THE LEFTOVERS Review: “The Book Of Kevin”

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A lot has changed after the Guilty Remnant overtook the city of Jarden during the finale of last season. Relationship dynamics are completely different, the town has altered, and the populace believes something dramatic is going to happen on the seven-year anniversary of the Departure. Can Kevin stop whatever is happening?

Like last year, this season of The Leftovers starts with an opening prologue set in 1844, with its focus on a religious sect called the Millerites. They believed Christ was coming to take them away on Oct. 22nd, 1844. We follow a family of Millerites who give their earthly possessions away, and then see them standing on top of their house, waiting in white robes to be taken to the Promised Land. Of course it doesn’t come to pass. The way the sequence is shot is gorgeous. There are no words, only Max Richter’s haunting music playing over the top of the actions of this misled family. The stark white robes against the nighttime dark blues of their environment occupy house after house in the village, and reminded me immediately of the Guilty Remnant. When the prophecy fails, their leader, William Miller communicates to their church via carrier pigeon, and alters the dates. It was called The Great Disappointment. Each date when nothing happens, they climb down from their roof in embarrassment. Soon only wife climbs the roof and stands alone, waiting in the village. When she gets down in the morning the town mocks her, her husband and child turn away from her, and she joins her fellow Millerites to lie on the floor of the church. The camera pans across their white clad bodies and transitions to the Guilty Remnant after they took over the visitor center in Jarden or “Miracle”.

The prologue from last season played a hand in Kevin’s sleepwalking suicide attempt and salvation, so it’s safe to say The Great Disappointment we witnessed will have a large hand in this season. The seven-year anniversary of the Departure is trumpeted in the season three premiere as being a harbinger of something extraordinary happening. Matt is convinced of it, and in the new Jarden he’s been growing his congregation based on his feelings of something important on the cusp of happening. His intuitions have been correct in the past. Matt believed if he could get his comatose wife into Jarden, she would wake from her vegetative state, and she did. His drive to get her there was intense, and now that she’s indeed come back to consciousness, he’s afraid if she ever leaves she’ll immediately slip into a coma again. His marriage is crumbling, but his congregation is growing. It’s fourteen days until the seven-year anniversary, and Matt believes something huge is going to happen, and that Kevin will be involved.

The Leftovers gives us closure on what happened at the end of last season in an interesting way. Instead of being bogged down with how the Guilty Remnant takeover of the town plays out, we see Evie wake up in the visitor center, have a conversation with Meg (Liv Tyler) right as a hole is drilled into the wall and a camera pushed in to spy on them. She rushes out of the building in time to see a plane fire a missile at the visitor center. The reflection in her glasses shows it getting closer and closer until the screen whites out. There’s a jump in time to three years in the future, and Jarden is an open city under the leadership of Kevin as the new Chief of Police. There’s a huge crater where the visitor center used to be. The problem is there’s an official story about what happened to the guilty remnant and what really happened. The official story involves a gas leak and a lit cigarette, but a lot of people know the truth, and a cult has grown around Evie and the deaths of the other Guilty Remnant. Tension appears to be on the cusp of tearing the city apart again, as Matt’s congregation clashes with this new cult group at the creek, the site of Evie’s original disappearance. Things get Old Testament really fast as stones start being thrown at the protesters. Kevin is in the middle of it all with Tommy by his side as a deputy to try and calm both sides down.

The three-year leap leaves the viewer to fill in the gaps of what’s taken place with the Garvey’s and the Murphy’s. Erika and John are not a couple anymore, in fact somehow John and Laurie have gotten married. It seems logical Evie’s disappearance and death hastened the destruction of their relationship, but even weirder is that John and Laurie have taken over Isaac’s hand print fortune telling business to give people closure. John does the reading downstairs, while Laurie scours Facebook to feed him information on the person he’s “helping” and then shred the money afterward. Kevin and Nora are better than they’ve ever been, but something has happened to Lily, their adopted daughter of Holy Wayne’s, and she’s out of their life. It’s unclear what happened, only that Kevin and Nora don’t really talk about it. The strangest part of all is Matt Jameson and Michael Murphy are writing a gospel called “The Book of Kevin” because they believe there’s something supernatural about Kevin and how he’s died and came back three times. It appears they believe he may hold the key to saving humanity from whatever has afflicted it after the Departure.

Kevin no longer suffers from hallucinations of Patti, but there’s something off about him. After making love to Nora in what seems happy and tender, the next morning Kevin puts a plastic bag around his head, duct tapes it, and appears to suffocate himself. Moments later he’s dressed for work and out the door like nothing happened. Why does he do it? Does he still have a death wish, or is this like when Nora would pay people to shoot her in the chest while she wore a bulletproof vest? Does the act of having a near death experience make him feel alive? Has he tasted death so much that he yearns for the other side? It’s hard to tell. When Kevin finds out about “The Book of Kevin” he’s irate and confronts Matt and Michael. Things nearly come to blows, but Matt, Michael, and John all explain to him he’s survived death three times and came back, which isn’t normal. Matt believes Kevin can’t die while he’s in Jarden, and makes it seem like Kevin needs to leave and die somewhere else in order to fulfill some sort of prophecy. It’s nearly too much for Kevin to handle, and once he has the book in his hand he intends to burn it, only he can’t bring himself to do it. Is there a part of him, no matter how small, that actually believes some of this? His experiences in the afterlife hotel may be enough to convince him, and he even retells events that happened in the hotel to Tommy as if they happened in real life. Are the lines between reality and the afterlife blurred for Kevin? Will he leave Jarden and attempt to die somewhere else to change things?

Some interesting side notes:

  • Kevin’s father moved to Australia, which is clearly where Kevin is heading to possibly test out Matt’s theory.
  • The guy Kevin shot dogs and killed Patti within Mapleton, Dean,  pays Kevin a visit with some insane theory of canines taking human form to infiltrate the highest echelons of government. When Kevin tells him he’s delusional, this guy attacks Kevin and Tommy with a rifle. His attempt to kill Kevin is thwarted by Tommy. Is there something more to this guy’s story, or is it simply another lunatic seeking in Jarden?  The peanut butter sandwich visual gag after Dean’s death was funny.
  • There appears to be a leap forward in time, when an aged Nora (posing as Sarah?) gathers pigeons and the messages they carry for a nun. It reflects the prologue, and makes it seem as if Nora is in Australia. When the nun asks her if the name Kevin means anything to her, she says no. What happened and how did Nora end up alone here?


Season 3, Episode 1 (S03E01)
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO

Read all of our reviews of The Leftovers here. 
Read our reviews of more of your favorite shows here.

For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
Follow Jeff on Twitter: @OfSoundnVision
Keep up with all of Jeff’s reviews here.

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