The Leftovers doubles down on its most divisive season two story line with an episode all about Kevin (Justin Theroux) and Patti (Ann Dowd).
Let’s bitch it out…
At times, ‘A Most Powerful Adversary’ feels a bit like a play – in the best of ways. Despite moving around town (the locksmith, the fire station, the edge of town and beyond and finally to Virgil’s home), so much of this episode feels like a claustrophobic, talky episode that traps us in Kevin’s deteriorating mental state.
Things begin badly from the moment that he wakes up: Patti is already yammering at him and, as Jill (Margaret Qualley) quickly confirms, Nora (Carrie Coon) has left with Mary and baby Lily. Suit up Kevin; this is going to be a rough day.
The majority of the events that occur are less important than their effect on Kevin. He’s hit rock bottom and there’s no end in sight. Jill blames him for the loss of their second family, Patti is unrelenting and the noose involving Evie’s disappearance back in the premiere tightens when Kevin is made to give his palm print to John (Kevin Carroll) at the fire station. It’s only a matter of time before he’s discovered, so the stakes have never been higher.
Anyone who has watched The Leftovers knows that the show loves to walk the fine line between cynicism / mystery and faith / religion. This exploration snaps into tight focus here as Kevin grapples with the reality of his situation: has he acquired the titular “most powerful adversary” or is he, as Laurie (Amy Brenneman) suggests when he confesses, having a psychotic break just like his father? There’s no truth in either answer (The Leftovers has never been a series to divulge its answers), so it comes down more to options. One answer, the more conventional of the two, confirms that he is suffering the same emotional distress as the rest of the world since the 14th and he needs to medicate and be institutionalized. It’s rational and proven…but it is not expedient, which compromises his relationship with Nora and Jill.
And so, the second option becomes more appealing. Sure, it involves a near death experience administered by the town pedophile and a walk-about to “the other place” to battle Patti, but Kevin really has nothing to lose. He’s already lost everything and he’s desperate, so he allows himself to be poisoned by Virgil (Steven Williams). Unfortunately Kevin’s collapse is quickly followed by Virgil’s suicide, which would portend doom for our protagonist had Michael (Jovan Adepo) not returned to drag him away immediately before the credits.
So does Kevin live or die? It’s clearly a crazy cliffhanger (though Alan Sepinwall rightfully points out that the impact of these deathly cliffhangers has been dulled in recent years thanks to similar developments on other series such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead). Ultimately I can see series creator Damon Lindelof killing off Kevin just as easily as reviving him, though I’ll give the edge to Kevin’s return thanks to Michael’s actions. To me Kevin’s fate is less significant than the journey that brought him to the brink and prompted him to take his own life.
What a desperate sad series of events…and what great television.
- Astute web commenters have already assumed that Virgil will act as Kevin’s guide in the afterlife, so in that sense it makes sense that Virgil committed suicide. The more cynical point of view is that Virgil knew that there was no cure for Kevin’s condition and decided to take his own life after putting Kevin out of his misery. I guess it all depends on whether you believe that there really is a mystical / religious force operating in Miracle and on The Leftovers.
- While there aren’t many answers here, Virgil does confirm that Kevin tried to commit suicide in 2×02 ‘A Matter Of Geography’. It turns out that Kevin visited Virgil that night and learned Virgil’s solution then, but his suicide attempt was aborted because Kevin had either a powerful ally or adversary (aka Patti).
- Michael won’t sleep with Jill because he doesn’t know if he loves her yet. Needless to say, Jill is unimpressed with that.
- The mystery about Virgil and John’s history is vaguely explained: Virgil molested John as a child and John reciprocated by shooting him later (presumably to protect Michael from the same fate?)
- At the fire station, John explains that he is collecting hand prints to “give all of the innocent men the chance to get out ahead of this”. What an eerie way to explain his actions. The fact that Kevin is now inextricably tied to Evie’s disappearance lends more credence to the fact that he’ll return – it’s more dramatic if he has to answer to John.
- Looks like Jill and Laurie will have to work out their issues now that Kevin is gone (at least temporarily).
- Finally, where’s Tom? Who wants to bet we follow him next week so as to delay finding out Kevin’s fate for an extra week (just like Glenn on The Walking Dead!)
- Patti (looking at a stain covered Virgil): “Hallelujah. Well Kevin that there looks like the solution to all of our problems”
- Patti (when Kevin insists that he can’t do battle because he has responsibilities): “Maybe Jill is better off.”
- Kevin (when Laurie asks if he’s okay): “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m terrific.” Aside from the handcuff on your wrist and the crazed look in your eye.
- Patti (after Kevin gives his handprint at the fire station): “Well, that’s that. You went there to get free and you got caught.”
Your turn: what did you think of Kevin’s spiral? Do you believe Virgil or Laurie? Is Jill acting really selfish? Will Kevin survive? Where’s Tom? Sound off below.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO