Eastbound and Down Season 4, Episode 6 “Chapter 27”
Written by Jody Hill, Danny McBride & Carson Mell
Directed by David Gordon Green
Airs Sunday nights at 10pm ET on HBO
Few shows have mastered the contradiction of feeling empathy for terrible individuals: The Sopranos, Breaking Bad – these shows reveled in their ability to make us relate to monsters in human skin. It takes a careful balance of the admirable and the grotesque, a balance Eastbound and Down made its bread and butter over the first three seasons. In what’s turning out to be a final season that stands head and shoulders above the rest, “Chapter 27” gives us the absolute worst of Kenny Powers – and still manages to make us feel for him as he continues losing the two “wars” he’s spent most of the season fighting.
There are a few reasons “Chapter 27” can pull off the last two scenes of the episode: first of all, Danny McBride, Katy Mixon, and Ken Marino are all terrific at the “fix my wedding party” and KP’s final victory over Guy Young. They’re the two most powerful moments the show’s ever had, doubly so when they’re backed up against each other as they are in the episode; one represents Kenny destroying everything he’s worked towards since the pilot, and the second puts him up against the twisted mirror version of himself (right down to the “you’re fucking out” catchphrase, which Guy co-opts in his take down of Kenny).
The first of these is obviously much more powerful, as a season of April taking Kenny’s shit boils over when he throws some hare-brained, half-assed ‘party’ for them to re-affirm their love to each other. What begins as a well-intentioned (if completely misguided) party for his wife once again turns into Kenny Powers Emotion Hour (do not put a microphone in that man’s hand, America!), as he finally expresses the frustrations boiling in him since the season premiere. He was hurt that April would allow him to become such an accessory to his own life, that he felt worthless: but as always, the irony that is Kenny Powers is losing everything that means anything to him for a worthless life of fame and fortune. He realizes it the moment he walks out the front door, his mind flashing to images of a happy wife and kids (or Toby, scared shit less of the wolf in his driveway) – but with the boot squarely planted in the center of his ass, the only place he has left to flex his masculinity is at work, so he turns his attention to Guy.
Guy’s been a fantastic Big Bad for season four; he’s the Kenny Powers that doesn’t get in his own way, the semi-racist asshole who is attracted to the bright lights, but never gets blinded by them. They both have hot wives and water jetpacks, but Guy holds all the cards Kenny never did. For one, the public likes him; but more importantly, he lived the life Kenny always envisioned for himself, getting the hot girl and never falling on bad times (or any that we’ve seen, at least). He’s the thinner, better-looking, more successful and evil Kenny: so it makes sense he would try and “cut in” on his fame and “break a piece off” for himself. Like Guy, Kenny’s addicted to staring at the bright lights that blind him from the things that matter in his life: and it makes his victory over Guy that much more poignant – and at the same time, tragic, as we know a similar fate probably awaits Kenny.
At this point, Kenny has no friends (except a disillusioned Stevie, left out in the cold after not being invited to the party) at work, no friends at home, and no family to come home to at night. Shit, he doesn’t even have his own house, being thrown out and all. He’s a victor once again: but has any victory rang so hollow? Kenny’s co-hosts might have a few concerns about all the fucking over Kenny’s been doing to get in the spot light, and the people who supported him the entire time (Stevie and April) are being left in the dust without a second thought. The most devastating part of “Chapter 27” is that even when Kenny wins, we feel like he’s losing – so fucking over Guy one last time only brings him closer to the edge of the cliff he’s dangled arrogantly off of for years. But in the end, he’s just Dakota, an angry dog whose inability to let anybody in has left him all alone once again (the “lone wolf” image Kenny so sorely craved, is now the identity he’s realizing may kill him).
“Chapter 27” might just be the best half-hour the show’s ever-delivered: or maybe it’s just an really good episode elevated by the expectations of a season many thought was completely unnecessary and tacked-on. Either way, it firmly establishes itself in the great anti-hero fiction of this generation of television obsessed with white guys and their dis-satisfactions with normal, middle-aged suburban life. For all its outlandish gags (like Maria’s tiny fake nipples, or the general presence of Stevie) and obscenity-laced conversations, Eastbound and Down‘s final season is a deeper character study than the three seasons preceding it, elevating itself to a whole new level as it heads into it’s final hour of episodes.
– the awesome movie references continue with Ken Marino doing his best Terminator impression in the gym parking lot (after fucking up a recently-deceased Phil from Sons of Anarchy).
– mics factored very prominently in the three big scenes in this episode.
– Has a parent ever asked a child “You know what libido is?”
– Kenny lets Dakota loose in the neighborhood, either the best or worst alternative to shooting her in the head (what I actually thought he was doing as he raised that gun).
– Guy: “KP… I was never your friend. You’re a fucking loser.”
– this week’s robot sighting: he’s at the party, rocking an April mask!
– “You’re fired, motherfucker!”
– Marilyn Manson finally gets his cameo, appearing as the tame roller rink employee.
– Patsy Cline over the closing credits this week… I’d put Eastbound and Down in a class alone next to The Sopranos when it comes to closing credit sequences. They treat them as a true film does – not as a place for bloopers or gimmicky pop songs. As Kenny might say: “This is real shit, dawg, a place for fucking feelings and reflections and shit like that.”
– to his credit, he does fix the marriage he ruined with his lies about the post-water park party. Might be a little too late, but it certainly doesn’t hurt for Kenny to be honest to himself about his actions for once.
– Stevie and Maria “chin shopping”? Fucking adorable.