At the end of Eastbound & Down’s first season I was torn between wanting the show to end on a perfect note of darkness and ambiguity and nursing a greedy hunger for more Kenny Powers. Last night’s season finale illustrated indelibly that the answer to “Should a second season have happened?” was, “Oh fuck yeah.”
The finale found Kenny once again hot on the comeback trail. The coked-up baseball hot shot played by Adam Scott who toyed mercilessly with Kenny’s fragile emotions last year by promising him a shot at the big time that never quite happened returns to offer Kenny another shot of perhaps delusional hope, bearing with him a gift basket containing an iPad as a peace offering.
Kenny may or may not have a second shot at glory, as he's earned a chance to pitch in the minor leagues if he can pitch as well in the States as he has in Mexico. The mere prospect of returning to the minors is enough to wound Kenny’s prickly pride but time, experience, and soul-crushing failure and rejection have humbled him.
Or have they? Has Kenny grown spiritually over the course of the season? Or is his spiritual growth mere spin from a guy running out of excuses and time? Has a literal season in exile, losing and finding himself in a foreign land, engendered serious emotional growth? Kenny certainly seems to think it has. Shit, he even has a blinding new white suit to illustrate, visually as well as thematically, that he has been reborn, that he has cast off the sins and debauchery of his old self and his old ways to become the man April always wanted him to be.
Kenny is hungry for redemption and salvation. In that respect, Eastbound & Down represents sort of a coming-of-middle-age story about a man in his late thirties and his desperate, stumbling attempts to become an adult. He makes some progress in that direction by “allowing” Stevie to marry his Mexican lover and helping him smuggle her back into the States underneath a blanket.
"Chapter 13" (how apt that the season would end on the unluckiest number in the world) was full of wonderful little scenes and moments, whether it was the subtle shifts in the power dynamic when the border guard realizes, after much prodding on Kenny’s part, that he is the presence of a former superstar baseball player or the incredibly nonchalant way that Kenny acknowledges that his father didn’t seem at all interested in hearing how Kenny’s brother was doing.
Of course, this is the season finale of Eastbound and Fucking Down so there were some huge, flashy set-pieces as well, most spectacularly the scene where Kenny, resplendent in his Tom Wolfe-As-Pimp finery, crashes his old elementary school, jumps on top of a very crowded, very packed lunch table and delivers a foul-mouthed rant/manifesto/lecture about his spiritual evolution, Mexico adventure and imminent reunion with April’s colossal rack.
Twenty thousand roads Kenny went down, down, down but they all led right back home to April. Alas, April has a bit of a surprise in store for Kenny: She’s pregnant. Kenny at first thinks she’s pregnant with the baby of boss Jerry Minor (of Mr. Show, Saturday Night Live and Cyber-Thug semi-fame), only to learn that the baby is his.
Nothing forces a man to grow up quite like siring a child, and for once in his glorious, tragic, pathetic life Kenny is literally at a loss for words. April wants nothing to do with him. Why would she? He broke her heart. He abandoned her. Why on earth wouldn’t he abandon her again?
Eastbound & Down has become a show about the humbling of Kenny Powers. Nothing is more humbling than watching the family that he’s finally willing to accept and perhaps even embrace slip away from him forever. In the defining moment, when April rejects him finally, permanently, unmistakably, Kenny has an awful moment of clarity in which he realizes that all of his effort, on the field and off, has been for naught. He can’t go home again, literally or figuratively.
Will this be the last we see of Kenny P? God, I hope not. This season has been a hilarious, live-wire and ultimately serious and sad look at a man in search of redemption and the crazy world he inhabits. Kenny isn’t just a cult hero; he’s a goddamned legend. I suspect and hope that his hero’s journey is far from over.