A Farewell to Kenny Powers: Eastbound & Down’s Finale

Ok, there's some crying in baseball. One of the great television characters of all time has written the final chapter in his epic story.

Even though it didn’t really have to, Eastbound and Down, in its final episode, justified why I fell gaga over the series in the first place. In fact, this final season as a whole was one big metaphorical Danny McBride giving a stiff middle finger to the thought that the show couldn’t replicate its early the magic.

But now it’s all over. If there was crying in baseball, there would be nothing left to do but wipe away the tears and watch Kenny ride off deep into the fading sunset. When you’re a fan of a television show, there’s always a lingering feeling that they’ll find a way to leave you disappointed when the time comes to say goodbye. Television fans have been burned on this before and they damn well will again. If there was one show, one man, that could go out with an episode that was as good as any that have come before it, we could put our trust in Kenny Powers.

In Eastbound’s swansong, “Chapter 29,” Kenny rewarded our faith with a truly sidesplitting farewell. It starts with Eastbound’s trademark opening scene. We’ve seen some great surprise beginnings to episodes, but Eastbound spared no expense by using Sacha Baron Cohen to start the final frame with some of the shock value that made him a sought after name in the film industry. With full-frontal male nudity as a precursor to an explosive 30 minutes, Jody Hill, Danny McBride and John Carcieri, the episode’s credited writers, made sure Eastbound fans won’t soon forget how Kenny’s journey ends. 

Cohen’s appearance as a perverse network executive is the last in a long line of important figures showing up to give Kenny another shot at redemption. For the second time in as many weeks, Kenny reaches the pinnacle of his career. He gets his own show twice. He alienates his co-workers, friends and family and realizes that he made the biggest mistake of his life in the process.

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In the end, Kenny finally ditched his selfish ways and the show ended how most imaged it would. After last week’s “Chapter 28,” I felt that maybe the only true way to give Kenny the ending he deserved was to bring the character full circle. He started out as a broken man coiled up on his brother’s couch, knocked out of baseball and failing to adapt to “normal” life. Now all these years later, Kenny was back on Dustin’s couch, again broken under the weight of his own outlandish, repulsive ego.

It could have been the dark ending I’m sure most people didn’t want, but really the ending the character deserved. I also realized it wasn’t a particularly funny way for one of the great television characters to go out. With more than 40 minutes left in the series, Kenny had enough time to right his wrongs. Kenny Claus was ready to deliver joy to all under the chilly cloak of night. 

“Sometimes even lone wolves travel in packs,” he says before wrangling Dakota in the woods. 

“Chapter 29” gave us plenty of old Kenny, but also the new Kenny we are going to miss: the guy who leans over to a random parent at a school play and whispers that his son is the fucking star, the grieving divorcee who meticulously explains Southwest Airlines deals to his kids and the screenwriter with an imaginative mind. The ending of Kenny’s movie is everything we could have dreamed of and more, from the Batman reference to the Africa love story and even the Lindsay Lohan cameo.

There’s almost nothing to gripe about, other than the unfortunate absence of Ashley Schaeffer during the final season. The ending of Eastbound and Down wasn’t just the celebration of a magical run that Seinfeld and The Office trotted out. Kenny Powers walked away from the spotlight with the ending he deserved: resurrecting his crumbling family life, a powerful climax to his television career and a taste of what could be the most epic sports movie of all time. As a stand-alone episode in the cannon of the series, it’s easily one of Eastbound’s sharpest entries and it will rightfully stand tall among the best endings for any comedy series. 

For the season premiere, I wrote about Mariano Rivera’s spine-tingling send off at Yankee Stadium, an ode to a sparkling run of dominance amid grace. Rivera’s final season was one big extended farewell tour, but at the same time he still put together an impressive season as a 43-year old. Everyone knew the end was coming but no one could have anticipated the feeling, the unexplainable raw emotions, it would stir up.

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Anyone associated with the production of a television show knows that leaving in a wholly satisfying way is nearly an impossible feat. Eastbound and Down deserves praise because it never labored or hit an extended rough patch. It was the Mariano Rivera of scripted comedies, with unrelenting consistency and creativity when it seemed that the premise of the show was destined to be exhausted. Kenny Powers charmed and fucked his way to the top. With an unexpected, satisfying final season, he rallied his team into the upper-echelon of television comedies with a hall of fame worthy performance.

As he sits in his new Santa Fe home clicking and clacking away at his keyboard, Kenny couldn’t have nailed the ending to his movie any better. 

The screen cuts to black and the audience goes “fucking ape shit.” 

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5 out of 5