Quick Take: Eastbound & Down, "Chapter 21"
"My future, everything, comes down to one final pitch." – Kenny
Review: Eastbound & Down, "Chapter 21"
(S0308) Every so often, a show comes along that changes the landscape of its genre for years to come. Its characters grow into their problems and then out of them, they realize their shortcomings, and then grow up and resolve their problems, at least to a certain degree. Eastbound & Down is not one of those shows; Kenny Powers is not one of those characters.
Which isn't to say that Eastbound hasn't been hilarious, or memorable, or, above all, novel. The only reason that Danny McBride and his team haven't changed the future of their genre is that there are no genres that really capture the essence of Kenny Powers' struggles in self-actualization. Kenny's experiences range from the mundane to the insane, framed by excerpts from his autobiographical self-help book – his family, friends, and foes are impacted for better or worse by his unapologetic antics, as we see following the news of Kenny's apparent death.
For only twenty-one episodes, Kenny goes through a lot to get where he needs to be by the series finale. He goes from running laps and cockfights, to running away from cannonballs and his responsibilities as a son, brother, uncle, and father. Time and again he would turn to his family for help – often selfishly, granted – but you could always count on Kenny to not be counted on.
Kenny is kind of like our generation's Walter from The Big Lebowski: when he's wrong, he gets aggressively obscene over illusions of entitlement; when he isn't wrong, he's just an asshole. He's become more well-meaning since being thrust into the role of a single parent, but even reuniting his long-estranged mother and father doesn't clue him towards his own happy resolution with April and Toby. In fact, it takes a bus running over the star-closer for Texas (Seth Rogen) to get Kenny to the pitcher's mound in the majors, one strike away from glory, for him to realize the most elaborate possible way to get what he wants without temptation to stray from that path.
Following what's been a rather dark season, it wasn't immediately clear whether or not Kenny faked his death. The touching montage of reactions from the people he knew was surprisingly profound, creating what would have been a truly lasting impression, until being bleached out of our minds like Kenny's hair.
I'll give Kenny this: even though he didn't consider just staying in the majors and moving April and Toby to Texas with him, he still made the best decision – though his execution of said decision remains debatable. There's still some tragedy in Kenny leaving his friends and family behind with the belief he died in a drunk-driving explosion – especially Stevie – but somewhere beneath his love for April is at least some awareness that he'll have a more positive influence on everyone else in absentia.
And that's where Eastbound & Down leaves audiences: while it was alive, it was awesome, influential, and rarely appropriate. But now that it's gone, nothing else will quite measure up, never quite induce those moments of amusing bemusement, bemusing amusement, and all the cringe-worthy awkwardness that went along with it.
Farewell, Kenny Powers, you will always be an all-star to us.