The Leftovers: Season 3 Episode 7 review – The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)
This review contains spoilers.
It’s finally here. The episode that all of the most ardent fans have long been pining for has arrived. Kevin’s return to the afterlife within Season 3. Even from the synopsis alone – with mentioned a mission of mercy and Kevin adopting another personality – it was always evident that Episode 7 would undoubtedly be the best part of Season 3 and very likely an episode to rival the very best moments of the show overall.
It was always primed to be Lindelof and co’s final stab at one more glorious afterlife episode. In a way, it’s equivalent to their finale. Although there is still one more episode to go, which still holds unknown content other than the fact that it will very clearly be about Nora (it’s titled ‘The Book of Nora’), I think that finale will be a calm after the (literal) storm, which means that Episode 7, instead, is the point where Lindelof and co have given us their absolute all.
We opened with an intimate moment between Kevin and Nora, the first of a few moments that would prove that Nora was integral even to this episode (and therefore more important to the endgame than I would like her to be). This allowed for a beautiful transition, which was Nora pulling Kevin by the feet under the bath water and this transitioning into Kevin dunking himself backwards into the pond, tied to the plank.
Kevin Sr and co then awake (proving that Laurie did nothing more to them than knock them out, which is no true Judas betrayal in my eyes), hear the heavy storm and pull Kevin from the pond because “I though we’d do it together,” as Kevin Sr states.
This speaks not only of Kevin Sr’s desire to be part of what’s happening – much as he though himself to be the world’s saviour at one point – but it also speaks of his paternal caring. Part of him knows that Kevin might die from this and he wants to be present in case he never gets to see his son again.
Our reentry into the afterlife saw (as expected) not the Perth hotel, but a completely new location, confirming that an entire world exists within the afterlife, rather than a limiting circumference/entry point. The choice of location for Kevin’s reentry was true Lindelof. Much to the satisfaction of any LOST fan, Kevin washed up on a beach, faced immediately with strange foes, which is the exact circumstance that would make any LOST fan beam with glee.
One of these men turned out to be Dean, who it is clear now the writers killed earlier on in the season purely so they could have him appear here, in the afterlife, in all of his gun-toting glory. It worked well – having a familiar face as Kevin’s accomplice for this new assassination plot: the most challenging murder of all – to kill yourself.
As was cleverly hinted at in Episode 5, in a comment about Jesus, this version of the afterlife saw Kevin have an identical twin brother. One version of Kevin is a sharply dressed (in white, just like the GR), bearded President, while the other is the clean-shaven assassin that we remember so well from ‘International Assassin’.
If you recall, in that classic episode Kevin had a choice of identities to adopt, as he rifled through a wardrobe. I figured that this time around he might choose to adopt a different identity, but the ultimately I wouldn’t have it any other way than seeing Kevin back in that black and white suit, bluffing his way towards his target.
Which he has become remarkably good at now – knowing when to ask for something in return, rather than just giving in to someone’s demands. Or knowing how to guess a question, like who the Secretary of Defence might be. That turned out to be Patti – a welcome return, given how integral she has been to the show all along – while the Vice President turned out to be Meg.
This, combined with Evie’s appearance, confirmed once and for all that Meg’s group did indeed die in the missile strike in Jarden and that they won’t be making some last minute return in the real world (but this doesn’t mean that other GR won’t show up in some fashion).
Another familiar face was David Burton – the man we last saw in Episode 5 when he was claiming to be God. Thankfully, the show confirmed once and for all here that his God claim was – as expected – pure fabrication and simply a product of his ego.
This was laid to rest when Kevin killed Meg (a baffling move, given she was assisting him, and maybe one undertaken for no other reason than that Kevin disliked her actions in real life), causing Burton to question what the gunshot noise was and Kevin to wonderfully jibe at him: “I don’t know – you tell me; you’re God,” prompting Burton to reveal “that was just a pick-up line.” I’m thankful that the writers took a moment to bury this potential avenue, because if they left it open, it might have spurred some The Leftovers fans to forever ponder whether he was in fact a deity.
There was also a nice little call back to the bridge moment, with Burton. This provided an answer to the inaudible line that Burton whispered into Kevin’s ear back in ‘International Assassin’. He told Kevin that he was the most powerful man in the world. I love that the writers answered that small mystery, but I do think that they probably had no idea at the time what they wanted the whisper to be, which means that they crafted it after the fact.
We also saw the Australian Kevin who Grace and her group murdered, here playing the role of security for the President. When it came to seeing Grace’s children, I can only assume that they were placed in the front row due to Kevin’s desire to see them, because otherwise the odds of Kevin stumbling upon them in an afterlife full of souls is extremely slim.
To me, this implies the hand of some divine force who sculpts and moulds what Kevin is experiencing. Or some reactive rule to the afterlife, whereby if you ask for something, then it will be placed in your path. Even though Burton isn’t God, very clearly the show is full of clues and symbols and mystery, placed there for our characters, which could only be devised by a sculpting hand.
The choice to use mirrors as the transport device for Kevin to travel between his two selves was genius and to me, was another call back to the flash sideways in LOST, which saw many characters stare into mirrors (some broken). The choice to have one good Kevin (the assassin) and one evil Kevin (the President) was also an elegant choice and one that is quite relevant in fiction at this time, with the return of Twin Peaks and the show’s propensity to use shadow selves.
Slipped in among the strangeness and the horror, we were granted a few moments of humour too. Some of this came in the form of bright and happy song choices being played over the top of horrific scenes (chirpy old school songs is another LOST trope), such as Kevin extracting the device from his own heart. This also came in the form of a penis identification joke, however, when Kevin needed access to the facility.
Both times, if you listen, there is a very audible *THUD* as Kevin places his member down, which I think is a humorous hint to imply that Kevin has a large penis (something probably aimed more at Theroux than at Kevin, just like when Jimmy Kimmel cleverly pranked Theroux recently).
The passage that Kevin was forced to read very clearly seemed to imply that Kevin is a coward at heart, when it comes to Nora and that he has essentially failed her, for this reason. The coward angle is beautiful and harks back to Desmond Hume in LOST (as did the Untitled Romance Novel’s mention of a boat as a means of escape), but the decision to have his love for Nora be at the heart of Kevin’s desires is something I’m not that fond of.
Interestingly, the novel depicted Kevin abandoning and leaving Nora, just as she once abandoned and left him. This scene portrays the act of abandonment as being something terrible – which it is – but it doesn’t address the fact that Nora once did the very same thing to Kevin and that she is therefore, also a coward herself.
Lastly, we have Kevin’s meeting with Christopher Sunday, which was supposed to see Kevin come away with the final piece of the song. Instead, Sunday (who for some reason was aware of his true self) told Kevin that there is no song and implied that Kevin Sr was wrong about singing a song to end the flood. This was a mighty baffling choice from the writers, because all this time we’ve been led to believe that what both Kevin and Kevin Sr experience is real, not the ramblings of mad men.
When Sunday met with Kevin Sr in the real world, he seemed to very genuinely believe what Kevin Sr was saying. So to have Sunday swing in the opposite direction here was very odd. It means we’ll have no final sing along to save everyone. Instead the “flood” simply stopped while Kevin was dead.
This implies that perhaps Kevin’s decision to destroy the world in the afterlife (which was again a strange choice, because to me it seemed like assassin Kevin should be the one to prevail, given he was more thoroughly “good”) is what stopped the flood, if indeed it was a flood at all and not just a severe to middling storm.
It leaves us in a baffling place, which I think is echoed by Kevin Sr voicing: “Now what?” By which I think he means, once you’ve saved the world and have fulfilled your purpose, what the hell do you do next? If you remember back to that book in Season 1 titled What’s Next?, I think you’ll have your answer in the form of Nora’s retort to that, which was “nothing is f*cking next.”
Ultimately, this was precisely what I hoped it would be: an extraordinarily beautiful and ingenious afterlife episode. Finally Season 3 has lived up to the true level greatness that I always hoped it would reach. I still think that ‘International Assassin’ is superior, but this masterpiece of an episode comes pretty damn close.
Rather craftily, the promo for the finale is almost entirely made up of shots from scenes that we’ve already witnessed this season. Which doesn’t give us a great deal to go on, when considering how this show finale might play out. As stated above, it will very clearly be Nora-focused.
It will probably feature her once more chasing down the group who shunned her. I just hope that the episode won’t get lost in Nora content, forgetting to give us what we all deserve – some truly astounding endgame closure, akin to the elegance and magnificence of the LOST finale.
Imagre credits: HBO