The Leftovers S03E01 “The Book of Kevin”
Director: Mimi Leder
Starring: Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston
Writer: Damon Lindelof & Patrick Somerville
A review by Michael Walls-Kelly
The Leftovers returns for its third and final season with what amounts to two different cold opens. The first is in the same vein as the beginning of the second season, a thematic link to the events of the series. We’re shown a town of settlers in 1844, specifically a group similar to Millerites who are predicting the rapture. A devout, smiling family gives away their belongings, don white robes and stand on their roof to await God.
But the rapture doesn’t come.
The calculations were off, but with the new date set the family repeats the ritual. Again, nothing happens. The father gets angry and despondent until the mother is the only person waiting on the roof. She weathers a rough thunder storm and still remains on Earth. The mother descends from the roof and lays down in the church with other white robed believers, which leads us into our second cold open, continuing where season 2 left off.
At the visitor centre of Jarden, Texas — also referred to as Miracle, Texas — after the white-clothed cult, the Guilty Remnant, pulled off a plan that reduced to town to chaos and madness. Meg (Liv Tyler) gives a monologue to Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown) before the government drone bombs the entire visitor centre, presumably killing everyone inside.
A pretty dramatic way to wrap up the events of the previous season.
Our new season begins properly in Jarden three years later where we catch up with all of the major characters. Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) is the police chief of a new, more visitor friendly Jarden. His son, Tommy (Chris Zylka), is one of his police officers and his daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) is away at College. His ex-wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman), is currently in a relationship with his neighbour, John (Kevin Carroll), and the two of them are helping others deal with loss and grief. Kevin’s partner, Nora (Carrie Coon), is back with the Department of Sudden Departure, but sporting a broken arm and conspicuously missing their adopted daughter Lily. Nora’s brother, Matt (Christopher Eccleston) is now a very popular priest in Jarden with John’s son, Michael (Jovan Adepo) helping him closely.
It’s an idyllic premiere, dropping us back in a familiar setting and letting us adjust to the big changes that have happened over the intervening years. It’s equal parts startling and touching that our core cast seem to be getting along. A birthday party for Tommy is fun and familial, two things that have been in short supply for these characters since the first season — and probably well before that, too.
But the cracks start to show as the episode goes along. It’s coming up on seven years since the Sudden Departure and there’s an ominous sense of foreboding as people believe something will happen on that anniversary. Matt and Michael are hiding something, specifically from Kevin. There’s the mystery of Nora’s broken arm and Lily being gone. Kevin — having died and returned to life twice last season — seems to be suffocating himself ritualistically. And Matt’s wife, Mary (Janel Moloney), wants to take their child away from Jarden.
Mary informs Kevin that Matt and Michael are writing a book about him, a kind of gospel. As much as Kevin has changed into a more believing, spiritual person in his own way — as evidenced by his laundry bag and duct tape incident — he still wants to be normal. He wants a normal life and a normal family and he definitely doesn’t want to be considered odd or special. When he confronts Matt and Michael, almost coming to blows with Matt, they give him the titular book. Before he can toss it in a fire he’s distracted by a plane overhead. A warning from the sky.
“The Book of Kevin” is a great premiere because it was a satisfying single entry and it made me want to immediately watch the next seven episodes. It’s also nice to see three of our leads with some solid beards, with Matt even making the Kevin/Jesus Beard Connection. Which would make a great ‘70s rock band name.
Other than the cold open we weren’t given a lot to chew on yet thematically. The series is setting up the relationships and dynamics for the final run of episodes and that makes perfect sense. Half of the reason to watch the show are the bafflingly vague discussions of loss, grief, anger, religion and love, so I can’t wait for those to kick in again.
The episode also included the most Damon Lindelof ending the series has had yet. We see someone loading up doves on a cart and taking them to a church. My immediate assumption was that this was Kevin’s father (Scott Glenn) a character that we know is in Australia and will presumably be returning this season. I was shocked when the face we see is Nora, older now, with either no memory of Kevin or denying she ever knew him.
Well played, Lindelof.
Watch it! There’s one caveat though: watch the previous two seasons first. They’re only ten episodes each, so it wouldn’t take too long, but I’d recommend pacing them out. They’re pretty heavy emotionally and tend to give a lot of frustrating themes that you’ll want to have some time to chew on. This episode continues the streak of The Leftovers being one of the best and most overlooked shows on television. I’m sad it’s ending but I’m excited as hell to find out what’s in store for these characters.