TV Review: EASTBOUND & DOWN 4.1 — “Chapter 22″

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kennyIf this fourth season is to be the epilogue of Kenny Powers’ great comeback, the premiere episode certainly started on a dour note. This isn’t the Kenny Powers we once knew. This man listens to NPR. He pleads with a woman to put her “badonkadonk” away. Just what has become of our hero now that he’s gotten everything he thought he wanted?

As the rest of the episode suggests, Kenny Powers can only be Kenny Powers when there’s a “fuckin” in between his first name and last. What I like about this episode is how it proves what many of us suspected at the end of Season 3’s finale: that Kenny would never be truly comfortable raising a family with April (a returning Katy Mixon) in his old hometown of Shelby, North Carolina. Kenny made a noble (for him) choice last season. Nobility suits this man like a pair of fake eyebrows.

Given that we catch up with Mr. and (the new appointed) Mrs. Powers after what appears to be a four-year jump, it’s surprising to see that Kenny’s held out as long as he has. April’s a successful real estate agent, Kenny’s working for a rental car dealer and Toby is now joined by a little sister that Kenny clearly identifies with more than he does Toby (who’s already challenging dad’s alpha male status in the home). Once the vase suspiciously breaks it would seem as if Old Kenny is ready to come back out. Kenny’s always been angry, just not deliberately so. Here he’s doing crude Asian caricatures at a dinner party, mushing his boss’ donuts and spitting in the box for good measure, It would seem our man’s heading for nervous breakdown status, doing just that when he throws a tantrum during April award acceptance speech.

McBride plays Powers like a man on an emotional tightrope in this ep. The old Kenny would’ve flipped his shit in front of April and her coworkers. It’s not until the end when Kenny’s doing hard drugs out of a tackle box and punching his boss that Season 4’s direction starts to take shape. Kenny, always his worst enemy, would never have been able to sustain a happy ending that wasn’t on his own exaggerated terms. Still this is a character that’s made progress over the course of three full seasons. His goal is no longer about returning to the majors, now he just wants a goddamn swimming pool in his back yard. Kenny may’ve given up on fame, but not on respect.

A few random brain squeezins…

- Ken Marino’s Guy Young felt like a great addition here as TV seems like the one feasible avenue left for Kenny’s squandered career. I fully expect Marino to become a foil in short order as Kenny’s jealously will likely mean him fighting his way in front of the camera at some point.

-Marino’s AIDS monologue was especially hilarious and in keeping with a show that’s never claimed political correctness.

-This episode was noticeably lacking in Stevie Janowski (Steve Little). Here’s hoping that’s corrected asap. Aside from McBride, no other actor defines this show like Little’s intellectually-stunted yes man.

-I hadn’t realized how much I missed the opening tags of this show until its return just now. Something about Freddie King’s “Goin’ Down” kicks this show off perfectly every week.

-This being the final season, HBO is going to be severely lacking in the comedy department unless they get Curb back for another season. No offense to Family Tree but it’s not even fair comparing it to Curb or Eastbound.