Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Eastbound & Down: "Chapter 29"

Illustration for article titled Eastbound & Down: "Chapter 29"

As even Kenny Powers would have to admit, endings aren't easy. Having finally relented and allowed Stevie to read the screenplay of his life story, Kenny gets the bad news that, although his stage directions are good and it's always clear who is speaking, "the ending could have been so much stronger." It's a meta-commentary, perhaps, on the way Eastbound & Down seemed to close out with its third season, only to rise again for the fourth one that concluded tonight. But it's also a bit of foreshadowing, because, although this series finale has its moments, it's also something of a letdown. It's all the more disappointing because the final season had been so strong until now.

As it turns out, Kenny didn't blow up his television career with his anti-Christmas speech in last week's episode. In fact, the head of the network (special guest star Sacha Baron Cohen) loves what Kenny did so much, he decides to give him his own daytime talk show, in the tradition of Ellen. Kenny thinks that means he's going to be bringing upbeat inspiration to the masses, but what Cohen really wants is for Kenny to be his worst possible self. The show will be an exercise in humiliation, and the first lamb led to the slaughter will be Guy Young, now living in Howard Hughes-like seclusion, re-enacting old Sports Sesh episodes and saving his urine in Gatorade bottles.

It's a familiar set-up for Eastbound, as once again Kenny is given a foil who is undeniably a far worse person than him, all the better to get us back in KP's corner. Cohen's character is introduced on an airplane, demonstrating for a friend's son how to win over a flight attendant by revealing his enormous erection and even larger bank balance. He's a cartoonishly evil figure, and not one of Cohen's more memorable rogues. Moreover, introducing a new villain in the final episode doesn't really work; we end up spending too much time with him instead of the characters we're supposed to be sending off.

Again Kenny is given a choice between being rewarded for behaving badly or trying to be the better man. This time, he opts for the latter, refusing to humiliate Guy on The Powers Hour and explaining to his disappointed studio audience that fame and fortune aren't everything. He delivers the signed divorce papers to April, who is moving with the kids to Santa Fe, and tells her he was never unhappy with his family, but rather with himself. She relents and takes him back again. None of this is terribly surprising, and that's the problem: It just feels like way too much of a conventional finale for Eastbound.

Of course, that's not quite the end yet. The highlight of the episode is a concluding montage that takes us into the future of the Powers clan. The kids grow up and graduate high school; April is tragically murdered in a back alley mugging; Kenny becomes a homeless junkie, then cleans up and moves to Africa, where he rides a futuristic hovercraft and meets his second wife; an aged, long-bearded Kenny finally drops dead and is laid to rest on a funeral pyre. All of this would have certainly ensured that "Chapter 29" was indeed the end of the Kenny Powers saga, but alas, none of it really happened. It was simply Kenny taking Stevie's advice and punching up the end of his screenplay.

It's kind of a hokey conclusion to what was probably the weakest episode of this final run. It's not a disastrous ending by any means, but aside from the future montage, it's not especially funny, and the sentiment feels a little perfunctory. It would have been great to get one last sustained blast of craziness, but the season has been so good overall, I don't want to complain too much. After all, there's probably at least a 10 percent chance for a "Chapter 30" somewhere down the road.


Stray observations:

  • Tim Heidecker had his most memorable moment of the season tonight, activating the TV remote with his buttocks.
  • I'd like to know a little more about that school play, which seemed to feature some reindeer and the Easter Bunny in addition to Johnny Appleseed.
  • Another special guest star: Alexander Skarsgard as the adult son of Kenny Powers.