The secret of Kevin Can F**k Himself is that Allison could also use a kick in the pants. That's especially clear in the second and final season of AMC's meta-drama, about a Massachusetts housewife whose life is depicted as an old-school sitcom when her husband's around and a gritty prestige drama when he's not.
In Season 1, it was easy to sympathize with Allison (Annie Murphy) as she endured the laugh-track-laden indignities of life with her boorish manchild of a spouse. We'd see her in the "drama world" and know she was suffering, and then she'd enter the sitcom zone to find Kevin (Eric Petersen) ignoring or insulting her while he drank beer with his oafish friends. When she eventually plotted to kill him, it made a lurid kind of sense.
But gritty dramas have just as many tropes as comedies about slobs with pretty wives. In Season 2, which premieres August 22 on AMC and AMC+, the series spends more time in Allison's Kevin-less world, and she becomes a narcissistic monster in the Walter White mold — happy to destroy everyone around her to get what she's certain she deserves. (In this case, that's a life without Kevin.) She lies, manipulates, and schemes, and she compounds her crimes from last season with increasingly outlandish behavior.
In fact, she's a lot like Kevin, just with different lighting. Both of them are so blinded by their self-interest that they mostly see other people as pawns and props. They may be terrible for each other, but they make twisted sense together.
One of the show's sharpest tactics this year is the way it underlines Allison and Kevin's similarities by bringing slapstick into the drama and cruelty into the sitcom. When Allison is trying to pull off a criminal plot in the second episode, she stumbles into an open grave, and you can practically hear the studio audience howling at her pratfall. Meanwhile, by episode four, she and Kevin are berating each other under the studio lights, barely even pretending they're joking.
This is heady stuff, even if at times it feels bit too schematic. Both Kevin and Allison are so stuck in the ruts of their selfishness that even she starts to feel like a cardboard character. We know she's going to keep promising her friends that she's just asking them for one last favor. We know that at major moments, she's going to freeze with self doubt. And inevitably, we know she's going to find a way to convince herself that she's the world's biggest victim.
Fortunately, the show's supporting characters are more decisive. As the series winds to a close — it was announced months ago that it will end with this second batch of eight episodes — it's actually Allison's friend Patty (the sensational Mary Hollis Inboden) and Kevin's boneheaded buddy Neil (Alex Bonifer) who have the most compelling stories. Patty and Neil, who are also brother and sister, spend the season waking up to how terrible it is to be associated with the miserable couple next door. They move through both storytelling realms with equal discomfort, and eventually attempt to break away.
If the show can follow through on that shift, if it can let at least one character escape the orbit of these people who have cast themselves as the stars of their own little shows, then Kevin Can F**k Himself can go out on a genuinely disruptive note. That would make the occasionally stilted structural experiments feel worthwhile, and would justify the time we've spent with this dismal husband and wife. There's already enough substance in the show to suggest this could happen, and with only a few episodes left, it's worth sticking around to find out.
Season 2 of Kevin Can F**k Himself premieres with two episodes Monday, August 22 at 9 PM ET on AMC and AMC+.
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Mark Blankenship has been writing about arts and culture for twenty years, with bylines in The New York Times, Variety, Vulture, Fortune, and many others. You can hear him on the pop music podcast Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs.
TOPICS: Kevin Can F**k Himself, AMC, AMC+, Alex Bonifer, Annie Murphy, Eric Petersen, Mary Hollis Inboden