Now, that I see some of us are done thinking about the Breaking Bad finale (this is a lie), maybe we can talk about another great series that returned to TV the same night, and no I’m not talking about Homeland.
HBO’s Eastbound and Down, the hilarious chronicle on Danny McBride’s indelible character Kenny Powers, returned for a fourth season this past Sunday, about a year and a half after most of its viewers thought the show had ended. With the series third season ending (spoiler) with Kenny leaving behind his goal to return to the majors, faking his death, and moving back to his true love April (Katy Mixon), it seemed like the ideal way to end the series, and it’s three creators (Jody Hill, Ben Best and Danny McBride) had said that was indeed the original plan. Thing is, seeing that HBO had recently cancelled the majority of their half-hour long comedies, it was feasible that they would want to keep onto one that had proven both critically acclaimed and popular with viewers. So here comes the show’s (likely) real final season, which Danny McBride describes as what happens “after the hero rides out into the sunset.”
Picking up a few years after the third season, the premiere finds Kenny Powers married to April, and living with her and their two children in suburbia. Working as an assistant manager at a car rental company, we see the character is not happy in this “normal” lifestyle at all, with him shunning people that recognize his abandoned celebrity status, and finding himself struggling financially. We see Kenny have violent outbursts, and feel shitty about leaving the majors behind. Kenny’s past catches up with him, however, when he delivers a rental car to his old sports colleague Guy Young (Ken Marino), who’s still living the wild life. Needless to say, this is all the push Kenny needed to return to being an…asshole again.
There was good news and bad news about Kenny Powers return, and it’s probably best to just get the bad news out of the way first. The episode did have quite a few moments that made it feel like this was an afterthought on the writer’s part. They really glossed over the fact that Kenny faked his death, with only a brief introductory sequence showing us that he crashed his own funeral and then had to do some jail time for it. I think if the writers could of taking there time (or maybe even asked for more episodes this season) they could have given us some really good material on why Kenny decided to come out and disprove his death. It’s really evident to me that Kenny’s fake death was supposed to be a plot device to end the series with, and if they were unsure about whether season 3 would be the finale, than they probably shouldn’t have used it.
That said, what was great about the previous seasons of Eastbound and Down is still great here. One of the most noble and entertaining facets of Eastbound and Down is that it’s one of the few shows that really does reinvent itself each season. Each year has seen Kenny in a different location and in a different predicament, and for a show that has short episode-counts-per-season for an American TV series, it’s always managed to get in great amounts of character development and plot progression. Keeping that in mind, it isn’t that surprising to see that this series is going to have a different format yet again, but the series also isn’t forgetting the reason why Kenny Powers is such a compulsively watchable character. In the second half of the episode when we see Kenny revert back to the lovable douchebag that he was for the first three years, it’s a sight to behold. He’s profane and loose as ever, and I have a feeling that Hill, Best and McBride have a format for this season that will see the settled down Kenny Powers clash with the rebellious nature of his past (true?) self. If they can do that then I’ll totally be on board for this season being a sort of victory lap for the series.
Fans of the show absolutely should tune into this episode. While sure, I feel the ending last season was a perfect capstone for the series, but Kenny Powers is a fantastic character that has plenty more potential, and thankfully the writing and directing were still super-sharp for this premiere. It pretty much won me over, and I’m now convinced that McBride and his co-creators are firmly committed to giving the Kenny Powers saga (another) great ending.