“Move. Get out of the way. Worst goddamn Fix My Marriage Party ever.”
Can you think of any other TV show that has ever gone the places that this one is going this season? At this point, describing “Eastbound & Down” as a comedy is doing a disservice to the show and to the work that Jody Hill, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green are doing from week to week.
There are two episodes left this season, and I can’t imagine how they’re going to wrap it all up, and more importantly, I don’t want to imagine it. I am not speculating. I’m not searching for spoilers. I just want to sit back and watch it play out and enjoy, because at this point, I know these guys have it. I know they’ve hit a groove and they’re playing out some amazing material and they’re pushing these characters to a very real breaking point. You can tell when a creative team is in a groove, when they’re just crushing it from moment to moment, and the energy around this season is genuinely impressive.
This is a huge episode in terms of what actually happens as the two main threads both reach a point of combustion. April and Kenny’s marriage seems to end, and honestly, it should at the point they’ve reached. There’s nothing good left for them now. The party that Kenny throws for April is about as pathetic as anything he’s done over the full four seasons of the show, a low point for him as a man and as a husband.
In addition, Guy Young’s pure unfettered evil finally stands revealed. As soon as Guy tore into Kenny backstage, I knew they were going to go for the hot mic joke, but it’s fantastic because Guy is that stupid and that venal. He’s proven that he will say those things, and all Kenny does is lay out the bait. It’s satisfying because of how nakedly Ken Marino has played the insecurity and the cruelty that drive Guy, and both McBride and Marino crush it in the episode.
What I find really fascinating about Danny McBride as a filmmaker and as a performer is that he doesn’t remotely seem to care about expectations or what he should be doing to build a “career.” Instead, he is drawn to chronicling a certain type of voice, a distinctly modern and American character, and he plays him without vanity. It would be easy to play Kenny if he made sure to always wink at the audience to let them know that underneath it all, Kenny’s a good guy and you shouldn’t worry. In “Eastbound,” worrying is part of what makes it so hard to look away from what they’re doing right now. They made us like Kenny again and believe that he could be redeemed, and now they’re punishing us for that faith in him, just like he’s punishing April. It’s telling that he keeps saying April needs to enjoy what she has, when he’s the one who is truly unable to realize how close he is to throwing away everything good he has.
And what a difference one week makes. Last week I was starting to really like the energy between Kenny and April, and this week, it’s just toxic and rancid and sad. The party that Kenny throws is one of the most depressing displays I can remember. When Kenny finally melts down, it is so awful, so mean. You can’t take these things back, and she’ll never really see him the same way again. It’s not impossible to rebuild from a moment like that, but it’s not easy, and Kenny seems to be choosing the show and his fame and the rush of being rich over the single best thing that has ever happened to him on a personal level. Katy Mixon is amazing this week, and I am so impressed with how funny she’s been this year and how real. On a recent interview for “The Nerdist,” McBride and Hill talked about how much of what they’re doing this year is stuff they wanted for last season, only “Mike & Molly” wouldn’t let Mixon out of her contract, and the schedules just wouldn’t work. They had to rebuild last season to be largely April-free as a result, and now this season, they feel like they’re finally getting to do this material that they have been eager to get to for so long.
Here’s how I know this show has me completely on the hook. When Kenny opened the garage door and took out his gun, I had no idea which way that was going to end. The wolf is free, both literally and figuratively, at the end of this week’s show, and I’m just hoping no one gets hurt.
“Eastbound & Down” airs each Sunday night on HBO.