but a small change in his delivery (he sounds more depressed and uncertain here) and in the crowd’s reaction makes him come off like a straight-up downer. Even though we know that, in reality, these days C.K. probably rarely plays for audiences that aren’t into his brand of humor, the club scenes still feel genuinely awkward and offer a great depiction of how stand-up actually is: small, unknowable factors determine from one night to the next whether a comedian kills or bombs.
The episode dips briefly away from the established plot into a quaint and mildly surreal non-sequitur about Louie stumbling upon a flea market and taking a fake old-timey photo with two ladies, but then the end of “The Road” veers off into a massively unexpected and bizarre occurrence. First, after Kenny does an insulting impression of Louie in his act, he and Louie have a charming heart-to-heart in which Kenny tries to get Louie to loosen up and stop overthinking everything, comedy included. “It’s not an art, stupid, it’s a bar trick,” he says, and, as Louie and Kenny bond over a shared love for fart jokes (even a sad sack like Louie can’t pooh-pooh a fart joke), the episode does feel like it’s making a good case for why Kenny isn’t so bad and that maybe Louie should lighten the fuck up once in a while.
Then Kenny dies.
Drunk and attempting to climb onto the edge of the bathtub to take a shit into the toilet tank, Kenny falls and cracks his head open on the bathroom floor. It’s a truly unpredictable moment that genuinely shocked me, though I can’t say I understand its function in the episode, if it has one at all.
“The Road” in full serves as an enjoyable ending that’s fairly dissimilar to everything in season five that’s come before it. To that end, it offers a nice change of pace, but it also isn’t so solidly plotted in the way most of the season has been. It’s also a little disappointing that we checked in with Pamela two episodes back, but didn’t get to revisit what’s going on with her and Louie at all at season’s end. It would’ve been nice just to get a little update there, whether it was conclusive or not.
Still, though we’ve seen Louie on tour before in this series, “The Road” is a unique enough glimpse into the sad and awkward mundanity in the life of a comedian (or the life of this comedian, at any rate). Not a spectacularly strong finale, but far from a terrible one and a decent capper to an overall fun, clever, and tight little season.