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RATED Not Rated
STUDIO HBO Studios
RUNNING TIME 240 Minutes
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary
The last Kenny Powers story.
Danny McBride, Steve Little, Katy Mixon, Elizabeth De Razzo, Ken Marino, Tim Heidecker, John Hawkes, Jillian Bell, John Hawkes, Jennifer Irwin, John Reep
Kenny Powers is back in the fourth and final season of the outrageous HBO hit comedy series. The crass yet irresistible former major league pitcher is now singing it in the suburbs as a married man and father of two. But a reunion with ex-teammate Guy Young, now the host of a raucous sports talk show, convinces Kenny to get back in the game. Will America’s favorite ballplayer fulfill his ultimate destiny? Get ready for Kenny’s epic journey back to the top.
The end of Eastbound and Down’s third season was a polarizing event. After three seasons of trials and tribulations, Kenny Powers finally made it back into Major League Baseball only to throw it away and fake his death so he could be the man that his wife April and son Toby needed him to be. It was a fitting end symbolically for Kenny, but it felt rushed and unsatisfying, like there was more that needed to be said. One couldn’t help but think that nobody would be more annoyed by such a cop-out than Kenny himself, and that is the premise of season 4.
We pick up several years after Kenny’s grand gesture. He’s had a daughter, revealed that he wasn’t actually dead, and is now working for a car rental company as April continues her successful career as a realtor. Kenny puts the finishing touches on his autobiographical screenplay and triumphantly strides out into the kitchen to share it with his family. Life is going well for Kenny, and he’s even learned humility (or the closest thing to it that someone like him can attain) but during a celebration for April’s achievements at work, the old Kenny rears his ugly head and his lust for fame begins anew.
To writer/series creator Jody Hill’s credit, season 4 doesn’t just settle comfortably back into Kenny’s quest to once again be a major league pitcher. Even Kenny seems to understand that he’s burned too many bridges to ever return to baseball. His path to stardom this time is through a cable sports talk show hosted by a former team-mate Guy Young (played by Ken Marino.) Young represents a new kind of adversary to Kenny. In past seasons, the “villain” was typically someone who was very obviously a better person than Kenny, be it season 1’s Principal Cutler or season 3’s Ivan Dechenko, only to reveal that Kenny had a secret edge over these supposedly normal people due to his in-your-face personality.
Guy Young is just like Kenny and that’s apparent from the outset, he’s just learned how to behave in front of people so as not to make them hate him. What’s also apparent from the outset is that Guy Young is far worse than Kenny could ever be. Ken Marino owns the role, exaggerating Kenny’s worst features without descending into parody as Will Farrell did.
Speaking of Farrell, he makes no return this season, nor do Craig Robinson, Don Johnson, Lily Tomlin, Andy Daley, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Pena, Adam Scott, or any of the other big names from past seasons. The only returners are Kenny, Steve, April, his brother Dustin (played by John Hawkes), his family and a brief 5 second cameo from Jason Sudeikis. It’s refreshing after all the (admittedly hilarious) fan-service of season 3 that Hill is confident enough to return the show to its roots of being about Kenny Powers and not all the other crazy personalities that co-exist in his world. In fact, Guy Young (and one other stunt-cast actor whose appearance I won’t spoil) is the only new cast member that’s even used for overt comedic purposes. Characters played by comedian John Reep, Tim Heidecker (of Tim and Eric), and Jillian Bell (of Workaholics) are played mostly straight and the comedy rests primarily on Kenny and Stevie’s shoulders. It shows some honest bravery to let these two steer the ship again.
There are a few crutches that Hill relies on. Stevie once again goes through a personal crisis that ends in a disturbing change of appearance and they milk every drop of laughter from jokes centered around Guy Young’s AIDs charity (mostly centered around “Guy’s got AIDS” jokes and whatnot) but mostly the humor comes from what’s made the series so alluring all along: letting Danny McBride ramble on like a pretentious asshole and be extremely rude and thoughtless all the time.
But even though Kenny is as incorrigible and deluded as ever, he has still grown as a character. He’s a lot more self-aware than he was in seasons past, and for all his bombast he has noticeably matured. He actually seems to realize what an asshole he is 98% of the time and feels legitimately bad about it even though he has no understanding of how (or maybe even desire to) change it. That’s also a change in the structure this time, usually life shits on Kenny Powers, kicking him when he’s down and it’s his underdog status that endears us to him; but this time Kenny is solely responsible for every bad thing that happens to him, it turns the mirror on him and lets him anguish in how incredibly self-destructive he is. The Christmas episode this season may be one of the darkest episodes in the history of this series.
The ending does what season 3 did not, it redeems Kenny not just in the eyes of himself but also his peers. It’s heartfelt and honest but in true Kenny Powers fashion he still manages to make it about how great he is. It’s tailor made for people who complained about the abruptness of season 3’s ending by going deep into a ridiculously over-the-top meta-ending that involves Africa and hoverbikes just to shut everyone up.
Eastbound & Down’s final season never quite reaches the lofty heights of season 2 but it’s (needless to say) much better than it’s uneven first or it’s fan-service filled third. It’s the perfect send off for this character, though I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him again. There’s a sly little comment in the final episode where Kenny talks about moving on to feature film now that he’s conquered TV and I could easily see him turning up occasionally on talk shows and the like as other fake celebrities Garth Meringhi, Jiminiy Glick, Alan Partridge, and Derek Zoolander have. Even if this is the end, it’s a good one.
Special features are sparse, outtakes and deleted scenes mostly, but there is an audio commentary for every episode.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars