The following contains spoilers for Kevin Can F**k Himself Episode 7, “Broken”
With Episode 7 (“Broken”), Kevin Can F**k Himself changes genre again. Or, well that’s not quite right; this show has played with genre all along, from the first time it shifted from a multi-camera sitcom to a single-camera drama the moment Allison left the room. And it’s continued to play with its form in novel ways, paralleling the themes of the story it presents. By Episode 4 the sitcom felt oppressive, in Episode 6 it was annoying. In Episode 7 it is…well, broken.
But that’s not until the end. At the beginning of Episode 7, the sitcom is rather withheld, for a full 17 minutes this time. Those minutes are filled with tension, as we see Nick (who really does work at The Grand Victorian) come to a breaking point, and Allison brought in for questioning by the police before the show jumps back in time four days. Something bad has happened/will happen/is happening. Is it the thing we wanted?
Once again the form of the hour parallels its thematic progression. If in Episode 6 we were annoyed by the sitcom, feeling it to be a meaningless distraction from the important events surrounding it, in Episode 7 when it ultimately arrives it brings with it a certain relief. We’re used to these scenes by now, as Allison is used to her life with Kevin. Even if it’s terrible, there is always some comfort in normality.
“Broken” is cut through with tension and Allison’s anxiety about actually going through with the murder of her husband. None of this means she doesn’t want it to happen. She can’t even understand consciously why she’s prone to sobbing all of a sudden. It’s like sneezing—a physical manifestation expressing itself in response to a huge impending change in her life.
And of course, she also doubts herself. She remembers Kevin on their wedding day, and how he pantsed the priest to make her feel better. Further, his shenanigans in the present of Episode 7 are mostly harmless, even if they include some questionable views on gender and a sense of entitlement to Allison’s body. Kevin is still Kevin, in other words, but we’re closer to a space where we might be more willing to think he is just a bonehead who does love his wife than we have been in preceding episodes, where the sitcom style encouraged us to laugh off what at times was truly reprehensible behavior.
We, like Allison, are led to question whether we really want to see Kevin die, as the frame of the sitcom breaks from within after he hears an intruder and grabs the gun he found in the yard. It doesn’t shatter, as in Allison’s Episode 1 fantasy of stabbing Kevin in the neck with a broken beer bottle. The moment here instead brings to light the difference between such a fantasy and reality. Reality is terrifying, and as he prepares to investigate the noise in their house, we can see the fear in Kevin’s face. The drama has invaded the sitcom. We’re left with a gunshot and to wonder who shot whom—as the police interrogation scenes have never actually told us what happened—and thus the fundamental tension of Episode 7 is never resolved.
It seems noteworthy that along the way we get a sitcom scene wherein Kevin is absent. The form instead centers on Neil, as he picks through the garbage and then talks with Patty and Tammy. I had speculated that Kevin’s death could bring an end to the sitcom element of Kevin Can F**k Himself, but this opens a new possibility of it outliving him and moving to circulate around others.
I don’t think Kevin is dead, though, for what it’s worth. I think there is a good chance he’s badly wounded and that we’ll thus get some hospital-related comedy that pays homage to things like when Sam got his tonsils out on Diff’rent Strokes—only far darker because Kevin will be in truly bad shape. Or perhaps he will have killed Nick, and Allison’s anguish in the police station relates to her plan having failed, putting her in the position of having to exculpate Kevin. Either way there’s the fact that Nick bucked her carefully laid out plan and put events beyond her control. Her anxiety in the bathtub was warranted, even if she didn’t know why.
But speaking of Nick, it is also noteworthy how Episode 7 moves to humanize him, largely by simply giving us his perspective. In the opening scene he is rather deflated as Allison has flipped the power dynamic on him. It is easy to almost feel bad for him. Similarly as we follow him to work at the restaurant. We may have wondered in Episode 6 if he was there as a part of his scheme to kill Kevin, but the truth is this is simply his job and he needs it in order to avoid having his parole revoked.
He loses his cool and gets fired (for legitimate reasons), but Kevin Can F**k Himself makes it clear through these dramatic scenes that Nick himself is broken and desperate for a better life. We’re led to think that this makes him move the timetable of the murder forward, but I do think it is worth noting that Episode 7 doesn’t quite actually inform us that it was Nick in the house at the end of the hour, and further that it wouldn’t really make any sense for him to think he could do the murder sooner and get paid right after Allison has insisted that he has to do it how and when she says if he wants the money.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t Nick in the house, just that it might not have been. And it is also worth noting that the police know who it was—someone who played hockey with Neil. But then let’s not forget how Tammy tells Neil elsewhere in the episode that a key aspect of an effective interrogation is pretending you have more evidence than you do…
Kevin Can F**k Himself Episode 7 also makes clear that Patty and Tammy are a real thing…I think. I suppose it remains possible that Patty is thinking to perpetuate their relationship in order to blur Tammy’s thinking as a detective when it comes to ultimately investigating the case, in a kind of inverse of the logic she presents when she calls out Allison’s affair with Sam, but that would be somewhat hard to reconcile with how she seems spurred to seek out Tammy to patch things up by her bathtub conversation with Allison.
I believe Patty is being genuine here, and that she does indeed feel awkwardness and trepidation at just now exploring this aspect of her sexuality in her 30s. The power dynamic relating to the fact that Tammy is a police detective still feels problematic, and I could well see someone disagreeing, but I feel real chemistry between this pair. It’s just not your stereotypical kind of chemistry so much as it is two fairly jaded and cynical women connecting over the fact that it turns out they don’t really like painting, etc.
One of the things that remains most remarkable about Kevin Can F**k Himself is how the shifts in the style in which the narrative is presented serve the characters. Tammy feels oddly deepened through her comedic exchange with Neil, with the multi-cam framing bringing out a lightness to this character who can often seem rather dour.
At the same time, having gotten to know Allison and Patty outside of the Kevin Land frame moves us to reflect upon their internal dimensions when they are within it. For example, when Patty sits on the couch in Episode 7 as Kevin and Neil come to agree that there can’t be a woman in a Jenny McCarthy Tank Top (unless it was Jenny McCarthy), this is all framed in the precise way a sitcom would frame it, with her facial expressions feeding right into the laugh track. But we know perfectly well that she’s feeling upset, angry, and devalued—even though she doesn’t care about their stupid band anyway.
It’s the same with the running gag about how Allison isn’t pregnant. “There’s nothing in there” brings canned laughter, but we can’t help but think about Allison’s mental turmoil as her visit to a fertility clinic to provide a kind of spiritual alibi has resulted in Kevin changing his mind about having children, and further how she is being given no explicit say in the matter, though we’re aware of her rich and complex inner life.
With this in mind, perhaps I was wrong before when I said that Kevin’s antics in Episode 7 are mostly harmless—the sitcom is gearing up for a climax that would clearly involve him imposing his will on Allison, and there is a way in which he is already failing to respect her right to self-determination, or seek her consent.
But then the sitcom is broken. A shot rings out and we cut to black. I have no idea what the season finale of Kevin Can F**k Himself will bring next week, but I can’t wait to find out.