Eastbound and Down Ep. 4.08 “Chapter 29” ends the series in oddly toothless fashion

eastbound and down 4.8

Eastbound and Down Season 4, Episode 8 “Chapter 29”
Written by John Carcieri, Jody Hill & Danny McBride
Directed by Jody Hill
Aired 11/17/2013 on HBO

 

There’s nothing easy about endings – Kenny knows it, the writers of every comedy or drama in the history of television knows it, and as an audience, we know it. Knowing that, it’s not a complete surprise that “Chapter 29” takes a fairly conventional route for its finale – unfortunately, it’s not only a predictable, but utterly painless, as Kenny’s various outbursts during the holidays (and season four as a whole) don’t quite hold the repercussions we may have once thought they would. If anything, “Chapter 29” feels rushed, moving from the middle of the second act to the conclusion in light, nearly forgettable fashion.

As a whole, it’s hard to find fault for how “Chapter 29” concludes: Kenny finally learning to grow up a little is really what the show was about all along, even though it found a lot more joy in detailing the struggle and failure to change: there really isn’t a lot of celebrating to be had in “Chapter 29” when the episode begins to hand Kenny his happy endings, keeping his family together and walking away from the limelight (for the time being, at least) before his ego lost it forever. It all just kind of happens, a series of scenes where Kenny’s broad self-reflections catalyze every single conflict of the final season, be it the destruction (and redemption) of Guy Young, Stevie rediscovering his masculinity, and most important of them all, Kenny and April staying together to work out their problems.

The scene of Kenny and April in therapy over the closing montage should be an important moment: instead, it’s played for laughs as part of a faux-timeline acceleration from the moment Eastbound and Down ends, until the end of his life (which involves a second, African wife and Kenny the Motherfucking Shepard Powers). All April wanted was to sit down and tell Kenny how she felt, and we never get to see that moment: yes, Kenny realizes during Christmas that he’s fucked things up, but there’s never really much of an attempt to allow the impact of that to hit home. April threatens to leave in “Chapter 28”, and by the end of “Chapter 29”, she’s happy with her husband and children in a way we haven’t seen since the premiere.

But what really sticks with me about Eastbound and Down’s finale is how it kind of forgot what it was about: not only does the episode seem to miss the normal Kenny Powers-centric humor (instead relying on a frustratingly overacted Sasha Baren Cohen cameo, and Stevie on drugs for laughs), but it seems to sidestep what it presented to audiences for the whole season: the seven episodes leading up to tonight showed us how much Kenny needs to change to save his family. Is Kenny’s journey in the final ten minutes of last week’s episode enough to set up the redemptive arc of this episode? His decision with Guy is a narrative softball for the writers to use as the crux of Kenny’s transformation: why would the show’s final judgment on its central character feel so passive and meaningless, as opposed to everything else we’ve seen on this show?

Ultimately, “Chapter 29” is an amusing episode that checks off the “happy ending” boxes in rapid succession: Eastbound and Down doesn’t end in tragedy, conflict (outside of a child raping network executive, a thoroughly laughless affair except for the NSFW cold open)… or even baseball, save for the final scene where it’s revealed Kenny’s montage was just part of his movie script (giving it the punch-up Stevie thought it needed), and puts down a baseball, the final shot of the series.

Oddly enough, this is the one moment where Eastbound and Down‘s finale felt like a finale: as the game of baseball clearly symbolizes through its baseball (the stitches make the infinity symbol) and the designation of ‘home plate’, baseball is game about going home, because family is the one thing that lasts forever. And at the end, Kenny is with his family: he has no need for the baseball anymore, his journey from self-aggrandizing asshole to loving, semi-arrogant and vulgar family man. To adopt one of the final season’s symbols, the lone wolf’s been happily domesticated: on the suburban family leash, but for the better: a Kenny without a home is a Kenny that is not only damaging to himself, but to everything he comes in contact with. In that final scene, Eastbound and Down feels like its reached a satisfying conclusion – unfortunately, everything else leading up to it leads to it being more ineffective than poignant, a scene tossed onto the end of a fantastical montage and a collection of disappointing scenes preceding it.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

– what happened to the robot??!!

– No Dustin in the series finale? C’mon guys.

– Stevie is pretty funny in this episode, despite the easy humor: sipping lean, snorting Vicadin and turning full-gangster when Kenny punches Ronnie Thelman in the face: “WORLDSTAR!”

– Kenny calling Toby “the tiniest pothead” during his Johnny Appleseed performance is the kind of endearing family Kenny I wish we’d seen more in the opening and closing episodes of the season.

– at least Lindsey Lohan didn’t have to act, right? Enjoyed Alexander Skarsgard as grown-up Toby, too.

– Gene finally tells his wife off, and turns on a television by clenching his asscheeks. Pointless end to a mostly pointless subplot, but probably the single funniest bit in the finale.

– The black and white TV in the boxing gym is a nice touch, even if the HD black-and-white image on the screen undercuts the joke itself.

– I hope you all enjoyed reading and watching along with me this season. Thanks for reading – I’m fucking out!

 

— Randy Dankievitch

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