Was Meg’s (Liv Tyler) plan as spectacular as she probably imagines? The absence of a bomb wasn’t the aggressive release we were expecting … But was it effective? As much of a symbolic target as the bridge is, the action wouldn’t have been aligned with the Guilty Remnant’s ethos. Why destroy a symbol when you could destroy the entire belief system? The Guilty Remnants gained access, so the whole thing was staged as a diversion. Nihilism incarnate has infiltrated a gated spiritual enclave manifested by burning tires, a drunk chick in stocks quaffing cheap Mexican beer, and a lonely dude in the tower of Jarden overlooking the general anarchy. Not to mention, Meg and Evie snidely singing Miracle’s anthem in front of Kevin (Justin Theroux) and the bloody hole in his stomach. Symbolically, Megan has attained her intended martyrdom, and a new antithesis has moved in. Yet the finale fades out to promise. But what does Kevin’s reintegration with his family speak to what The Leftover’s is trying to say?
Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown) writes Erika, “you understand” after Erika scrambles for an explanation of Evie’s behavior. But I don’t understand what she’s saying. I wondered if there was something I missed, but during Michael’s (Jovan Adepo) sermon, he spoke of the drowning bath to silence Evie’s crying after John went away to prison—which is another symbolic reference to water, in this case, the resurrection or renewal being Erika’s new perspective on historical events. Evie knows something about Erika in the backstory probably reflected by Erika’s dead birds. But how profound is it to elicit the level of duplicity from Evie towards her family? But should the cliffhanger be introduced now? The moment would’ve had more clarity and impact without sacrificing Evie’s mystery departure if we knew that she had been harboring some kind of knowledge and then sprung “you understand” on Erika at the same moment on the bridge.
Kevin’s third resurrection ties everything else together—his official first in trying to drown himself in the lake when he met Evie’s eyes, and another symbolic reference to water, death, and resurrection, followed by waking in the bathtub. John (Kevin Carroll) shooting Kevin was dreadful, and his final, real death would’ve merged with the show’s random calculation. During his suicide attempt, Kevin might have had another trans-mundane journey while he was drowning under water introducing him to Patti (Ann Dowd). In the two journeys we’ve seen, Kevin showed compassion. First, by finally giving Patti the ear she’s been asking for before dunking her in water (resurrection and a new afterlife), where he followed his father’s advice in “listening to the voices.” The second completes Kevin’s riddle, which for most of his screen time has been elusive. He’s suffering some kind of existential pangs, but what specifically are they? It’s been touched on in season one when Garvey Sr. pulls him aside noticing something’s off. He tells him that there’s not much more to life than a job and his family. At least on screen, I never saw Kevin duel with thoughts that the “sun has set over the empire” by any particular statements or extreme actions. During Kevin’s final purgatory, he scoffs at the idea of singing to get out, which the karaoke host or ferryman retorts “What? it’s not elegant enough for you?” As Kevin sings “Homeward Bound” he starts to come full circle. These cumulated events explain Patti’s appearance and the source of his personal dissonance, but we should’ve seen his struggle with more context throughout the series.
Are all the earthquakes results of fracking or do they hiding some mystical divination? Is Jarden authentically sacred dispelling the Remnant’s ideology? Nora’s (Carrie Coon) righteous indignation towards god rises to a pitch during the radio sermon with baby Lily before Mary jolts to life directly after one of the quakes, which leaves room for interpretation. And during Matt’s reunion with her, I never felt secure expecting another downward turn of events in the show’s brutal fetishism of him. The plot line could’ve taken the dark turn proving that he was indeed delusional and a legally defined rapist. Matt was rewarded for his faith it seems. And Kevin finally reunites with his family after they figuratively departed and after he died and came back to life three times.
Is the series sophisticated engineering with all of its red herring enigmas, symbolic danglers, cryptic portals, and religion versus science squabbling leaving us with the general idea that you have to feel love in order to want live and find the meaning in life? Not something to disagree with, but perhaps The Leftover’s controlling idea is that the only meaning there is what we ascribe to events. Evie’s gift to John was supposed to be the real cricket, but John would’ve found solitude if Erika (Regina King) hadn’t blown it for him. Really, in the same fashion as Laurie and Tom’s perspective in the curing hug subterfuge—as long as it provides a semblance of meaning, then it’s valid. And how does all of this explain the first episode’s allegory of the cavewoman and baby? She struggles to survive for her baby reinforcing Kevin’s journey in the value of life. If part of the through line is about family, then the teaser should’ve been told in reverse: she struggles to survive in the wilderness with her baby as she tries to reconnect with the cave.
It’s uncertain how many more games HBO will let The Leftovers play because it hasn’t announced yet that it’s going to renew the show for a third season with falling viewership. It’s assumed that HBO knew what it was getting into with this brand of content, which requires time and patience to build a robust following, otherwise, there are plenty of Leftovers for the cultists. HBO has the most grandiose trophy case in cable television. But it must not forget its genesis in providing intrepid television concepts. The Leftovers is a show that wants you to slowly digest it; it’s not a fast food order and any effort to force it would stunt its potential growth and limit creative boundaries and the imaginations that consume them. The Leftovers is unique because it’s not afraid to be strange. To question our reality in uncomfortable spaces where much of our lives are lived.