Kenny Powers and Stevie Janowski are two of the most buffoonish and insipidly stupid characters on television. Frankly, I’m amazed that I love them as much as I do.
And yet there’s something about their relationship that’s remarkably sweet and gentle, and it’s very hard to put my finger on just why that is. Maybe it’s because they need each other- Stevie will always be someone’s doormat and Kenny will always be walking all over people, so at least Stevie’s getting pushed around by someone who genuinely cares about him (and vice versa for Kenny).
I mean, come on- even after all the silly, outlandish crap that fills the second half of Chapter 15, the shot of these two guys sitting in the bed of Shane’s truck and laughing about how Stevie was repeatedly sexually assaulted felt very sweet and very sincere.
Well, as sweet and sincere as things can get when two guys are laughing about how one of them was sexually assaulted.
I mentioned earlier that the second half of Chapter 15 is full of silly, outlandish crap.
I stand by that statement. Chapter 15 starts out in a way anyone who saw last week’s episode could see coming- Kenny, now stuck with baby Toby, makes a frantic search for anything that will keep him from actually having to raise this child on his own. He breaks into April’s house. He breaks into her office at work. He heads back to the middle school from season one (I’m assuming he broke in to that too) and asks if Cutler has heard anything. He tries to pawn the kid off on his brother, and when that doesn’t work, eventually floats Toby down a creek Moses-style just to get rid of him. This took up a sizable chunk of the episode and played almost like an Eastbound & Down greatest hits montage, and there were aspects to it that I liked and some I didn’t.
As for the dislikes- that whole “floating Toby down the creek” thing didn’t work so well for me. Now, basic screenwriting dictates that when a character tries to solve a conflict, he’ll try the easiest route first, and when that fails he’ll try something slightly less easy, and so on and so forth. It’s the same thing real people do when they’re faced with a difficult situation, and it makes sense here. But, the ultimate point of this whole sequence- that Kenny’s moved by the sight of a playground full of laughing children and decides rescue his son from the creek and make a go of this whole fatherhood thing- feels a tad predictable. Obviously, to progress as a character Kenny’s going to have to become a dad, but there really wasn’t any tension or any uncertainty in how this scene was gonna end.
But having Kenny, Stevie and Maria all raise this baby together- that’s perfect. It gives us a reason to move Stevie up to Myrtle Beach, but it also feels like a somewhat responsible decision that Kenny would make that also gives him his old sidekick to boss around. These three nutjobs probably have enough good between them that they could raise a child and not have him end up a stammering psychopath.
And speaking of stammering psychopaths, what happened to Ashley Schaeffer? He’s supposed to be slimy, pompous, and half-insane, but he’s also supposed to be someone that could actually exist in the real world. The back half of Chapter 15 threw any sense of realism or believability to the wind and we got stuck with Stevie as a forced geisha girl and people being murdered with an antique cannon.
The humor of Eastbound & Down works because we’re seeing larger-than-life assholes trying to force themselves into the real world. Kenny does stupid, arrogant cartoonish things, but April and Dustin and the manager of the Charros and everyone else are realistic human beings and they keep him in check (while also providing a contrast for just how asinine he is). When the settings and situations become as cartoonish as Kenny, everything falls apart and it feels like we’re watching a cheap gross-out comedy rather than a comedy with the (albeit strange) degree of sophistication that is Eastbound & Down.
Plus, the cannon was pointed straight down the field. What was stopping Kenny and Stevie from just running to the right of the cannon and disappearing into the woods? This show’s supposed to have a degree of stupid to it, but it needs some semblance of logic too, and Chapter 15 seems to have forgotten that.
Although that ending with Kenny and Stevie in the bed of the truck really helped to pull everything together at the end. Alan Price’s “O Lucky Man” as our ending song didn’t hurt either- another stellar musical choice for the show.
And, all gripes aside, I laughed my ass off at Chapter 15, so any and all complaints should be taken with a small grain of salt.
So what did you all think of Chapter 15?