Eastbound and Down Ep 4.02 “Chapter 23” quietly examines the importance of April as Kenny’s Iris

e&d 4.2

Eastbound and Down Season 4, Episode 2 “Chapter 23”

Written by Jody Hill, Danny McBride & Carson Mell

Directed by Jody Hill

Airs Sunday nights at 10pm ET on HBO

 

At its core, Eastbound and Down is nothing but an aggressively vulgar version of The Natural. A talented baseball player, undone by his ego and lack of relationship with his father, finds himself given one more chance to see his dream come true. And if Kenny Powers is our mullet-wearing version of Roy Hobbs, then April is his Iris, the childhood love who always represented the missing piece in his life. Of course, in The Natural, Hobbs only gets one last chance (and fails or succeeds, depending on book or film) – and while Kenny’s struck out on his first two, season four is his chance to wield Excalibur (which I guess for the sake of continuity and humor, is Kenny’s dick) and finally make himself the legend he always wanted to be.

While much of “Chapter 23” is concerned with Kenny’s antics, it sends the audience a very clear message: Kenny’s marriage could be in danger – and without April, Kenny is nothing but a helpless, arrogant fool. Without her, he couldn’t throw the first strike (which was actually a pitch aimed at someone’s eyeball) – and without her there for his big call up to the majors in season three, he couldn’t bring himself to throw the final strike. Whether or not he wants to admit it during his tantrums, he’s nothing without April: and “Chapter 23” makes sure to get this point across in a few on-the-nose, but nonetheless effective scenes of April comforting Kenny after his embarrassing first stint on Sports Sesh.

Watching the two sides of Kenny fight it out on two tapings of Guy Young’s hit show was the interesting dichotomy of Kenny’s behavior (and success): he didn’t really take the gig seriously until Guy, Stevie, and his wife all took him to task for being a pussy who cops out on his own responsibilities. And there are still plenty of signs in “Chapter 23” that Kenny is going to fuck all of this up: but again, the episode made quite clear the difference between a Kenny standing alone, and a Kenny standing with a strong, supportive wife and family.

Outside of the moments where “Chapter 23” focused on Kenny’s marriage, the episode was a bit of a wash. The continuing shitpile that is Stevie’s life is out of comedic strings to pull, resorting to Stevie’s kids miming sucking a dick and calling their father a pussy. Making him Kenny’s enemy seemed like a perfect direction to take (nobody’s crazier than Stevie, who could fuck Kenny’s life up for real, if people would let him finish) – but instead, Kenny immediately reverts back to assistant and drops his beef with Kenny when the plot needs him.

The real question that the episode poses, however, is a simple one: is ‘Kenny Powers’ the brand worth anything? What happens when the man becomes the brand, and the damaged man is left behind the shadows? This episode certainly gives us a lot of evidence that Kenny is getting closer and closer to losing his shit: April basically puts a countdown timer on him when she talks about the battle between Kenny Powers and Kenny the father and husband: is it possible for these two men to co-exist, or is it only a matter of time before Kenny’s left alone, begging to have the “shitty” middle-class life back he abandoned in the season premiere? “Chapter 23” doesn’t give us an answer, only raises the question – and even though it closes on a definitive victory for Kenny Powers, the darkness at the edges of his existence still looms large.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

– Kenny: “I’m talking about product endorsements, restaurant chains, sextapes, a motherfuckin’ – fragrance.”

– when Kenny places a curse on the family as a joke, it felt like an ominous moment.

– Kenny Powers: Rockin’ Whack Style.

– “By the way, I spent eighty thousand dollars on a car. We can talk about that later.”

– Stevie drops the c-word AND the n-word in one half hour, just because the writers have nothing else for him to do.

– what kind of soccer mom friend is Daisy if she’s trying to break up a marriage? sheeeet.

 




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