In the Fall of 2017, the CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait returned for Season 2 by unceremoniously killing off Kevin’s wife Donna, played by Erinn Hayes, and replacing her with another woman without a kind word. This cruel action wrapped up in studio laughter inspired the creation of AMC’s Kevin Can F-k Himself. On its series finale, Erinn Hayes guest stars as Molly, the woman the Kevin (Eric Peterson) of Kevin Can F-k Himself replaces his (presumed) dead wife with. And she also gets to dump his ass.
This full-circle moment represents everything excellent about Kevin Can F-k Himself’s finale. Series finales are hard, especially for a show that only received two seasons. And yet “Allison’s House” is a masterclass in tying up loose ends. Every thematic point of the series, every key relationship, gets its due. It’s one of those episodes that makes goodbyes look easy.
The premise and gimmick of Kevin Can F-k Himself—a world that flips between dark single camera drama and bright multicam sitcom—has always been building toward its collapse. The Season 1 finale saw a glimpse when Neil’s (Alex Bonider) violence gets him pulled into Allison’s single-cam reality. But the moment we’ve all waited for is Kevin finally being revealed as the monster his wife knows him as. She told characters about his cruelty and some began to understand. But the last person to truly see Kevin for who he is is us, the viewer.
Even if that finale confrontation between Allison (Annie Murphy) and Kevin is all the show is remembered for, it would have done its job. Peterson and Murphy are excellent, and the palpable terror at seeing a man smile through disparaging words and violent outbursts captures the disconnect Kevin Can F-k Himself has always been about. Domestic abuse and misogyny can become normalized when you’re used to laughing it off. Men get the benefit of the joke, their insults and offenses can be played off as humorous immaturity. But in that moment Kevin is seen for what he actually is: a manipulative, abusive husband who uses his childish nature as a shield against accountability. It’s chilling, poignant, and pretty satisfying for the camera (and the studio audience) to see. No one is laughing anymore.
While the dual nature of horrible men may have inspired the show, Kevin Can F-k Himself finds its strength in the duo of Allison and Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden). Their evolving friendship and unbreakable bond is what made the series compelling outside of its premise. Inboden is the breakout star, and has brought so much to the character of Patty. We’re supposed to look down on the person who never leaves their horrible hometown, but for Patty that was never Worcester. It was her, the people she chose to hang out with, and her inability to be honest with herself on what she wanted. And in the end it was simple: a smoke on the porch without having to worry about everyone else.
“Allison’s House” is filled with full-circle moments. Allison/Gertrude tries to read a book while at a cafe, a callback to the first scene of the show. But she’s reading Ulysseus and it doesn’t make sense; she’s always on edge, and she isn’t satisfied in the slightest. The dream of an easy escape has always been just that: a dream. Allison wanted to get away, but she needed to take back her power. Honesty would set her free.
In the end Kevin is still the one who makes things happen, in this case burning down the house in an alcohol-fueled rage. He tries to destroy Allison but he destroys himself and his world with it. I half expected the studio audience to start screaming as they were engulfed alongside him. The dimensions and frame of the sitcom world may have begun as a coping mechanism for Allison but they were always Kevin’s weapons. He controlled her life, her finances, how everyone in the town saw her. But fire is cleansing, and the burned ashes of Allison’s former life transform the set of her abuse into something powerful: something of her own. It may be charred but it’s Allison’s house now.
That final shot, Patty and Allison sitting on the steps of her smoking house is the sweetness at the heart of Kevin Can F-k Himself. They got each other out of the world controlled by the abusive men in their lives. They’re that special kind of soulmate: someone who sees the world like you do. They’re finally free to die alone together.
The most interesting idea Kevin Can F-k Himself has explored in its run are the lives of people the world dismisses as side characters. It’s easy for the loudest and most charismatic person to make everything revolve around them. The snarky neighbor, the tired wife, and the dimwitted best friend are just tropes made by the person at the center of the narrative. Kevin Can F-k Himself shifts how we view classic character dynamics by putting the side characters in control. The people who make up your boring hometown are still people with their own problems, they just don’t get the benefit of the audience’s attention. Their lives continue when they leave the main set. Who the camera focuses on and how they’re framed has always been a choice. Sitcoms have oftens chosen the Kevins of the world as the protagonists of their stories. What do we lose when we assume everyone else is only defined by their relationship to them? Kevin Can F-k Himself answers: we miss out on something original, and some damn good TV.
Unfortunately, Kevin Can F-k Himself never really found its audience, and that’s a profound shame. TV is just so crowded that it’s easy for such an inventive show to get lost in the rubble. “Allison’s House” will forever put the show on a high note. Maybe one day it will become an undiscovered hidden gem show promoted by the next streaming service that reigns over us all. There will always be people who want to watch shows that confront misogyny, abuse, and explore the powerful bonds between women.
But Kevin Can F-k Himself also received a rare blessing: the chance to go out on its own terms. The show should be remembered for what’s possible when you give talented people the chance to make something of its own design. “Allison’s House” doesn’t leave you wondering what if, it brings the show together into one cohesive unit. It transcended the gimmick of its pitch and told the stories of its characters to completion. Ultimately, Kevin Can F-k Himself got to build up its premise before burning it to the ground.
Leila Jordan is a writer and former jigsaw puzzle world record holder. To talk about all things movies, TV, and useless trivia you can find her @galaxyleila
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