It turns out Kevin really did f--- himself in the end.
Although Allison (Annie Murphy) plotted her eponymous husband's demise in the first season of AMC's Kevin Can F**k Himself, she backed off the plan to kill him in the second and final season, instead focusing on getting herself out of town after faking her own death. It was a season-long arc for her to select a new identity (by visiting the morgue and looking through unclaimed bodies to find someone close enough to her age without a family looking for her or much of a social footprint), but she succeeded, and the penultimate episode saw her leave Kevin (Eric Petersen), her town, and her friend Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden) behind just when she was starting to rethink things.
The series finale, though, saw her return to Worchester, Mass. after a short time jump to confront Kevin and tell him she wanted a divorce. Once she did, for the first time in the show's history, he switched into single-camera format and yelled back at her that he would never let that happen. She held firm, held her head high, and left him alone in their formerly shared house, where he proceeded to get drunk and accidentally start a fire that burned down the house, with him still in it. So, by the end of the show, Kevin was killed, but it was ultimately by his own hand.
Allison decided to stay, and the very last moments of the finale reunited her with Patty, who had been searching for her the entire time, even to the detriment of her romantic relationship. Patty finally kicked her brother Neil (Alex Bonifer) out of her house, and with both women cutting the cancers from their lives, it finally seemed like they could move forward in a lighter, healthier way.
The series finale also finally introduced special guest star Erinn Hayes as Molly, the woman Kevin was seeing after Allison disappeared and he presumed her dead. It was extremely meta for anyone who knows Hayes' personal sitcom history, playing a different Kevin's (Kevin James) wife in the first season of CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait, only for her character to be killed off and replaced in the season season by Leah Remini.
Here, series creator Valerie Armstrong talks about fulfilling the promise of Kevin's death but in a different way than originally expected, bringing Hayes in, and the evolution of Annie and Patty's relationship and of Neil.
You have been very open for two seasons about wanting the show to feature Kevin's demise, but what made you decide that it should not be Allison who kills him?
It was very important to me that she not need it anymore. I think when it came to her in the pilot, it seemed like her salvation, and in all of her drive and ambition to actually accomplish this weird thing, she built a life for herself because for once she was taking charge of her own existence. That's what the entire device means to me. And so, by the end, to realize that she had built enough of a life, gotten enough of a perspective, is not self-loathing anymore, and realizes the value in herself and what she has to offer, the big change is not to kill him.
Really, it's just been a show about passive aggression and not being able to have conflict. So to have her say, "I'm leaving, I'm done," and he says, "I will f---ing destroy you" — everything that she has been saying about this man is true, and you finally see it. Not that he's changed at all, but that he's finally sunk into that level she's always known he's been capable of. She still leaves, even though she knows it's going to be so hard, and then his death is, he's hoisted by his own petard. He does something that, in multi-cam, he should get away with, and instead it bites him in the ass for once.
Even though you had a lot to wrap up in this final season, you did go back to give characters more of an origin story, from Allison and her family, to Allison meeting both Patty and Kevin for the first time. Why did you feel that was important, and how did it help you work out where you needed the Allison and Patty relationship to get to by the end of the series?
Introducing that piece of how they met explains to me two things: One is why they sat in a room for 10 years and didn't know that they liked each other, and the second is that when Patty actually begins to know Allison and Allison begins to actually know Patty, that they do like each other — because that's how they started. There's this moment where Alison tells her in single-camera in that flashback, "I don't like beer, but it's my dad's favorite." And then when she is getting hit on by Kevin, she says, "I love beer." It's multi-camera, but you can see Patty be like, "Ugh this girl; I know this girl." And so, I don't feel like that required any extra work to buy it back at all, but it was important to me that we get them to this place of unapologetic friendship. And not forgetting about the fact that Patty had a thing for Allison and maybe she always will. This season, to me, was about Patty's codependence and that her love for Allison, at first, was fairly codependent. That's what that last episode deals with in Season 1: Allison asked her to do something and she just left it because she wants to keep her happy. And this whole season is about Patty asserting herself and her own identity outside of other people.
And with Allison and her mom? Because you had their interactions be in multi-camera format which speaks volumes about why Allison put up with Kevin's antics for as long as she did, but also, you cast a such a great sitcom star to play her mother.
When we thought up the idea of Allison's origin story, it was important to me that she grew up in a multi-cam household — that her mother was as damaging, as controlling, as awful in a lot of ways as Kevin. And so, from the moment we talked about her, that scene was always in multi-cam. Of course, when you cast Peri Gilpin, just want to keep her around all day. It was such an honor to see her work and to see how she would subtly change lines to make them 10 times funnier than I'd written them. I was so appreciative. It really special. I'm a massive, massive Frasier fan.
The second season featured an awakening for Neil about how his so-called best friend treats him and even some others around him, yet he really only takes negative action against himself by drinking so much, and he is left in a place where he's not nearly as settled or quote-unquote good as Allison and Patty. Was that because you felt he doesn't deserve it?
You're exactly right, he doesn't deserve it yet. I was very aware that he put his hands on women — that we never going to get that back. And that was a choice we made, but I wanted to make sure if we were going to tell stories about Neil in single-camera that we never let him off the hook for it. He can learn, but we're never going to forget that he did that, and neither should he. So, I wanted in his story to be able to say, "Kevin is actually kind of an asshole." I think that's step one. Step two is, "Oh, no, I'm an asshole." But he's not quite there yet. He's gotten to Kevin by the end, but I think when he leaves and walks down the street and actually moves out, that's the only way that guy is going to redeem himself — by being his own person and stop relying on the goodwill of every woman in his life and figure out how to be a good man on his own. And maybe he will, maybe he won't, but I think his ending actually has a lot of hope.
And finally, what came first: the idea of Kevin replacing Allison so quickly or the idea of wanting to bring Erinn on the show to pay homage to some of its roots?
It was originally going to end, we thought, with Allison having actually faked her death. In my opinion as a viewer, I would watch our second season and think, "She's never gonna do it." And so, when we found out it would be our last season, I thought, "That's too depressive of an ending," and I'm not a fan of depressing endings. The idea that she's better off alone and that everyone's better off without her, I disagree with. So, we decided that would be our penultimate episode and the last episode would take place six months later. And the minute we've started talking about what that looks like, it's like, Kevin's life is the same except he has a beard. And that means that he has he has someone in his life taking care of him. And I think that day was it was immediately, "Well, it has to be Erinn Hayes." That was in our first casting call about Season 2; it was in every outline, every script — I think her Molly's parenthetical is "definitely Erinn Hayes." I was lucky enough to get to talk to Erinn ahead of casting her just to tell her a little bit about the role, and I thought I blew it because I was so nervous. And then 10 minutes later, I heard she wanted to sign up. So, I was thrilled and she was a delight.