The Leftovers: Cairo Review

In maybe the series' best episode to date, answers we've waited for are finally materializing. Here's our review...

It’s amazing what one episode can accomplish. Last week, I was pretty unimpressed with The Leftovers, particularly with that installment and how it seemed rather uneventful, puzzling, and easy to pass over.

Tonight’s episode was not that. With varying levels of success, this outing of The Leftovers was the most eventful yet. Finally, The Leftovers seems like it has taken shape, or at least that the show is finally done setting the table and is now prepared to serve the dish. The show took lengths to raise the stakes for Kevin, and with the help of a brilliant performance by actress Ann Dowd, there were intense, gripping scenes. This is the episode that everyone who has abandoned the show was waiting for, as answers to questions suddenly materialized. Still not flawless, this hour of the show may be my favorite barring the episodes dedicated to Matt and Nora. 

Like I mentioned above, Ann Dowd was terrific as Patti, and now I am sad that her presence will be missing from the recently announced second season. Kevin blacking out was something the show flirted with, but tonight went full tilt on by having Kevin, with the help of the mysterious Dean, attack and kidnap Patti and whisk her to the titular Cairo with the intensions of murdering her. In Cairo, where Kevin camped as the boy, we find his missing shirts and boots, highlighting that this is something Kevin does frequently, and his bewilderment at their discovery looked like the snapping of an already fragile man, but Kevin does not give in.

He stops Dean’s murder attempt and ignores Patti’s Guilty Remnant jargon about attachment being the source of pain, and even her admission to murdering Gladys, and doesn’t go through with killing Patti. Both figures haunt Kevin’s life; Patti during his waking hours and Dean in those he cannot remember. For two people so different, they both wreak havoc in Kevin’s life, and they both want Kevin to embrace his dissent in to madness by murdering Patti. He finds no peace in doing the right thing, as Patti commits suicide, bleeding out in Kevin’s arms to prove a point.

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The material still is relentlessly dark, but definitely not so ambiguous with its message. The Guilty Remnant still haven’t swayed me to their side like they have Jill, who we’ll get to in a moment, but they do hint at big upcoming plans that might keep the throttle turned up for the final two episodes this season. It was also nice to have some mysterious revealed, which proves that it’s not just all questions. 

Jill’s storyline was hit and miss for me. This was the most meaningful time the show has dedicated to the character, and perhaps with depression being in the headlines last week, it was the first time Jill felt like a real person and not like a badly drawn troubled teen. Instead of being mad at her Dad dating someone new, she’s mad that this particular person seems to be dealing with loss and depression and overcoming it, and she can’t fathom how. She gets hung up on Nora having a gun but not needing it, and becomes obsessed with discovering it to prove Nora isn’t as adjusted as she’s pretending. The bad aspects come from the twins helping the mission.

Usually they provide great comic relief and I enjoy their presence, but here, they spell out the meaning of the gun so much that Jill’s emotional moment of discovery loses its impact. I also wasn’t fond of Jill and Aimee’s falling out. We’re left in the dark about whether Aimee slept with Kevin and their emotionless goodbye felt so unceremonious for such a big turning point with Jill. Her joining the Guilty Remnant makes sense for many reasons and will fuel some interesting moments, but it’s sad that it seems like she’s letting her depression win. 

Overall, this episode seemed to really dial things up and also added some clarity to things we’ve already seen. The show’s self-serious tone still takes some getting adjusted to, but I like that it seems like we’re going somewhere, and the GR’s upcoming plans will push things even further. I’m still not as in love with this show as I should be for something that I view every week, but this is a good step in the right direction.

The Best of The Rest: 

  • Cairo is a five hour drive from Mapleton. If Kevin goes to bed at, let’s say eleven, and wakes up for work at eight, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for those blackout adventures.
  • Cairo is featured on the issue of National Geographic that Kevin’s father gives him. 
  • Justin Theroux’s acting was once again on point. He squirted some real tears tonight. 
  • The cold open was extremely long, but neat, comparing Kevin and Patti. I could have done a whole episode of them talking in the cabin, like a twisted version of Mad Men’s “The Suitcase.” 
  • Patti recites a WB Yeats poem that sort of goes against what she was preaching for the GR, no? 
  • Matt sets his sights on helping Meg, who has become my least favorite character, especially because all of her lines are delivered by the abysmal Liv Tyler.
  • Patti murdering Gladys, then saying that Laurie is next definitely shows that the GR are more hardcore than expected.
  • Nora throws some shade at Laurie about her abandoning her daughter.

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4 out of 5