This review of The Leftovers contains spoilers. You can find a spoiler-free review here.
The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 1
How fitting is it that The Leftovers would premiere its third and final season on Easter Sunday? For a show meditating on what it means to have faith and exploring what leads people to belief, I can’t imagine that it’s a coincidence, especially now that the series features something of a Messiah figure. Kevin Garvey drowned, drank poison, was shot point blank in his chest, and visited purgatory, yet is still alive in Miracle. Throw in a new beard, and he’s a ringer for Jesus, no matter how much he protests.
It’s been three years in the world of the show, and people are still searching for the next thing to believe in. After the Sudden Departure, where two percent of the world’s population vanished without explanation, people are desperate for anything that will bring meaning to their loss or their changed lives. With the 7th Anniversary of the Departure approaching, and the number seven being significant in the Bible, the world is waiting with bated breath to see if the other shoe will drop, and people like Matt Jamison and John Murphy believe Kevin will play a significant part in whatever, if anything, is coming.
Just like last season’s move to Miracle, the time jump is a fantastic way to shake up the status quo on the series. When we return to the makeshift Garvey/Jamison family, roles and relationships have morphed and evolved; Kevin is back in uniform as the chief of police in Jarden, Laurie has begun a relationship with John, happily doling out therapy under false pretenses with Michael by his father’s side, though Erika is nowhere to be found, Tom has become a cop, Jill is off at college, Nora is once again working for the DSD and investigating fake departures, and Matt is leading a successful congregation but is straining his marriage with an awoken Mary.
Evie, Meg, and the rest of the Guilty Remnant are gone, and this time for good; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives and Cults are believed to have bombed the Jarden Visitors Center where they were holing up. Since that event, Miracle has done away with its tight security, allowing the eccentrics that were kept outside of the city limits to flood the streets. With the anniversary quickly approaching, there are even more crazies than usual.
Speaking of crazies, Kevin gets a surprise visit from his old dog-shooting buddy Dean. Dean’s reappearance could be seen as a way to measure Kevin’s progress. Since the events of “International Assassin,” which Kevin frequently flashes back to, he’s no longer hearing the voices of the dead or sleep walking at night. Having Dean resurface, spewing insane theories about Senators, peanut butter sandwiches, and K9 DNA, is a signal that things are going to start getting strange again. The show plays into this tension in ways like showing Kevin jolt awake in bed, only to learn he’s slept soundly through the night with no incidents. Later in the episode, Dean attacks Kevin and Tom, and Tom is forced to kill him. It’s a shock to Kevin’s system, a possible omen of what’s to come.
Whether Kevin likes it or not, he’s going to be a central figure in the upcoming anniversary. Matt has been busy writing a new religious text based on Kevin’s life, positing that Kevin can’t die in Miracle. The idea holds some weight, as we learn that Kevin routinely tries to suffocate himself, mostly out of his own morbid curiosity. Still, Kevin doesn’t want to be looked at like a Jesus figure, and he’s not alone in his thinking. Mary has decided that she’ll be leaving Miracle, unable to handle Matt’s obsession with his belief in the town’s spiritual abilities and his theories about Kevin.
The episode mostly serves as a catching up hour, but features two standout scenes. First is the episode’s cold open, which mirrors season two’s premiere in that it is unrelated to the main story, but it is thematically relevant. Taking place in 1844, the scene follows a woman and her family as they give up their possessions and join a radical church that believes a great flood is coming. The wordless montage, set to the eerie Christian standard “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” sees the woman’s family leave her behind and her neighbors mock her as her flood predictions repeatedly do not come true. Nevertheless, she proceeds to believe and routinely climbs upon the roof of her home, dressed in white robes, waiting for the rain to come. It’s a jarring, beautiful scene that further explores what it means to have faith.
The other noteworthy moment happens at the end of the episode, as we are whisked away to Australia, where most of this season will take place. An older woman is seen collecting doves, then delivers them by bicycle to a nearby church. A nun graciously receives the doves then asks, “Does the name Kevin mean anything to you?” We then see the woman’s face, and it appears to be an aged Nora, who looks solemn before confidently stating, “No.” Like most things on The Leftovers, I have no idea what this could mean or be foreshadowing, but it looks like last season’s indulgences in sci-fi and mystical happenings will continue this year.
As I said in my spoiler-free review, I spent more time thinking about The Leftovers since it’s been off the air than any other show. Unafraid to lean into unconventional ideas while also letting the mystery be, the series features devastatingly realistic performances, characters that unravel in the most interesting ways, and a tone that effortlessly shifts from hopeless to humorous at the drop of dime. I’m so glad that The Leftovers is back and can’t wait to hear that spine-tingling score soundtrack the next jaw-dropping moment.