Judge Gordon Sullivan is headed north by northwest.
Our reviews of Eastbound And Down: The Complete First Season (published June 30th, 2009), Eastbound and Down: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) (published August 10th, 2011), and Eastbound and Down: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray) (published December 10th, 2012) are also available.
When Kenny Powers comes back, he comes back hard.
The first season of Eastbound & Down was basically perfect, at least from a structural point of view. Against all odds, Kenny Powers actually seemed to grow as a human being. The Kenny Powers of Chapter One would not have had the stones to make a clean break with April the way that the Kenny Powers of Chapter Six did. It's a wonder then that the show got a second season since it appeared to wrap up everything in the first season so neatly. And yet, here we are, faced with Eastbound & Down: The Complete Second Season. Amazingly, Jody Hill, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green bring the thunder again, offering a second season that builds on the strengths of the first without resorting to simple recycling of Kenny's bad-boy behavior.
Facts of the Case
Just like the first season, this second season of Eastbound & Down opens with a kind of montage detailing Kenny's story thus far. Instead of the major leagues, though, Kenny Powers has been in Mexico. After discovering at the end of Season One that he wasn't going to play for Tampa, Kenny wandered his way down to Mexico and took a new name and a new life: Steve Janowski, cockfighter extraordinaire. Kenny appears to be happy in his new life, but he's haunted by everything he left back in Shelby. When his business plans turn sour, he's forced back into the bullpen to give baseball another chance—this time in the Mexican leagues. All seven episodes of this second season are presented on two discs:
The first season of Eastbound and Down was well received, and there was no reason for Jody Hill and company to stretch their formula. Scores of adoring fans would have been perfectly happy with another six episodes of Kenny Powers behaving badly in small-town America. This season could have opened with Kenny turning around his Denali, going to live with his brother (or Stevie), and trying to win April's heart again without his major-league contract. But no, Hill and his gang take a total left turn and deposit our hero in Mexico. It's a brilliant move that works on several fronts.
I don't think anyone was tired of the crew in Shelby, but the move to Mexico gives Kenny a whole new group to bounce his persona off of. There are some constants, like Stevie and a new love interest in Vida, but for the most part Kenny gets a new set of characters. His coach is a surprisingly dramatic character who won't let Kenny get away with his usual antics, the owner of the team he joins is an Asian-obsessed young playboy, and Kenny's downstairs neighbor is a family man.
The Mexico setting is also just different enough to put Kenny's plight in perspective. Mexico is hardly an alien realm; it has baseball, TV, and access to drugs. This makes it not too different from Shelby, North Carolina. However, for Kenny it feels like he's been cast into the outer dark and that gives him the opportunity to make something of himself again. Mexico also allows for some more of Kenny's brand of sexist, racist comedy. Surrounded by Mexicans and sexy Latinas, it's hard for Kenny to keep being himself, with hilarious results.
With all that said, though, the first season's main strength is Kenny Powers, anchored by Danny McBride's excellent performance. Unlike most "men behaving badly" shows, Kenny Powers actually seems to change and react to the carnage he creates in his wake. Sure, it's not always the best or the smartest reaction or change, but Kenny Powers is more than just another foul mouth. He really goes through an arc in this season, perhaps even more than the last, and that's what raises this show above many of its peers.
The second season gets a similar Blu-ray treatment to the first. Because of the success of the show, this season gets a slight increase in production values, which shows through on these AVC-encoded transfers. The film stock looks upgraded, which means a slight increase in detail in the transfers, slightly better grain structure, and a more consistent overall picture. The audio tracks are similar to the first season, with clear dialogue and impressive use of surrounds during the show's frequent use of music.
Extras are similar to the first season as well. Audio commentaries start things off, with Jody Hilly, Danny McBride, and Steve Little ganging up for commentaries on the seventh, eleventh, and thirteenth episodes. The trio is jokey, but offer some solid info about the inspiration for this season. Director David Gordon Green and soundman Christof Gebert offer their insights into the twelfth and thirteenth episodes, mainly from a technical point of view. Then we get a location featurette that mixes behind-the-scenes footage with cast and crew interviews, and a featurette on the cockfighting seen in the show. Then, we get about half an hour of deleted scenes and outtakes of varying quality.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There really is no excuse for Kenny Powers. He's a racist, sexist jerk most people wouldn't look twice at on the street. He's offensive in pretty much every way, and since the majority of the show is from his point of view, there are lots of things to be offended by in the show. There's foul language, nudity, violence, and crudity of various stripes. Those looking to be offended will find something to incense them.
Eastbound & Down is looking up, if this second season is anything to go by. Those who enjoyed the first season will likely enjoy the slightly darker turn of Season Two. Those new to Kenny Powers can feel free to start here, or go back to Season One. The hi-def presentation here is a bit better than the first season received, and the extras are certainly up to scratch, making this set easy to recommend.
Kenny came back hard, making this season not guilty.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Episode Commentaries
Review content copyright © 2011 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.