The first season of “Kevin Can F**k Himself” features singular performances from Annie Murphy, Mary Hollis Inboden, and Eric Petersen. The writing is ambitious, excellent, and successful. The direction—usually from Anna Dokoza, who directs this episode to make a total of directing six of the eight first season episodes—is phenomenal.
Also, you might just want to wait unless it gets picked up for a second season. Basically, it’s all about relying on AMC to do the right thing, and AMC infamously added commercials to classic movies. So who knows.
Because the episode, with series creator Valerie Armstrong getting script credit, is all about what happens next. For everything and everyone. The resolution to last episode’s cliffhanger on whether or not Petersen survives a home invasion is either big swing plotting or where they decided to go for a season two instead of wrapping it up here. That resolution is the only concluding they do this episode. Everything else is left open.
The episode proper begins with Murphy asking Inboden to snoop on “girlfriend” Candice Coke’s investigation notebook. This thread runs under Inboden’s entire episode arc until there’s an insert scene with her ex-boyfriend, Sean Clements, trying to set cop Coke on Inboden’s trail for drug dealing. It goes absolutely nowhere because it’s season two material, leaving Coke even more in flux because apparently Inboden skips out on Coke—telling her she’s buying cigarettes—and never returns to her shop. For hours.
Or the episode skipped the scene, which is a narrative fail.
Meanwhile, Murphy’s got to deal with her machinations’ immediate fallout, which the episode principally reduces to arguing with lover Raymond Lee. Lee gets the worst arc of the episode. Seems like he’s on his way out for next season, with his cliffhanger from last episode quickly rendered immaterial here. It’s narrative vamping, with only the sitcom aspect and then the season cliffhanger bringing much drama.
Worst of all, Dokoza’s direction of Murphy and Inboden’s big blow-up is blah. Suddenly, she and Adrian Peng Correia can’t figure out how to shoot a scene, which is set in the “All in the Family” living room, only the real-world version of it. Dokoza shoots it like they found a 704 Hauser pop-in, and guerrilla shot a scene. Adding to my conspiracy theory the ending’s been rejiggered for a cliffhanger, though the actual cliffhanger is pretty good and has lots of promise for next season.
If it gets one.
So is “Kevin Can F**k Himself: Season One” a success? It’s successful. Murphy, Inboden, and Petersen all give superb performances. It’s an accomplishment. But whether or not it “works” depends entirely on renewal, which sucks. Playing chicken with the network is so dated.
The episode doesn’t even finish Petersen’s arc. It really just does kick every last thing down the road.
It’s frustrating as all hell. And great. But don’t watch it. Well, watch it but maybe after the renewal news is out. Knowing it’s incomplete (or not) might help.