Hello there! I would be tickled to attempt to help sort some of those feelings out with you! I have a lot of feels about Kieren taking off his mousse, so if we get lost in them, at least we are in good company!
Kieren taking off his mousse doesn’t start at his family lunch, even though it seems like that is the case. Kieren taking off his mousse starts… well, it starts the moment - the ONLY moment - Kieren is openly impressed with Simon. That small, short moment, when Kieren finds a
handsome… hot… striking guy perched atop his gravestone, a guy who is decidedly unimpressed with the cover up mousse and contacts Kieren wears, as well as the epitaph on his headstone, a guy who immediately recites a bit of beautiful poetry the moment Kieren suggests he would have preferred poetry. For that little, bitty moment, Kieren sees Simon; a proud, undead man with a soft, dry wit, a patient, careful demeanor, and a taste for artful words. The guy he meets in that moment is a guy that piques Kieren’s interest, someone Kieren wants to be around (and arguably, someone Kieren wants to be a match for in terms of strength of character and as a person, not necessarily a love match).
This illusion is shattered quite forcibly in the next moment, when Amy arrives to announce Simon is not only a member of the ULA, but the 12th disciple of the Undead Prophet. In Kieren’s words: “Not ideal.”
However, this is also the man who brought Amy back to Roarton. This is the man who, after what Gary did to Amy, played a part in her return to her proud, beautiful “au naturale” appearance. This is the man who stands in front of Kieren and starts plucking at Kieren’s chords, saying all the things Kieren has worked to forget, about how he shouldn’t have to run, how he should be able to live here openly, how he should be able to be himself, etc. Those are all things Kieren feels (and probably feels doubly so, as these are the same things affecting his first life), and Simon isn’t letting them stay buried. He finds Kieren’s buttons, and presses them like an obnoxious, suave, terrible-sweater-wearing child.
And he doesn’t stop. The next time Kieren sees Simon is when Amy and Simon arrive at the Legion to make a point. Now, originally when I watched this scene, I thought that Simon and Amy where there to test the townsfolk, and I still believe that is why Amy went. But not Simon. Simon knew Kieren would be there, and that entire display was ONLY about pressing Kieren’s buttons, to try to get him to see that the cover-up he’s applied to his view of the entire town is just that- a lie. Below the surface, the town is a different creature than the one Kieren is pretending it is. In that entire exchange, Simon says only one word- Kieren’s name. The rest of the time, he watches Kieren. They enter and he watches Kieren’s reaction (which is basically >:| no, simon. bad simon. what have you done, simon. I’m not up for this bullshit tonight, simon.), he seats himself and lets the world react around him. When Gary starts in on them, Simon simply raises his eyebrows at Kieren, who is glaring MIGHTY daggers at him by then. Simon has got his thumb on Kieren’s buttons, and those eyebrows are saying “I’ll follow your lead, Kieren. What are you going to do, Kieren? You told me this place had moved on, Kieren. Ready to admit I was right, Kieren?”
Which, of course, Kieren gets angry about. He doesn’t like being put into this position. He had thought he was FINE just pretending to get along here, and that if he moved elsewhere everything would be better, and now he’s being put on the spot by both Simon and Gary, and if he has to choose a side to lash out at, Gary’s had the longer run of it. And that moment, the one where he stands up to Gary and tells him to get out, is the first phase of taking off his cover-up. That’s the first instance where Kieren yields to Simon’s button pushing and agrees that something is wrong. He doesn’t like it, he’s very pissed about it, but he does agree.
After that, it’s just one thing after another, to be honest. Kieren is, as Jem says and as we see, gentle. He doesn’t want to fight. There is an amount of shit he’s willing to take to keep things cool, keep from having to fight. There’s an amount of being a scapegoat, getting walked upon by others, that Kieren is willing to take, but we watch throughout the season as everything around Kieren starts scratching at that tolerance threshold.
We see Kieren get blocked from escaping to where he thinks it will be better for him. We see a member of Victus start taking over his town’s council. We see the PDS Give-Back Scheme start up, and we see both Simon and Amy protest it or outright refuse it. We see Simon turning up and, once again, getting between Gary and Kieren, when Gary starts to get pissy about them taking a break. We see Kieren resigning himself to the Give-Back work, because it’s only 6 months (okay, only 6 months, Kieren tells himself. I can put up with this that long if it means getting away at the end) and then we see Simon turn up and press the button that shatters that illusion as well. We see Kieren and Simon bickering in the hospital, where Kieren sees that the rabids are being mistreated (even if he’s unconvinced the treatment center is bad). We see Kieren’s dad getting a little weird about him and Amy and the ULA, in particular we see Kieren have a moment of panic when his dad admits he doesn’t think Kieren killed anyone when Kieren knows he did.
We see Kieren stressing out because Simon is trying to find some way to connect, and Kieren doesn’t want to be a part of the cult, and then Simon does The Thing. He does the thing no one else is doing; he puts Kieren first. He tells Kieren “Yes, here is the most important thing in my life right now, and if you want nothing to do with it that’s fine. You’re important enough to set that aside. Whatever you want, that’s what we’ll do. Okay?”
We see Kieren accept that, and the request he makes is for Simon to join Kieren’s world (as opposed to Kieren joining Simon’s, which he has so far refused to do— this is important for later). And Simon does it, no questions, no fight. He puts on cover up and puts in his contacts - something he is entirely against - because that is the what Kieren asked of him. And they both know how big of a deal it is, which is (imo) the reason Kieren chose this thing… and even so, when Kieren thanks him for it, Simon says “it’s okay” like it’s not a big deal. Like it’s just natural for him to yield to Kieren in this respect… like it’s reflex.
And finally, finally, we arrive at that lunch. At this point, Kieren is under so much outside pressure from the town’s happenings and so much inside pressure has built up from everything he feels, that he is ready to break. He is holding it together remarkably well, because he thinks that he is about to make progress in lessening it.
Because look. Here is Simon, a ULA leader, sitting peacefully at the table with his father (who you remember was tense over the ULA). Simon may be able to allay some of Steve’s fears by being… well, Simon. Sue will feel better about Kieren having friends. Simon may see that wearing cover-up isn’t the Terrible, Awful, Very-bad, No Good thing Simon’s made it out to be, that it can really ease tensions between the living and the undead (and maybe Simon will stop pressing Kieren’s buttons about it, wouldn’t that be nice). I honestly think that Kieren went into this lunch expecting that it would help to start heal things that were causing him problems.
What happens is that Gary turns up and tosses a big fucking wrench into the thing. He and Jem come in wearing RPS (HVF) uniforms, and Gary immediately sets about being rude in multiple ways (I personally am ENRAGED over how he ignored his host’s requests to shut the fuck up, it’s possible I’m even more angry about this than I am about what he says). He doesn’t even realize, I think, how hard he is pressing on an overstressed Kieren, and none of them are ready for the way Kieren snaps.
Because he does snap. He is nonviolent, as is true to his character, but he does snap. He is tired of being treated as less than human. He is tired of hiding, and tired of playing along like it’s okay. Sweet, gentle, docile Kieren is sick of seeing Gary (amongst others) get praise for literally murdering people. He is sick of the deaths and plights of the undead being treated as a joke. And the very last people who should be in support of those things happening - his family - let this guy into the house and clearly aren’t going to put their foot down to stop it.
And Kieren takes another layer of cover-up off at the table. He reveals to his parents that he DID kill people, he killed them and ripped them apart and ate them like the predator he is. He tells Gary in no uncertain terms that while Gary is a hunter, Kieren was a hunter, too, and his prey was Gary’s species. Kieren’s hunt wasn’t self defense; Kieren’s hunt was a hunger for blood, a drive to seek out and consume people like Gary. And with Simon, who easily defeated Gary in a physical match, sitting docile at Kieren’s side, I’m sure Gary got the message. You may have killed us, but I killed you too. Keep pressing and find out if I’m still capable.
The major kicker here, is that Kieren gets no backup. Not from anyone, not even Simon (because Simon’s too busy having a crisis of his own). His father outright tells him that he doesn’t have a space to speak, when he was unwilling to put his foot down about Gary telling the same sort of story. It’s the last straw.
Simon was right, Kieren realizes in that moment. Simon was right all along. Things aren’t better here. Things won’t get better as long as Kieren is only pretending. Kieren still feels all the same things he felt when he met Simon - that he shouldn’t have to hide, that he shouldn’t have to be ashamed of existing, that he shouldn’t have to be driven from his home, that he should be able to live like a normal human being if he wants - except the events of the interim between meeting Simon and having this lunch have told Kieren that nothing will change unless he stops pretending.
And that, my dear, is why Kieren takes off the mousse then. Because he has spent the last 4 episodes taking off the cover-up he’d applied to his life, and the last step was wiping his face clean of the pressure the living put on him to appear like one of them. He’s not one of them; they have made that abundantly clear to him.
He takes off the mousse then because he is ready to stand up for himself and the first step is standing up to himself, and the first step toward that is accepting himself for who he really is.