Kevin Can Wait has made its highly-anticipated return following Erinn Hayes’ surprising exit.
The CBS sitcom parted ways with their female lead, who played Kevin’s wife, Donna, at the end of season one, citing creative and personal reasons and announcing their decision to kill the character off.
On Monday’s season two premiere, Donna’s sudden absence was felt immediately, as Kevin (Kevin James) struggled to pack lunch for his youngest kids, while elder daughter Kendra (Taylor Spreitler) tried to help her dad out. But things turned somber when the mail delivered a reminder of the family's late matriarch, in the form of a "We miss you" postcard from Donna's gym.
"Give me that, I will call them right now," Kendra insisted. "It's been over a year since she died, they shouldn't still be sending this."
The premiere culminates with Kendra's wedding, and before the ceremony, she and Kevin share an emotional moment, remembering Donna, admitting, "I wish she was here too."
"She'd be so proud of you," her father replies.
EXCLUSIVE: Kevin James and Leah Remini Talk 'King of Queens' Reunion on 'Kevin Can Wait'
News of Hayes’ exit came in June, when the network shared that Leah Remini would be promoted to a series regular in season two, and that Hayes would exit as a result.
“The goal was to give Kevin’s character a real drive and a real predicament [involving] how a family comes back together [after tragedy],” executive producer and showrunner Rob Long told TVLine in August. “Also, out of respect for the character of Donna -- and certainly the way that Erinn Hayes portrayed her -- it seemed like the only right and fair way to treat her character.”
Long added that season two would focus on Kevin’s journey as a single father, saying that they never considered letting Donna live in order to leave the door open for her to return in the future.
Later in the season two premiere, Remini's character -- Kevin's old partner on the force, Vanessa Cellucci -- sat down with Kendra for an impromptu "bachelorette party" as she talked out her wedding nerves.
"Thank you for being here," Kendra tells her emotionally.
Remini took to Instagram earlier this week to share how much she was enjoying being reunited with her Kings of Queens husband.
NEWS: 'Kevin Can Wait' Boss: Decision to Kill Erinn Hayes’ Character Was Done 'Out of Respect'
“I have been having the time of my life being reunited with my favorite funny man @officialkevinjames,” she captioned a promo pic of the pair on Monday. “Not often in life do you get to go back and add to already amazing memories. Thank you @cbstv and the cast and crew @kevincanwaitcbs for welcoming me! And to all of you who have been so incredibly supportive, we thank you! #blessings.”
See more on the show's casting shake up in the video below.