In The Penultimate ‘Leftovers,’ Will Kevin Save The World Or Destroy It?

Senior Television Writer
05.28.17 69 Comments

HBO

A review of tonight’s The Leftovers coming up just as soon as I smash all reflective surfaces…

“This isn’t my first time visiting the other side of the world. Every time I come here, it gets harder and harder to leave.” –Kevin

Kevin is perhaps pushing his luck throughout “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother).” Yes, he has survived drinking poison (and being buried afterwards) and getting shot in the chest at point blank range, and both times he seemed to journey to the afterlife before returning to this one unharmed, but will that trick keep working — especially if Matt is right about Kevin’s immortality being connected to Miracle? Does he have an unlimited supply of one-ups, or could he exhaust them by letting himself be drowned again and again at Grace’s house?

The Leftovers, meanwhile, is definitely pushing its luck taking Kevin back to “International Assassin” Land for a third time. The original episode was an instant classic that should, depending on whether this show’s own afterlife is bigger and grander than its actual life, be remembered as one of the most audacious, delightful, and powerful hours of TV drama ever made. Kevin’s brief return to sing karaoke in the season two finale was another stunner, and, with Kevin’s profanely incredulous reaction to finding himself in that hotel again, even commented on what a terrible idea it might have been to send him back there so soon. To go there a third time — to, in fact, devote the penultimate chapter of the entire story to one more ludicrous adventure where Kevin Garvey the cop journeys to a Purgatory realm where he becomes Kevin Harvey the assassin — could easily smack of Lindelof and Nick Cuse taking Kevin to that place just because everyone enjoyed it so much the first two times. Great sequels are hard enough, but threequels almost always (with rare exceptions like Toy Story 3 or Return of the King) feel desperate and familiar.

Then again, the original “International Assassin” on paper was an awful way to resolve Kevin’s suicidal behavior and haunting by Patti, and in execution was pure magic. “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” should come across as rote or mundane — you’ve seen one assassination in Heaven, you’ve seen ’em all — but it never does.

There’s no way the new episode can possibly be as surprising at its core as “International Assassin,” so it compensates with a flood of smaller, crazier, individual surprises. We’ve got a POTUS here, an evil twin there, practically every deceased major character brought back to life over thataway, and, by the way, did you get a good look at the penis scanner? If not, we’ll show it twice, and with a distinctly loud thud each time one of the Kevins places his endowment on the shelf to prove his identity, because, as Secret Service Agent Australian Kevin explains, no impostor can “go to that length.”(*)

(*) Justin Theroux comes across as understandably mortified whenever the alleged size of his member becomes fodder for public discourse, so good on him for playing along with one of the funniest and most unexpected jokes in this vein I’ve encountered.

None of it makes much sense, but it’s not supposed to, and Kevin is constantly noting the absurdity of it all. Whether he’s actually traveled beyond the veil of death or has retreated inside his own fragile mind while his body tries to heal the latest injury he’s inflicted upon it, the world he finds himself in is one shaped by his own thoughts and personality, down to the way all the other people he once knew in life now swear exactly like he does. Matt has tried to convince Kevin that he’s the Second Coming, or something in the ballpark, and we learn here that “God” (or David Burton, or someone who looks exactly like David Burton) told him in “International Assassin” that he was the most powerful man in the world. Is he really? Or would anyone’s fantasy world, or afterlife experience, similarly make them into the center of everything important that’s possibly happening?

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