The Leftovers: Season 3 Episode 3 review – Crazy Whitefella Thinking
This review contains spoilers.
This is the precisely the kind of episode that I’ve been waiting to see this season. A Carlos Castaneda-infused voyage through the Australian outback in search of truth and wisdom, undertaken by the coolest and most spiritually-open-minded character in the show – Kevin Sr.
When you’re witnessing an endgame season that’s set down under and Lindelof is behind the wheel, you know that’s exactly the kind of gold that you’ll getting. LOST once referenced Carlos Castenda’s A Separate Reality, for example, and International Assassin showed that the writers were keen on using hallucinogenic drugs (God’s Tongue) and camp fires as storytelling tools.
That precise scene in International Assassin was referenced here, when Kevin Sr spoke of waking up in that Perth hotel without memory of what had happened during his drug trip. I like that the writers made efforts to answer why he was there, but I’m not fully certain that I’m OK with that explanation.
When Kevin Sr helped Kevin in the afterlife he was very clearly full of confident knowledge on how to contact Kevin and what the afterlife was. It seemed like while he had been down under he had learned some valuable insight into what the afterlife was and how to navigate it.
This new explanation of Kevin Sr not remembering any of his time while tripping on God’s Tongue undermines that adept knowledge. It begs the question of how Kevin Sr knew to say any of that information at all, since he doesn’t know it when sober. Does this mean something divine was using him as a puppet (the drug is called God’s Tongue, after all) or that he knows some things without knowing that he knows them (which are perhaps unlocked upon use of God’s Tongue)?
It’s an answer that fully implies that God’s Tongue is what gifted him with all of that valuable know-how, which is a workable solution but it feels a little like the easy way out to me, from a writing perspective. I would rather that Kevin Sr, by the point of his helping Kevin, actually knew all of that due to having learned it, rather than simply channeling those solutions.
It’s similar to how the writers are currently handling Kevin Jr, who I had hoped would be a pro at visiting the afterlife by this point, but who instead, rather regressively, seems to not even believe any longer that what he experienced was real at all. It’s something that needs changing drastically; we need to see these characters excel in their otherworldly expertise, not regress back to knowing nothing.
That aside, Kevin Sr’s journey was beautiful one, filled with mishaps and misfortune, as is common to the show. We even saw a return of that key National Geographic issue and heard a tape of a young journalistic Kevin Jr reporting at Niagara falls in 1981.
The choice of Niagara Falls for the location of that summer trip shouldn’t be ignored either; it’s a huge cascade of falling water, just as Kevin Sr thinks the world will end – by a terrible biblical-style flood. Other Christian references were rife this week too – from Christopher’s surname to the opening title song ‘Personal Jesus’ (the creators seem to be opting for a different opening song for each episode, which I think is a great move, and the song choices throughout the episodes also feel very lyrically relevant, such as ‘I Love a Rainy Night’).
Another answer that I wasn’t enthused with this week was Grace’s explanation about last week’s closing moments (her and her gang killing a local Police Chief named Kevin). Firstly, this proved that last week wasn’t in fact a flash forward at all but was occurring in the present.
This makes Grace and her gang’s deep reverence around finding Kevin all the more baffling and I don’t think her explanation truly held up, from a writing point of view. Grace found a small portion of ‘The Book of Kevin’ on the unconscious Kevin Sr and took this essentially as proof of a messiah. She then sought out the local police chief who was also named Kevin, assuming that this was the same man.
To me, this is nowhere near enough time (Kevin Sr was unconscious for 3 weeks) for her to swell up the kind of intense reverence that her and her gang showed while hunting for Kevin Sr. It also makes her assumption that the local Kevin was the Kevin in question almost laughable.
I realise that she is stricken with grief (we got another superb moment-of-departure-tale, set to the show’s staple score), even to the point of desperate insanity perhaps, but to go and murder a local under a very thin assumption that you’ve barely had time to even register is ludicrous.
Ignoring those shaky answers, the rest of the episode was just as classically brilliant as everything else we’ve seen this season. From Kevin Sr performing tribal dance to him accidentally falling on top of Christopher Sunday, it was close to the show’s top form.
This was aided by the fact that we got to spend this much time with Kevin Sr, which we’ve never really been granted before (bar a few scenes, he’s never had his own full point of view episode until now). If his adventures hammered home anything, it’s that purpose is still something that’s highly valued in the show (Kevin and Kevin Sr had a discussion around this in the street once) and that once again: singing is the key to salvation.
In International Assassin Kevin Jr had to sing in order to escape the afterlife and now Kevin Sr believes that one long interconnected song will stop the flood. All because he sang ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ to Kevin at Niagara Falls and the rains coincidentally stopped (and because Tony pecked this tape).
His reasoning seems mighty flawed, but we know that the notion of song saving someone is fact, due to what we saw in International Assassin. Christopher Sunday took that final song to his grave, but I don’t think that means the song is lost forever.
I think it’s not only possible but that it is in fact very likely that Kevin Jr will later on in the season go to the afterlife with the sole purpose of learning that final song from Christopher Sunday. It sounds like exactly the kind of game that the writers would play and I fully expect to see that happen.
What surprised me a lot this week is that Kevin Sr sees his son as an extra in his own story, not the other way around, and that Kevin Sr really doesn’t want his son to come to Australia at all. This makes Kevin Sr come across as selfish – wanting to save the world all on his own. But equally he showed great affection for his son this week, by crying over those Niagara ’81 tapes. I think Kevin Sr will soon realise that he needs his son in order to save the world (initially for the reason mentioned above – to retrieve that final song).
Tony was a wonderfully quirky addition this week, also. Although we never saw this chicken, the tale of it and the 100% departure rate bar that one egg was brilliant. The show really hammers home the finding signs in the smallest places notion well and Tony pecking the tape really feels like design rather than coincidence (which can be hard to ignore – I had a dream the night before this episode, for example, about a snake biting my hand, which then matched Kevin Sr’s troubles).
The man burning himself alive after asking that question about killing a baby in order to cure cancer was by far the most baffling part of this episode, but I think that will swing back around. Much like he man who offered hanging on the bridge in Season 2 also appeared in the Season 2 finale. This cancer question will certainly return also, even if it is asked of a different character entirely. It might even be a question asked of those who agree to undertake the journey that Nora is about to try out.
This was a wonderful episode (marred only very slightly by some off-key answers to certain questions), which allowed us to spend some much needed one on one time with Kevin Sr, who is the most brilliant and complex character on the show. The truly special moments of this season will be episodes exactly like this; voyages into the heart of the Australian outback, meeting wise natives and witnessing hallucinations (God’s Tongue will certainly return), so I hope that this season holds much more of this to come.
Image credits: HBO