The Leftovers has been a journey unlike anything else we’ve seen on television. It’s not just a stellar HBO drama steeped in otherworldly, pitch black fantasy, but also a meditation on life, death and loss.
Last Sunday’s penultimate episode “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” saw Kevin’s (Justin Theroux) seemingly final trip to the afterlife, or is it a sort of crazed purgatory that he encapsulates himself in? The death counter
on Kevin has reached its limit. He looks weak, cold like a ghost. His father, Kevin Sr. (Scott Glenn), motions to dunk him back into the other place, not knowing if his son will return. But they’ve come to the last corner on earth to realize Kevin’s prophecy as a Jesus-like saviour. He aims to stop the apocalypse, believing the seven year anniversary of the sudden departure will bring an apocalyptic flood. These events are all written in scripture by the dying preacher Matt (Christopher Eccleston) — who earlier in the season met with God in the shape of a violent man who merely scoffs at his wish to be saved.
“The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” doesn’t waste time in reality, where all the absurdities mentioned above are coming to a climax. This hour of television sees Kevin in the depths of his troubled psyche, his own twisted version of an afterlife where familiar faces are stuck in existence limbo, taking on strange roles.
When the two Kevin’s meet, we realize this trip to the afterlife (whether we want to believe it or not) is for Kevin to find a purpose is all the hopeless confusion he’s experienced since the sudden departure.
Kevin is tasked with giving messages to the dead, but he takes nothing back with him, no concrete evidence that he is the saviour, only the excruciating realization that he is lost and needs to go home. We see two versions of Kevin: international assassin and President of the United States. Dressed in the iconic whites donned by the obliterated Guilty Remnant, it’s clear this other place is tailored to Kevin’s life and past. His Secretary of Defence is none other than Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), his once Most Powerful Adversary. She pleads with him to destroy the world via nuclear destruction. To do this, he must tear a key out of his twin brother’s heart.
When the two Kevin’s meet, we realize this trip to the afterlife (whether we want to believe it or not) is for Kevin to find a purpose is all the hopeless confusion he’s experienced since the sudden departure. As he reads from the book of his life, he admits that he let Nora (Carrie Coon) down. The last time we see Nora, she is gearing up to enter a machine that a shadowy group claims will send her to wherever the departed ended up. And it’s possible Nora will make her way and see her family again, as magic does exist in The Leftovers (how else can Kevin come back from the dead multiple times, unscathed?) Another possibility is that she will be incinerated, unable to venture in the other place that Kevin has now destroyed.
Will we find out what happened to the departed? My guess is that nothing will be answered, we will be left cradling this short lived series, very much drowning the same grief many of its characters do. Like Kevin Sr. says as he sits on the roof of a desolate ranch, the world not flooded like he predicted — “What now?”
Let the mystery be. The point was to follow these characters, Kevin and Nora especially, deeply confused, saddened, lost and unconventional. In all this fantastical imagery and biblical allusion, we feel their pain that is so relatable to our everyday. The world has ended for several of these characters already, the series follows their broken attempts to find meaning. Not unlike our reality. It’s all so artful, executed in a way unknown and impossible to replicate. Kevin pleads with his twin to tear out his heart, so they “never have to come here again.”
Personally, I’m sad to leave.