The following contains spoilers for Kevin Can F**k Himself S2E1, “Mrs. McRoberts Is Dead” (written by Valerie Armstrong and directed by Anna Dokoza)
What I have found most intriguing about Kevin Can F**k Himself from the beginning has been its form—how it shifts from presenting itself as a stereotypical sitcom when Kevin is around to a fairly gritty drama (that is not without humor) when he is not. The striking thing has been how well this has worked, with the shifts in tone and style serving the thematic thrust of the series. At least throughout Season 1, it never feels gimmicky, even if it is, technically speaking, a gimmick.
The Season 1 finale presented us with a shock, as the framing of the sitcom broke, throwing Neil into the drama. I should note that it was only with this scene that we learned that reality was a sitcom when Neil was around, even without Kevin, but of course it was because the whole point of the framing device is to accentuate how a certain kind of oafish man is enabled to fail upwards or maintain a relatively charmed existence despite his many flaws, and that’s Neil just as much as Kevin. The choice to present the beginning of this scene as a sitcom was so obviously the correct one, most viewers probably didn’t even think about the fact that this was the first time in the series life was a sitcom without Kevin around, or that it was the first time we’d seen Neil without Kevin also being present.
Regardless, life isn’t a sitcom for Neil anymore, since Patty bashed him over the head to make him stop choking Allison. His exclamation at the end of the Season 1 finale should be read not just in relation to the assault, but in relation to the breaking of the sitcom frame and what it represents. So it’s only fitting that with S2E1 Neil would seem to no longer carry that vibe with him (though it might have been amusing to see the scenes where he was being held captive in that way).
At the same time, though, I fear that the form of Kevin Can F**k Himself has become muddled. The Season 2 premiere continues the conceit that has defined the series since it started, but there is something about the first cuts between drama and sitcom that make them feel a bit forced, or make the gimmick feel like one in a way that never happened in Season 1.
Perhaps it lies in the music on the soundtrack as Patty and Allison rush to try to get Neil out of the kitchen before Kevin enters it. Perhaps here the drama is a step too comedic, and it would have worked better if it were darker and more serious. I’m not sure, but S2E1 does have me a little worried about the direction the show is taking.
It’s important that the sitcom scenes in Kevin Can F**k Himself work as sitcom scenes—like you could plug them into an episode of King of Queens and they would fit—and for the most part they continue to do so in S2E1.
Allison’s quip to Kevin about how she’d rather fake her own death doesn’t quite land, however, and it feels a bit too on the nose as it becomes immediately clear that this is her actual plan as “Mrs. McRoberts Is Dead” comes to a close.
I’m not invested in that plan like I was in the plan to kill Kevin.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to try to argue that Kevin deserves to be killed, but insofar as Kevin Can F**k Himself has presented us with the fantasy of destroying the whole type that Kevin is and used his potential murder as something of a symbol for that smashing of a particular brand of patriarchy, I’ve been onboard. Allison has always been right in her fundamental assessment of things, even if murdering the guy would be extreme and not really defensible in the real world.
I kind of want to see the version of this show where Allison killed Neil with that second crack on his head and everyone had to deal with the fallout. Instead, Patty and Allison seem to be realizing that they’ve been doing bad things and are spurred to try to dial them back. It would seem that the plot of Season 2 is going to proceed along these lines, and if so I can’t help but read the broader implications as quite discouraging.
It’s as though Kevin Can F**k Himself were saying, “Yes, there are terrible men like Kevin in the world, but we just have to learn how to cope with their existence and privilege, since trying to do anything about it would just mess up our lives instead of theirs.” That’s depressing.
In fairness, though, I’ve only seen the first episode of the season as I write this, and maybe I’m wrong about what the series has in store for us in the episodes to come.
And I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about “Mrs. McRoberts Is Dead.” I enjoyed the episode quite a bit. Neil outside of the sitcom is still Neil, but it’s striking how we see who he is more clearly through this different lens. He speaks truth to Allison (or at least the truth from his point of view) when he points out that nagging Kevin never works, and maybe there is a point lurking here about accepting people for who they are, or cutting ties with them if we can’t.
Kevin, meanwhile, pursues a hilarious political campaign, with the first version of his ad seeming to consist primarily of him saying (and then spelling) his name. It’s funny because it probably would have worked pretty well, even devoid of meaningful content as it was. But then Allison gets the idea to undermine him by helping him. She celebrates at the bar with Diane, before learning that her “Wild Dude” ad has made Kevin famous.
She gets out of a DUI because of it, so maybe we should wonder if Kevin’s right to suggest that she just enjoy winning by proxy.
The stakes of Season 2 of Kevin Can F**k Himself feel a little under-defined coming out of the season premiere. We know that this will be the final season of the show, so presumably there is a planned arc that it will follow to give us some closure. It’s also likely that I was just hoping this series would veer more and more into the domain of black humor, while its tone has never been precisely that. So I’ll do my best to let the show take me where it wants to over the coming weeks, as opposed to continually lamenting that it isn’t something it’s not trying to be.
How do we read Allison’s plan to fake her death in terms of theme, as opposed to plot? I’ll keep thinking about it.
As far as the stakes of the plot, the threats to Allison and Patty are concrete, with Neil recovering in the hospital and Nick putatively not-dead. I both bet and hope that he wakes up eventually, since we all need more
Oswald Cobblepot Robin Lord Taylor on our screens.
It’s hard to see a way out for Allison or for Patty at this point, so I suppose Allison’s plan to fake her own death is as good as any. I wonder how she’ll go about it, since googling at the library appears to be a dead end. Stupid content blocker!
See you next week.
Kevin Can F**k Himself airs on AMC at 9pm ET on Mondays. Beginning with S2E2, episodes are set to be available a week early on AMC+. Our articles will be following the linear schedule of when the show airs on AMC.