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Review: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2 Episode 7 ‘A Most Powerful Adversary’ Makes a Life or Death Choice

Review: 'The Leftovers' Season 2 Episode 7 'A Most Powerful Adversary' Makes a Life or Death Choice


[Note: Traditionally Indiewire does not put spoiler warnings on episode reviews because, well, it’s obvious isn’t it? But we’re making an exception here due to the extreme final sequence of “The Leftovers” Episode 7. So if for some reason you clicked on this story despite being behind, be warned:
massive spoilers to follow.]

As television viewers become all the more skeptical regarding the fates of almost-certainly-dead characters, there is obviously still a chance Kevin Garvey is alive. His odds seem better than those possibly deceased folks on “The Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones.” He could somehow still fight the demons he sent himself to battle, or the poisonous concoction brewed by Grandpa Murphy may simply not be strong enough to finish our dearest former police chief. But we’ll dig into that later. For now, let’s focus on the future — a future that may not include “The Leftovers'” original focal point.

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2 Episode 6 ‘Lens’ Pits Neighbor vs. Neighbor

Because the pressing issues brought on by this horrifically upsetting episode of “The Leftovers” draw the mind towards wanting to know what’s next, rather than dwelling on what has already happened, we’ll be reversing our usual order for these reviews. Let’s dig in.

Theories

1. John Murphy murdered Kevin.
Normally, it takes a few minutes or maybe even a few hours after an episode of “The Leftovers” for theories to come to mind. Connecting the dots to guess where things are headed is an immensely difficult proposition for a show with as much depth and intrigue as this, and tonight’s episode proved just how hard and then some. I’m sure there will be more disconnected, uncaring viewers out there who will claim to have known Kevin’s fate all along; that the reintroduction of Laurie into the family unit (serving as a parental replacement for Jill) and Kevin’s moving final words to Nora foreshadowed his demise long before Grandpa Murphy squeezed the syringe dry. But the overall reaction had to be a shock like we’ve never before experienced on a show full of them. 

Kevin, apparently, is dead. It’s painful to write those words, but it’s more painful to push past them and ask, “Why?” After an extra few moments to collect myself and reexamine, I think it was John Murphy, not his father, who did this to Kevin. It may not have taken very long for the firefighters to match up Kevin’s volunteered palm print with the one found on Evie’s friend’s car, giving John ample time to find out where Kevin was and where he had been that day. His son, Michael, may have told him, leading John to go have a discussion with Grandpa Murphy; a discussion that ended in an agreement. If Grandpa Murphy let Kevin die, his son would forgive him. That Grandpa Murphy could not forgive himself was up to him — for his sins of the present and the past — but getting Michael to be an accessory to murder has to involve Evie. There’s no other reason I can imagine for that devout disciple of God letting this play out, though knowing “The Leftovers,” I’m probably way off base.

2. Laurie and Jill are in for one helluva night.
Obviously, this mother-daughter duo has some serious issues to work out, but there are — as usual — a number of combustible points of conflict they’ll have to maneuver if any kind of peaceful resolution is in store. First and foremost is the matter of Tommy, the son Laurie desperately wants to find and the half-brother Jill is still texting. She might be the only person who knows where he is, and Laurie will have to use all her training as a psychologist and a mother to wrestle that information from her. Jill won’t want to give it up, not after her mother left her, twice — once to join the GR and then again when Jill came to join the cult. Maybe if Jill was still in a relatively good place, as she was for the first few weeks of the season, maybe then she would be more in line to forgive. But with a father missing, a stepmother who abandoned her and a boyfriend who won’t provide her any release, Jill is just as ready to explode as everyone else. Get ready, Laurie. It’s coming.

3. The Garveys will reunite before season’s end.
We were this close — this close — to having three of the four original Garvey nuclear family together again. If not for a poorly timed phone call from Nora, Kevin, Laurie and Jill would have found themselves in the same room for the first time since Jill walked in on her parents “discussing” divorce. Instead, Patti —and her mission to destroy all families — sent Kevin out the window. Now, with Laurie and Jill forced into interaction, that leaves only one absent family member, and he’ll have all the reason in the world to come visit if a) Kevin really is dead, and Tommy will want to show up for the funeral, or b) Kevin is “missing,” and Tommy wants to help find him, or c) Tommy is Tommy and gets himself into a load of trouble. “The Leftovers” has been teasing this reunion since its premiere, sometimes cruelly (as it did tonight and even more so in “The Garveys at Their Best”). I’m betting it happens before Season 2 comes to a close.

Questions

1. Is Kevin really dead? 
What’s certainly going to be a topic of conversation for most “Leftovers” fans all week is bound to be fueled by fires on both sides, as there’s a good case to be made either way. Killing off the ostensible lead of the show, the man we’ve been tracking since Episode 1, is a huge, huge move for the creators to make. It wouldn’t be surprising if they backed off, especially since whatever he drank could easily be the wrong dosage or improperly mixed. Technically, Michael could be dragging him outside to save him rather than bury him, or he could have a crisis of faith and revive Kevin against his grandfather’s wishes. Or this could be Grandpa Murphy’s plan all along and the syringe was only there to reassure Kevin and give him enough courage to down the cocktail.

But I don’t expect any of that to happen. First off, “The Leftovers” is not “True Detective” Season 2 — a show starved for exciting action in a sea of exposition — or “Game of Thrones” — where death is an expected part of the proceedings. Lindelof and Perrotta have proven themselves unafraid to take fans to dark territory since Day 1, and, frankly, they’ve got nothing to lose in Season 2. Ratings are down. Awards are a tough get. The point being they may not have a Season 3 to keep Kevin around for, anyway. His best hope in my book is his powerful adversary — hopefully Patti is indeed “looking out for” Kevin. She saved him once before when he dropped that brick into the lake, so perhaps she can do it again. Of course, that would mean Patti is real, or at least real enough to wake his ass from the grave.

2. Where the heck is Nora?
If she really did stay in town like Kevin suspected (because she still had Mary), where would she hole up? She’s made enemies of her neighbors and her brother no longer has a place within the city. Maybe she conned her way into his church furnishings, but that would be impressive with a baby in tow. Also, until their final conversation, I thought something else had happened between Kevin and Nora, perhaps when Kevin was “sleepwalking.” We never got to see the end of their conversation last episode, so it was unclear how Nora reacted in general, but it seemed out of character for her to run away. Obviously, she needed to protect herself, though; her and her new baby.

3. Is Kevin’s sickness the same as his father’s?
One fascinating fact came out of the most revolting discussion. When Kevin asked Patti what she wanted and she gave him fake instructions involving Cairo, Egypt and drinking what we’ll call a protein shake, she revealed there was no orders coming from on high. She wasn’t there for a purpose, or at least any purpose she knew about. That would make sense if she wasn’t real, in that if Kevin doesn’t know why she’s there than how could she know? But what’s interesting is that the voices speaking to Kevin Sr. did have a purpose. They were giving him orders. Maybe that’s what he wanted to believe. Maybe that’s how his mind coped with the departure, and Kevin’s denial-ridden mental state warped the hallucinations slightly. Or maybe, just maybe, one of the Garvey men was crazy and one was sane. 

Facts

1. Laurie and Tommy made up the whole hugging ploy.
Slightly glossed over by the more pressing events of the episode was Laurie’s confession that she and Tommy made up their story about holy hugs. Tommy’s embrace wasn’t magical. It was just an answer made up to help desperate people escape a far more dangerous belief. One thing, though: Laurie stopped short of saying exactly what she did to upset Tommy so much, and it very well could have been doubting him. Laurie may have thought she and her son were making up a story, but Tommy could still very well believe every word. She may not have realized this, pushed the wrong button and sent him skyrocketing into Lord knows where. 

2. Grandpa Murphy should not be forgiven. 
Leave it to “The Leftovers” to test the limits of faith. Only the purest believers could forgive a pedophile for abusing his own son, and it turns out John Murphy isn’t the purest of believers. His darkened view of the present became all too understandable when we heard why Grandpa Murphy took three bullets from John. His shots to the chest, belly and “in that foul machinery below the waist which transgressed the laws of man” may have saved him from his adversary, but they hardly seem sufficient now; now that we know what he’d done, and now that he’s committed a new, separate sin more easily forgiven — if not for our personal attachment to Kevin.

3. Kevin didn’t want to die.
Taking a step back to examine the larger, more sensical question of whether Kevin was having a psychotic break or if Patti was real, we can see that, either way, Kevin didn’t actually want to kill himself. That may have seemed obvious after we learned he only tied that brick to his foot in order to save himself, but one could still make the arguement that Kevin did want to die if none of that was actually real. If Patti wasn’t there, then there was no battle to be fought. The inner workings of Kevin’s mind wanted him to die, which when looking back at Kevin’s behavior, doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch. He was miserable with the baby. He was, at least to some degree, faking it with Nora in that he was obviously investing in that relationship for reasons beyond just loving her. So he may have wanted to escape, even if it meant killing himself.

But then there’s Patti’s last words. Right before Kevin drank the poison but after he’d made the decision to do it, Patti screamed, “No!” If she’s real, who knows what her motivation was, but if she’s not then she represented Kevin’s mind telling him to put down the poison. Unfortunately, it was too late. He’d talked himself into believing she was real, just like Laurie had told him he might if he was indeed having a psychotic break. Maybe some can find relief in Kevin’s desire to survive and be happy, but it also makes his death all the more tragic. How very fitting for “The Leftovers.”

Grade: A-

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