Going into this final season of Eastbound and Down, I’ll admit, I was excited. Okay, that’s not much of an admission, but it was a reserved excitement. I have always been a fan of the show. I started watching because Danny McBride is funny and I like baseball, but I really wasn’t sure what kind of show it could be or would be and I was hesitant to jump on board and really love it.
For 3 seasons it had as many laughs per minute than any show, but it was entirely one dimensional. Kenny Powers is an asshole. He treats his friends and family like human disposables and only lives for himself. At times, it is almost frustrating to watch him continue to throw his life away. But we all laugh. A lot. So it is okay that family values and friendship are kind of shoed under the rug.
Which brings us to the final season. Its glorious and brilliant last season. For all of its crude excess, profane language, and superficial ideals, Eastbound finally showed its heart in the final season. Writer/director of Eastbound and Down Jody Hill along with fellow writer and star Danny McBride were really able to peel back the layers that were established over the first few seasons and brought hilarious and, at times, depressing and emotional insights into Kenny Powers.
By establishing seasons worth of character traits for Kenny to work off of and relationships to toy with, Hill and McBride were able to delve into deeper emotional elements that were not present before. Powers mended relationships with his brother, Dustin, (played by the sorely underrated John Hawkes) and with April, his crush/girlfriend/wife. And he also finally accepted his friendship with Stevie, who he time and time again abused and used for his own gain and, for the most part, took for granted.
Eastbound and Down in its essence is a story about a man’s journey to become, well, a man. In this last season, Kenny is finally able to put all of the macho “I’m a man” bullshit that hindered him for years behind him and became an actual man. One who shouldered responsibility for his actions, cared for his loved ones, and is respected for who he is. Being rich and famous was his initial goal, but by the end of the story he realized that goal was all wrong.
It was both enlightening and refreshing to watch the finale of Eastbound. It delivered on so many levels. Superficially, it still pulled its usual gags, like exposing Sacha Baron Cohen’s erect penis from under a blanket that was pulled off by a stewardess on an airplane next to a thirteen year old boy, but it also exposed the man Kenny Powers was the entire time. One who loves his family and friends, but who treated them like nonessentials because he really didn’t know any better.
The overriding theme of the show is power. Like Walter White, he wants it all, but Kenny ultimately falls short. However, he finally accepts his situation and tells the truth for once. And the baseball, like the meth cooking in Breaking Bad, only serves as a metaphor for human progression. Unlike Walt though, Kenny is able to realize his priorities and recoup what he may have lost. He hesitantly, and epically, quits baseball for a normal life, but the normalcy proves restless for Kenny and his hunger for fame gets to him again. So, in one last attempt to capture fame and glory, Kenny secures a spot on a talk show, but he lets that go too in order to stay with his wife and kids. Kenny loves baseball and he thought that through baseball, and then the talk show, that he could have it all and become the all-and-powerful Kenny Powers that he dreamed of being. Instead, he let it all go to become the man he should be.
To say Eastbound and Down is just a low-brow, crude, profane, and over-the-top comedy would be doing the creators of the show an injustice. Yes, it has its place in pop culture for being excessive in nature, but that excessiveness only serves as a vehicle for the feelings of a troubled person. What does a kid want when he’s unhappy? A lot of shiny things and none of the responsibility that comes with them, which I feel like is a pretty accurate description of Kenny Powers at times. However, Kenny is able to grow out of those insecurities into an adult; one who finally takes on the responsiblities of adulthood. The message here is: fame is nice, but family is better. Who would have thought, a show so profane, ridiculous, and insane has its final message be so, well, boring and commonplace, but it is exactly the type of ending the show, and character, deserved.
Kudos to Hill and McBride on an amazing journey and telling an unforgettable and hilarious story. Kenny Powers will be missed, but he certainly won’t be forgotten, bitches.