This The Leftovers review contains spoilers.
The Leftovers Season 2 Episode 8
My thoughts exactly, Michael.
At this point in The Leftovers’ run, it has been established that bizarre, mystical things can and will happen at any given moment, but damn, did you really expect The Leftovers to go so full-tilt with it tonight? After last week’s shocking cliffhanger, starting the episode with Kevin Garvey essentially becoming James Bond in purgatory was more unexpected than Rhonda Rousey getting knocked out.
In what seemed like equal parts Sopranos homage and Lost fan trolling, Kevin spends the entirety, barring the last two minutes, of the episode in the afterlife, taking on a different identity, encountering dangerous henchmen and dead, familiar faces from season one as he tries to assassinate presidential candidate Patti Levin. The genre shake-up was gripping, humorous, heartbreaking and incredibly difficult to wrap your head around, so basically The Leftovers in miniature.
The crux of the episode deals with Kevin having to push a child version of Patti down a well. The episode’s most powerful monologue is a Jeopardy anecdote. There are birds flying around inside the hotel, you can’t drink the water, and Kevin Sr. is communicating through the TV, possibly via a drug trip and an open flame. It’s vintage Lindelof stuff, peculiar and powerful with symbolism that’s at times both overt and harder to read.
A lot of times, people complain about extended dream sequences, which this sort of qualifies as, because it stalls the narrative from moving forward, but “International Assassin” isn’t just frivolous style over substance because it serves to humanize Patti, the series most polarizing character. The multiple iterations of Patti that we encounter, the confident Guilty Remnant leader, the verbally abused little girl, the scared, scarred woman at the bottom of the well, they’re all little windows into the psychology of Patti and they paint a sympathetic portrait of what has essentially been a villain this season. The Jeopardy story and the self-deprecating nature of the little girl explain why the Guilty Remnant members remain silent, and oh man, is Ann Dowd incredible.
Justin Theroux gives another knockout performance too, showing extreme compassion for his enemy before tearfully drowning her with his bare hands. He also shows off some impressive physicality in those kinetic fight scenes and perhaps portrays the most realistic depiction of someone getting Windex sprayed into their eyes that I’ve ever seen. I’m relieved that Kevin isn’t gone for good, not because I think the show couldn’t survive without him, but because I’d miss Theroux’s consistently excellent work on the show.
I guess a big question is whether this all actually happened or if it was an elaborate hallucination, a product of the poison and Kevin’s own subconscious. As always, the show never explicitly tells us whether the mystical aspects of the show are real or not. Yes, the Sudden Departure happened, but we’re not as sure about Holy Wayne’s powers, Mary’s awakening, or the legitimacy of the fortuneteller that John victimizes from earlier in the season. But in my eyes, it’s pretty clear that something very sci-fi happened in this episode, and that definitive choice to embrace the supernatural might alienate some, but I love the move.
There’s a lot to chew on in this episode and a lot I want to discuss, and as always with this show, I’m struggling with how to weave it all together, so I’m going to discuss the show in blurbs below for convenience, but this was just another phenomenal hour of television. Season two of The Leftovers has been nothing short of incredible, the most challenging yet rewarding drama on television.
The Best of the Rest
- I think the well was representation of Patti. Kevin had to climb inside so he could really understand the depths of Patti’s personality and why she is the way that she is.
- I’m curious as to what the water symbolizes and since Virgil drank it, I’m assuming he won’t come back to life like Kevin?
- I also want to know why Mary Jamison was there, seeing as she isn’t dead. Are they saying that Mary’s spirit or consciousness is in limbo? And if so, then why?
- It was interesting to see Gladys and Holy Wayne as a part of the elaborate alternate reality where the world embraced the GR and Patti was heading toward the White House. I specifically loved how Wayne mentioned the fact that they had met once before while he was on the toilet.
- Kevin choosing his outfit based on him “knowing himself” was incredibly cool, especially because the episode gave us glimpses of what might have happened if Kevin chose the police uniform or the priest outfit instead.
- The use of Verdi’s “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” really contributed to the anxious, energetic pacing of the episode.
- For two weeks straight, The Leftovers uses a tongue in cheek way to point out the use of a cliché, this time with its Godfather, gun in the bathroom line.
- The dystopian version of Jarden was strange; stranger still was the man on the bridge that assured Kevin that what was happening was more real than anything. Will we ever know what he whispered to Kevin?
- It’s almost a crying shame that The Leftovers is struggling so hard in the ratings. Especially considering that most people were watching a different show where a character was revealed to still be alive, except in a way that was contrived and served no narrative purpose.