“Chapter 26” presents the fans of Kenny Powers with a conundrum. On one hand, anybody who somehow cares about the characters of Eastbound & Down as people and hope to see a happy ending probably want to see Kenny Powers grow up. They want to see him rein in his natural self, his arrogance, ignorance and irresponsibility. They want to see Kenny realize his potential as a father, husband and human being. At the same time part of that ascent into adulthood is establishing a successful career, a job that sustains one’s livelihood and sense of self-respect. Kenny is massively entertaining as a foul-mouthed asshole on a sports talk show, but the skills that drive that success reside within the very parts of Kenny’s nature that make him such a horrible human being. If he loses his job, Kenny loses the financial independence and professional responsibility that separates a man from a child. But he’ll have to deny his true self and his profligate ways or else he’ll lose April, the only person (other than Kenny’s mom, maybe) who has ever shown the slightest ability to impact Kenny’s behavior. What are the people who, beyond any sense of reason, care about this absolute failure of a human being and hope for his eventual redemption to think?
It doesn’t matter what they think. Guy Young will make sure of that.
So the obvious direction is now clearly the one we’re headed in. It’s been known for a few episodes now that Guy Young, the main host of Sports Sesh and thus Kenny’s boss, has a problem sharing the spotlight. He only gave Kenny a job to drive away the last co-host who got a little too popular. He’s used Kenny as his personal bulldog, tossing Jed Forney out of a dragon boat and straight off the Sesh. It should be smooth sailing for all involved, except Kenny isn’t the Scottie Pippen in his life’s story. (He’s not even the nasty old Scottie Pippen.) He’s MJ himself, and he won’t let Guy Young restrain the true Kenny that all the viewers love, even though Kenny loves the TV money he’s making more than anything else in the world (except maybe boobs, although Kenny would just say he could buy whatever boobs he’d need.)
As always, Kenny’s life has already speeded off the size of a cliff, and everybody saw it coming but him. He intentionally outshines Guy Young on TV again after specifically being asked not to. He’s on the verge of losing April again after standing her up at couples counseling—she’s already alarmed at Kenny’s garish spending (while appreciating the perks), but grows genuinely hurt when Kenny insults her awards dinner from earlier in the season again. He makes a seemingly heartfelt speech to his brother Dustin about settling affairs and becoming friends again (after giving Dustin’s teenaged son an assault rifle as a make-good gift), only to cut off Dustin’s genuinely heartfelt response in order to text with Guy. The point is underlined so deeply, with Kenny tossing so much money around this episode, pointedly counting out how much everything costs, that he’s clearly about to slam headfirst into a wall of accountability soon. Even Stevie, always glad to be nasty old Scottie Pippen, sees it coming.
But hey, guess what: Kenny’s gonna fuck everything up. Shocker. That’s all this dude does. Somehow he kept April from leaving him during the five years between last season and now, but if Eastbound remains committed to its painfully dark tone she pretty much has to leave him before the show’s over. And then he’ll probably have to die in some kind of recreational watercraft-related accident, perhaps involving the dancing robot he loves more than his own family. That’d be the most Kenny Powers ending of all.