Eastbound and Down Season 4, Episode 3 “Chapter 24”
Written by John Carcieri, Jody Hill & Danny McBride
Directed by David Gordon Green
Airs Sunday nights at 10pm ET on HBO
We’ve seen many different versions of Kenny Powers on Eastbound and Down: resigned, hopeful, arrogant, happy, poor… we’ve spent a lot of time with the man known as Kenny Powers. “Chapter 24” gives us a small glimpse into what Kenny Powers the myth was like, showing just how quickly Kenny’s worst traits can rot away at the good in his life. As it often does, its climatic moments suggest that Kenny isn’t quite the dick he sounds like all the time – but is there a way for him to even control that? The quiet, melancholy ending suggests that Kenny Powers the myth is like the cocaine Kenny snorts in a hotel room in earlier moments of the episode: there’s the initial thrill, a lot of fun times, and then a long, painful journey down to the bottom. At the end of the day, Kenny Powers is addicted to himself – and like all addictions, threatens to rot away the very fabric of Kenny’s life.
There’s an important moment early on that sets the stage for the episodes to follow (at least, we can hope): Kenny goes to visit his brother Dustin and the family, busting open the door and pretending to be a home invader for a few laughs. It’s assumed his brother hasn’t seen Kenny since he punched him in the face at Kenny’s funeral – and he still wants nothing to do with him, warning him that he’s just going to “burn it all down” once again, like he always does. If there’s one wise man in this world, it remains his brother Dustin: the one character who was willing to stop coddling him and make him face reality (both in season one, and here). Water park tickets won’t buy a family’s love, especially not a brother’s: and as I said back in the season premiere review, a Kenny Powers without a family is a Kenny Powers lost forever.
Surprisingly, Dustin’s scene is the most straightforward scene in the whole episode: scattered underneath the many jokes and montages of the “family” day at the water park is the erosion of Kenny’s family, right before his eyes. Just look at April: she gets hammered and talks to an unsatisfied Kenny (“I’m married… my balls get no attention anymore”) about how “you were right, we needed this”… really? You needed another example of why Kenny Powers, despite his small steps towards maturation, still can’t seem to get his shit together in life?
There is one small moment where Kenny shows how much he’s “grown”, turning down an offer for some pleasant oral sex from a young woman (Alexandra Siegal from Switched at Birth) – but he returns to her apartment later, after talking to God about dick sucking while his son lay awake in the bed next to them. Quickly, Eastbound and Down shifts from its extroverted, awkwardly hilarious self (the ‘Wake Forest’ password bit, and the woman and Kenny continually interrupting each other outside the pool) back into the more contemplative, heavier moments seen in most David Gordon Green-directed episodes: Kenny returns to his hotel room and lays in bed until April wakes him up in the morning to thank him for the trip. But Kenny doesn’t look happy about the trip: in fact, he looks downright unsatisfied as Toby looks on. Why is he so unhappy?
Smartly, “Chapter 24” doesn’t try to answer this: but it certainly appears to be more than Kenny having a middle-class life crisis. Extravagant gifts, awesome trips, irrational confidence about the effect he’ll have on Sports Sesh ratings… Kenny may think he’s famous again – but in reality, it’s just a facade, a fantasy where he can escape and be the man he once was, where responsibility was nigh and he didn’t have to consider turning down a blowjob from a hot girl. What Kenny fails to realize is that life doesn’t end when that phase of life ends: it’s not all shitty stories about wi-fi passwords and being unsatisfied. There’s happiness to be found in normalcy, but Kenny still clings to this idea that he’s a pinch more special than everyone else. It’s why he gets so mad when his friend tells him that his water park tickets weren’t even free: he’s ashamed to admit that he’s not as famous as he once was, and never will be (“I don’t appreciate you tryin’ to poke holes in my shit”).
Going back to my thoughts from the season premiere again, “Chapter 24” reaffirms that Kenny still refuses to let go, even when he thinks he has: had he really let go of the past, he wouldn’t be knocking on that girl’s door. He just can’t let Kenny Powers the myth die: it’s the aforementioned “curse” that will perpetually hang over the Powers family, until it’s no longer a family, and Kenny’s alone with nothing but his leather boots and an audiobook (and a limp-dicked friend, of course). Things may be full of sunshine in “Chapter 24”: but it’s a fleeting happiness, a thinly-veiled facade of consumerism that allows Kenny to insulate himself even deeper from his deepest emotional problems: a mirage it appears he’ll continue until he’s insulated from everything but his own haunting thoughts and memories.
– Stevie: “did you pussy get wet there? I know if I had a pussy, it’d be wet as shit, I’d be like *squirt, pew-pew*!” Then he gets so excited he punches a car window out… angry/excited Stevie is the best. (and the “see ya later, pumpkin” close is comedic gold).
– Kenny’s gifts for the family: a fair trade candle (“now we can afford to buy products that are made the right way”), a Louie V backpack (“look at that, shorty’s got back”) and a wolf named Dakota for Toby (“it’s very important that Toby has a strong male model so he doesn’t turn out weird”).
– Guy: “so Kenny Powers is a writer, too?” Kenny: “A screenplay-ist.”
– Stevie can understand his wife being compared to potatoes, but mashed? He doesn’t see it.
– Stevie: “my dick is fucked right now… do you have any dick tricks for me?”