Every legendary epic has to come to an end -– even one as infinitely badass as the infamous saga of Kenny "F#&%ing" Powers! We've watched the washed-out baseball star struggle to reclaim his former glory since 2009, and with 'Eastbound & Down: The Complete Fourth Season,' his hilariously irreverent journey finally comes to an end. But is it a satisfying finale for the notorious superstar, or has the great KP finally jumped the shark? Well, rest assured, dear readers, if there is any shark jumping here, it happens while Kenny is riding a big-ass jet ski with a topless model and a suspicious white powder under his nose. In other words, he makes that shark his bitch. And boy is it fun to watch.
Though the close of season three was originally supposed to be the series' swan song, in season four we pick up a few years after Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) faked his death, and now find the once wild and untamable man living as a mild-mannered father of two with the love of his life, April (Katy Mixon). While his domestic situation seems happy enough, Kenny is clearly bored and listless with his ordinary existence and soon finds himself lashing out at his wife. But when a TV sportscasting opportunity arises, Kenny jumps at the chance to reclaim the spotlight. Now poised for big success, will the formerly selfish partier return to his old habits, or has he finally found a way to balance his ego and his responsibilities?
One of the series' ongoing conflicts has always been Kenny's struggle between irresponsible self-centeredness and his genuine love for April, and while egotism has always won out in the past (to hilarious results), at the beginning of season four we see Kenny as a changed man, fully committed to his family. This decidedly "neutered" version of KP is a sight to behold, and the character's slowly building resentment and passive aggressive tantrums lead to some fun comedic twists that play up the inherent disconnect between dull domesticity and Kenny's thirst for superficial greatness. We quickly get a sense that the other shoe is going to drop at any moment, and when it does, the man's explosion of renewed arrogance and vigor is a joy to watch, even if it is disappointing to seem him regress yet again.
This leads to a season long plotline that questions whether Kenny can be successful professionally and personally at the same time. As his star rises, he loses sight of his family, forcing the character to finally reconcile his conflicting desires. Can husband Kenny and famous Kenny co-exit, or are they forever doomed to be locked in a never-ending jet pack-powered duel? It's a dilemma that's been lingering since the show began, and this last batch of episodes presents a genuinely well told arc -- one that manages to offer just the right amount of legitimate character development without sacrificing all of the irreverent insanity that puts the "F#&%ing" in Kenny "F#&%ing" Powers.
To this end, these final eight installments are among the funniest and most well-rounded that the series has ever produced, unleashing a hilarious storyline that sees Kenny rocket back to stardom as a television sportscaster. Other highlights include a water park adventure, the trials and tribulations of raising a wolf, some ridiculous plastic surgery, a water jet pack battle, and one of the most disturbingly comical Christmas themed episodes I've ever seen. Throughout it all, the show continues to push the envelope, mixing witty references with raunchy gags and irreverent behavior. And unlike some of the previous seasons, the writers manage to balance the constant vulgarity much better here, preventing some of the profanity overkill that held back season three.
Once again, the entire ensemble does a phenomenal job, eliciting copious laughs without losing a certain sense of reality. Even after four years, McBride still makes Kenny Powers seem fresh, unpredictable and, above all, utterly hilarious. The actor has taken what could have been a wholly one-note character and breathed real life into him, drawing some legitimate sympathy for his predicaments despite all of his terrible decisions. Katy Mixon and Steve Little also continue to shine as Kenny's wife and best friend, and both actors get plenty of moments to steal the spotlight throughout the season (particularly Little who really gets some crazy material to work with this year). Likewise, the fourth season introduces some memorable guest stars, including Tim Heidecker, Jillian Bell, and the great Ken Marino who is especially pitch-perfect as Kenny's colleague turned rival Guy Young.
When it was first announced that 'Eastbound & Down' had been renewed beyond its originally intended final season, I was pretty skeptical. Though not perfect, the previous finale offered a fitting enough end for Kenny Powers and there's only so many times that the writers can have the character oscillate between growth and regression before the concept outstays its welcome. Thankfully, season four proves to be an even better sendoff for the infamous badass, giving fans eight more hilarious episodes with plenty of "fixins!" While there's still a little wiggle room for a continuation, Kenny's story finally feels complete, and the writers have given the character an entertaining and surprisingly emotional arc. Outrageously funny and marked by all of the cinematic flash that helps make the series so unique, this final (for real this time) season is among the show's best, letting Kenny Powers go out on the kind of awesome high note that only a man with a mullet ever truly deserves.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
HBO brings 'Eastbound & Down: The Complete Fourth Season' to Blu-ray on two BD-50 discs that come housed in a keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. Instructions for an UltraViolet digital copy are also included. After a skippable HBO promo, the screen transitions to a standard menu. The packaging indicates that the release is Region A coded.
The show is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Comparable to previous seasons, the series looks pretty damn good on Blu-ray, offering a bright and colorful image.
The show is shot on 35mm, and the print is in great shape with a moderate layer of natural grain present throughout. While the image can be on the flat side, clarity is impressive, rendering every curl of Kenny's trademark mullet hairdo with intricate detail. Colors are bold and bright, offering a good amount of pop. With that said, skintones do veer a bit toward the orange side, giving the image a slightly harsh look. Contrast is hot with intense whites and deep blacks, and though there is some minor blooming and crush, this style suits the show's over-the-top tone well. Like the last season, I did notice some fleeting shimmering around tight patterns here and there, but for the most part artifacts are thankfully absent.
'Eastbound & Down' finishes its run on Blu-ray with a strong transfer. The picture can look a tad harsh at times, but this overblown aesthetic does the great Kenny Powers justice.
The series is presented with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track along with a French DTS 5.1 and Spanish DTS 2.0 track. Optional English SDH, English, French, Spanish, Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles are also included. Lively and aggressive when it needs to be, the audio complements the bold visuals well.
Dialogue is mostly crisp and full, but there is some very minor peaking in the high frequencies. The soundstage offers a convincing sense of atmosphere for all of the show's varied locations, spreading spacious ambiance for offices, homes, supermarkets, clubs, and the season's sportscasting studio. Directionality and surround use are solid throughout, with appropriate audio pans (a car driving by, for instance) and rear cues when called for. Dynamic range can also be aggressive, and the show's eclectic music selection comes through with strong fidelity and powerful low frequencies. A scene set in a rowdy nightclub is especially room-shaking and one sequence uses building bass activity to represent Kenny's slowly escalating rage. Though certain cues can still be a tad uneven, I found the track's sense of balance to be an improvement over last season's more inconsistent mixing style.
Like the show's infamous star, the audio can be a little brash and unruly at times, but the fun sound design and fantastic songs continue to help to define the series, and this final season goes out with a bang.
HBO has included a strong assortment of supplements, including entertaining commentaries by the cast and crew on all eight episodes and some worthwhile deleted scenes. All of the special features are presented in 1080p with DTS 2.0 sound.
'Eastbound & Down: The Complete Fourth Season' offers a fittingly hilarious and outrageous end for Kenny Powers. With some great jokes and a satisfying character arc, the writers wrap up the cult favorite series on a high note. The video and audio presentations are both strong. Likewise, the included commentaries and deleted scenes are well worth your time. This is a great release for a very funny show. Highly Recommended.