The Leftovers Preaches The Gospel Of Kevin
The prestige show has always left Adam Grosswirth a little cold, but he's warming up to it right before its expiration date.
Last season, my esteemed colleague Matt Debenham asked if The Leftovers could be anyone's favorite show. He concluded that it could be, but he and I land in pretty much the same personal place with it: it's a show I admire a lot but never really fell in love with, and I (not having had to write about it for two seasons, as Matt did) have always watched it at a bit of a remove.
So to find this third and final season premiere opening with an extended (beautiful, chilling, heartbreaking) sequence whose only purpose seems to be to tell us that doomsday cults have been fucking people up since long before 10/14 or our own real-life time and no goddamn previouslies to remind me where we left off so many months ago, well, I wasn't thrilled. Then, just as I'm reorienting myself to where I am and who these people are, an entire, pretty major storyline from the first two seasons literally gets blown up and we jump ahead three years. It's deliberately (I think) off-putting, but it's not exactly a reset button. We're still in the revival church/Burning Man that is Jarden/Miracle with most of the same characters we knew last season; still in the post-disappearance world; still following Kevin and those who orbit around him, all of whom are varying degrees of fucked up (all rather more than a little). Things have shifted and settled a bit: Kevin is the Jarden Police Chief with Tom working by his side; John and Laurie are a seemingly happy couple working a palm-reading scam we're meant to think is harmless because they help people feel better, and Matt's congregation is going strong. (He's still a giant creep, though.)
But this show has never been one for answering questions, and I have lots of them.
Did the writers plan for the Guilty Remnant to end this way?
One of last season's big cliffhangers was the Guilty Remnant's takeover of the Jarden visitors' center -- to what end we don't know, but when did we ever know the GR's endgame, really? Well, we're never finding out, because the next morning the ATF dropped a bomb on the place -- uh, I mean, "there was a gas leak and one of their cigarettes caused an unfortunate accident" -- leaving nothing but a fenced-off crater to this day, three years later. Is this abrupt end really the send-off for this group that's been such a huge part of the series -- often frustrating and confusing, yes, but significant -- so far? I suspect we haven't heard the last of the killing of the GR, but that doesn't make it feel less like the writers went, "Well, we got them there, now what do we do with them?"
What exactly is the state of the rest of the world?
The Leftovers has always focused on a fairly narrow sliver of the world, and the relocation to Jarden made things extra-crazy. But I've often wondered what life is like in bigger places like, say, New York, where the impact of the disappearances would have been more spread out, and also people tend to shrug things off more, generally. In this episode, Nora reminds the town cops that her job is to investigate anything departure-related, no matter how likely it seems that someone is just using the event to cover up the fact that he has his wife in the trunk. It's a nice piece of processy business that also reintroduces how awesome Nora is. Meanwhile, Kevin's old "friend" Dean from Mapleton comes back, crazier and more dangerous than ever, claiming that the world will end in two weeks because of the dog people. Which is all well and good, but his story starts at a senator's "swanky fundraiser." So senators still have swanky fundraisers!
What happened to Nora's arm? Oh yeah, and her baby?
Speaking of Nora, her arm is in a cast and we don't know why. Probably more importantly, Lily, the baby she took in last season, is nowhere to be seen. Jill, visiting from college, asks how Nora is doing and if she ever talks about Lily. She doesn't.
Why is Matt such a dick?
I mean, this one's not new. This October 14 (it's now the 1st) will be the seventh anniversary of the departures, and there's a general feeling in the world that that biblical number is meaningful: maybe the departed will return; maybe the world will end. "Nothing's gonna happen on the 14th," Matt says, "unless everything happens on the 14th." Because of course he says that. Whatever it is, Matt thinks it will happen in Jarden, which makes sense because he believes the town cured Mary, and she's not only remained cured, but she's also had a child since we last saw her, which shouldn't have been possible even before her accident. But because of all that, Matt won't let her leave town -- even to run an errand, -- and his church has become much more of a cult. Mary has had it, officially.
Did Laurie and John take an ethics course at Trump University?
John and Laurie's scam works like this: he reads people's palms (the paint palm print thing) with a tiny earpiece through which Laurie feeds him info from a video feed she's watching, and the client's social media. (What happens if someone has better privacy settings than the guy we see?) They're helping people find some peace by telling them what they want to hear -- which is nice enough, I guess -- but they seem to think their lies are mitigated by the fact that they shred the money. But they still take the money, and now no one has it. Isn't there a charity they could donate it to or something?
When did Kevin get his tattoos?
I'm always a little perplexed when actors get giant tattoos that will have to be covered up for their jobs, but The Leftovers has embraced Justin Theroux's and made them Kevin Garvey's. While I'll never complain about seeing Theroux shirtless, I do always wonder when Kevin was supposed to have gotten his back covered; it seems so out of character either pre- or post-10/14. Certainly Laurie never would have stood for it while they were married.
Who does Kevin think he's fooling with that shoebox marked "cufflinks"?
I mean, yes, his cufflinks are in it, but nobody has that many cufflinks. Also, why is he hiding a roll of duct tape, which is only a suspicious item if you're hiding it in a shoebox marked "cufflinks"? Well, anyway, he uses said tape to wrap a dry-cleaning bag around his head for a while. When next we see him, he's walking to work, so we don't quite know what happens. Did he die again? (And again and again and again?) Is he into autoerotic asphyxiation now? (If so, he might be the only person in the world who can do it more or less safely, so...good for him?)
How many people know Kevin can't die?
I guess we don't know that Kevin can't die, but it sure seems that way. A group of demonstrators dumps toxic barrels in the lake during one of Matt's mass baptisms to protest the killing of the Guilty Remnant, and Kevin's solution to the near-riot is to walk into the lake and determine that the barrels are just harmless props. He knows he'll be fine if he's wrong, but does anyone else?
What did Matt think would happen when he wrote The Book Of Kevin?
A couple of people for sure know Kevin's whole story, and one of them happens to be a bit of a zealot. For once, I actually follow Matt's motivation, even as a non-religious person myself. He thinks the New Testament is getting old and, as Michael puts it, "he got pretty excited when [Kevin] rose from the dead." So he's been writing a new gospel, all about Kevin since Mapleton, with Michael and John's help. John, having witnessed one of these miracles first-hand (and sort of caused it), thinks there's no reason Evie (blown up with the GR) can't come back, too. Less clear is why Matt only has one copy (I get that you're writing it longhand like the disciples, dude, but go to Staples) and why he trusts Kevin with it when he angrily demands it.
Will Kevin burn the book?
I mean, of course not, we've seen TV before. But we don't see what he decides. (If a religious nut wrote a new gospel about me, I'd be very curious to read it before destroying it!)
Who is Sarah?!
In the final scene of the episode, we see an older woman wrangling birds in coops (doves? sorry, I'm not a bird person), then biking with them some distance through a pretty countryside and delivering them to a nun who is tending a community garden. The nun, whose accent sounds Australian (which makes sense: we were reminded awkwardly that Kevin Sr. lives in Australia now) asks this woman, Sarah, if the name Kevin means anything to her. She says "no," but she's clearly lying. More importantly, when we see her face for the first time she's Carrie Coon. I had thought this scene was taking place at the same time as the rest of the episode, but maybe it's a flashforward? Is Carrie Coon playing a dual role, or is some serious shit going to happen to Nora in the next seven weeks? We'll see!