There wasn’t supposed to be a fourth season of Eastbound & Down. Created by Ben Best, Jody Hill, and Danny McBride, the irreverent comedy series articulated throughout its first three seasons a tight-knit three-arc narrative: a chronicle of the fall, rise, and fall again of poetically foul-mouthed closing pitcher Kenny Powers (McBride). When news broke that there would be a final final season, speculation ran rampant as to what more of the Kenny Powers legend could possibly be told, as most of the bases seem to have already been covered.
When we last left Kenny, he’d just been called up to pitch in the majors following the sudden demise of a Texas team’s hotshot closer, but, in a very un-Kenny Powers-esque move, he walked off the mound in his first game back, faked his own death, and scampered back home to North Carolina, starting a quiet, provincial life with his longtime love interest, April (Katy Mixon). The fourth season picks up several years later, with Kenny and April now married with two children. Kenny works a dead-end job at a car-rental lot, and April, the principal breadwinner of the household, is being recognized as the top-selling real-estate agent in the region, much to Kenny’s dismay. It’s this dynamic, with Kenny seen as a mojo-less homemaker jealous of April’s success, that finally drives him to resume his search for universal acclaim.
Eastbound & Down has always been a tale about ill-advised redemption, and how one stubborn man’s attempts to achieve notoriety are continually derailed by his inability to modify his flawed core values. Kenny’s worst enemy is, and forever will be, himself, but even in his fleeting moments of regret, usually delivered via profanity-laced, scurrilous soliloquies, he instead blames the world for his problems. He’s the kind of dogged antihero that’s as provocative when in a lurch as he is when he’s on a surging upswing, compulsively watchable because of his bullheadedness and zero tolerance for opposing opinions.
Strangely, the fourth season of Eastbound & Down exudes a somber tone that flies in the face of the show’s typically rambunctious tendencies. Kenny is crankier than in the past, and his staunchly vexed attitude throws the proceedings a bit off balance. By chance, he encounters an old teammate, Guy Young (Ken Marino), MC of a rowdy roundtable talk show called Sports Sesh, and is offered a one-off guest spot. When he’s ruthlessly trashed by an obnoxious co-host, he’s incapable of getting a word in edgewise. By his own volition, he’s been reduced to a fraction of his former self: His quick wit has faded, his swagger is in ruins, and it’s only with the help of a secret stash of narcotics and the assistance of his faithful sidekick, Stevie (Steve Little), that he begins to revitalize some of his dormant bravado. Kenny, for once, realizes that he’s a failure at both baseball and at being the primary provider for his family, but one thing he’ll never let slip out of his grasp is his right to pursue the romanticized comeback that’s eluded him for so long, a recognition that seems an appropriate lesson learned as his story comes to a close.