But then it turns into a discussion of high-mindedness in comedy—of stand-up theory, if you will, with Kenny challenging Louie to “look me in the eye and tell me farts aren’t funny.” Louie can’t. And then he breaks, the misery of the situation and his station bringing on tears and an apology and the most open and honest statement of these episodes: “I love comedy, I always loved it. You gotta give so much. It’s so hard.” It’s about his love for the form, and the interaction with Kenny is a reminder that underneath all the misery of this life, there’s something great worth digging out.
In fact, he’s always excelled at dramatizing how moments of beauty manage to happen in spite of, and sometimes right alongside, the worst kind of crippling ugliness. This juxtaposition was visualized most explicitly in the second season “Subway/Pamela” episode, in which Louie watches as a concert violist plays his heart out on a subway platform as, right next to him, a homeless man washes himself. And that notion is brought to life again in the best single sequence of “The Road, Part 2,” and perhaps of the season. Louie goes out for a morning walk, mostly to escape the loneliness and desperation of the comedy condo, and wanders into a rainy flea market. The melancholy hangs thick in the air; he watches a fiddler play languidly. And then he walks into a tent that promises the opportunity to “go back in time.”
It’s one of those old-timey photo operations, where people dress up in vintage clothes to be photographed in carefully calibrated sepia tones. Two women, a mother and daughter, want to do a pose but need a man to fill a general’s uniform, and they ask Louie for his help. “It’ll be really fuuuuuun,” one promises. Outside the tent, the violist plays on, providing the score for the Ken Burns movie Louie’s now dressing up for. As the music continues, the trio play-acts their favorite Southern melodrama clichés, and they dance together, in pairs, all of them, and the photographer too. It’s a strange and perfect little scene, a reservoir of tenderness in the midst of Louie’s desert of shit.
He keeps the picture, and puts it on his fridge in the final scene. Jane asks who it is, and he makes up the story of his great-great-great-grandfather, the soldier who fired the last shot of the Civil War and was killed by snakes. Louie goes on an on, spinning this surreal tale full of nonsense names, entertaining his daughter extemporaneously, in much the same way as he does this television audience, week after week. It’s a simple image, but a potent one, and appropriate conclusion to this brief, lovely season.