Eastbound & Down: Chapter 17

Folks, we’re nearing the home stretch. There’s barely a month left before Eastbound & Down ends its monumental run and Kenny Powers rides a jet ski into the sunset.

So at this point in the story, where is Kenny? Can he achieve greatness? Can he achieve redemption? Can he reclaim his former glory in the majors?

And do you think that we, the audience, will be satisfied with how things end?

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be thinking about Kenny Powers right now.

Yes, the last two seasons have built him up as the stuff of legend- crude, disgusting, deplorable, larger-than-life, and yet there’s an earnestness within him that makes him lovable even when he’s feeding his infant son Chex Mix  and a bowl of water.

But “Chapter 17” may be pushing things just a little bit too far.

Now, in past seasons, Kenny’s always hit a wall around the fourth episode. At this point in season one, he was leaving Cutler’s backyard bbq with his ego in shambles, prepared to give up forever on his major league dreams. The season two equivalent found Kenny in despair after losing his latin lover, Vida, to the dreaded Sebastian*.

*As a quick side-note, there’s nothing more enjoyable than describing the events of this show with overblown phrases like “the dreaded Sebastian.” It’s ever so much fun.

And in “Chapter 17,” we find Kenny grappling with the cold realities of death. Only he doesn’t really grapple with any cold realities- he steals the recently deceased’s truck and hijacks the funeral to assure everyone that his power is still growing exponentially and that the Tom Cruise/Goose argument has officially been won. Kenny’s actions in this episode rank pretty highly among the most dickish things he’s ever done, and I’m starting to wonder what the ultimate endgame’s going to be here.

But where to look for answers?

Why, in the place you’d least expect:

Don Draper.

Hear me out, folks- Don was the best of the best (of the best) at what he did, but his dark side kept him from ever truly connecting with anyone besides his protegee, Peggy. And when Don just couldn’t handle things anymore, he fled to California and lived a life of excess without any of the old stressors that used to haunt him. Eventually he returns home, but finds it too difficult to live and work in the environment he used to dominate, and upends everything to be reborn in a brand new ad agency of his own creation.

Now replace Don Draper with Kenny Powers, Peggy with Stevie, California with Mexico, and advertising with baseball. Obviously there are some glaring differences, but I’d argue that the gist of both stories is the same, and that the endings might be just as similar (yes, Don’s story didn’t end after three seasons, but Kenny’s story certainly will so let’s cut things off there).

But do you think Kenny Powers can truly come out of this on top? Will the slow rumblings of fatherhood change him into a real, live, functioning adult? Will that ever be possible? And is Stevie now too far gone himself to ever be able to help his best friend?

Actually, a quick issue I had with Stevie’s storyline- what were we supposed to feel in that final sex scene between him and Maria? Should we feel guilty about Stevie’s tryst with Shane’s sister in the cemetery? Should we feel warmth between Stevie and Maria because they’re still connecting physically as a couple? Is Stevie’s submission, sexually, a sign of his own shame about what happened before? I can’t tell if the ambiguity here was on purpose or not. I’m probably reading too much into this, but if I’m not then this might just be the beginning of the end for Stevie. If he loses Maria, who else does he have? Kenny? Toby? Will they all just circle the drain together?

And honestly, “Chapter 17” wasn’t my favorite episode of Eastbound & Down by any stretch of the imagination. Kenny’s becoming a bit too unlikable for me and the Ivan/Kenny relationship isn’t really going anywhere. Still, I’m still overflowing with speculation as the end draws ever closer.

One thing’s for certain- when it’s gone, I doubt we’ll ever get a show like Eastbound & Down ever again.

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