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Review: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2 Episode 8 ‘International Assassin’ Absolutely Kills It

Review: 'The Leftovers' Season 2 Episode 8 'International Assassin' Absolutely Kills It


Hallelujah, people! All praise be to the kind and merciful souls of Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, who saw it fit for us all to get a much-needed win in a series committed to dealing with loss. Hope was abounding during the 62-minute episode from the second Kevin sprang up from the tub of his hotel room, indicating that, at the very least, we would be immediately addressing last week’s cliffhanger ending. Yet just because Kevin was doing battle with Patti, that didn’t mean he would win, or even that we would learn who the victor was this week. As the episode progressed, with roadblocks being thrown up left and right —  Patti’s double, Virgil’s quenched thirst, the mysterious hangman — worries only intensified that we might spend another week without certainty regarding Kevin’s life-or-death state. 

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 2 Episode 7 ‘A Most Powerful Adversary’ Makes a Life or Death Choice

Then he crawled up out of the ground, reborn a new man (for better or worse) and stared down a stunned Michael. Kevin is alive. As he was warned before pushing little girl Patti (Darby Camp) into the well, he may be forever changed, but at least he’s alive. Kevin has freed himself from his most powerful adversary and can now try to reunite with his freshly-made family. 

What’s so striking about “International Assassin” is how boldly it embraces the otherworldly nature of “The Leftovers”; an idea hinted at as a possibility for the past two seasons, but with little actual evidence to firmly establish its existence. Belief has always been the key to unlocking that world, and Kevin showed as much by downing that potion last week. Providing us a story fully inside that world is a gift to fans, even if it’s not quite an answer. Laurie, Nora (maybe), and all realists will claim this is just Kevin’s brain working out things on his own. None of it actually had to happen. Kevin could have just got a funky potion that didn’t finish him off and then willed himself to believe everything else. If he’s not seeing Patti in the coming episodes, it’s simply because he believes he shouldn’t have to anymore. But for those who want to side with Kevin — who want to believe in the unbelievable — there’s ample evidence there, too. Lindelof and Perrotta have again found a way to give us answers, satisfaction and progress without actually putting a foot firmly on one side or the other. Bravo.

Facts

1. Gladys and Wayne are dead (again).
How great was it to see Gladys (Marceline Hugot) and Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph)? Okay, so seeing Gladys spot Kevin from afar certainly struck terror in all our hearts, but after her brutal death in Season 1, it’s nice she got to come back, speak and then die again. The same goes for Holy Wayne, who embraced his wild side even more than usual during a brief post-bathroom trip conversation with Kevin. “You know what’s crazy?” Wayne said. “I feel like I was sitting on the toilet the last time I met you.” He then went on to tell Kevin what Kevin is already all too familiar with, “The mind…you cannot trust the mind…it will play tricks on you…” Kevin then proceeded to blow Wayne’s mind right out of his body, effectively killing off two characters we thought we’d never see again the first time they were offed. 

2. Both Kevin and Justin Theroux deserve “Congratulations.”
For anyone worried about Kevin/Theroux disappearing from their TV screens, “International Assassin” had to be the most relieving episode to date. Not only were we reassured of Kevin’s survival, but there was quite a bit of time devoted to Theroux’s well-catalogued physique. As a co-worker remarked during the show’s revealing introduction, “HI KEVIN’S BUTT!” But the greetings didn’t stop with a naked Theroux sliding out of the tub. Little Kevin — or Not So Little Kevin, to be more accurate — was greeted by the GR’s security guard when he congratulated the man on his manhood. Good for you, Kevin. And good for you, Mr. Theroux, for being a good sport about all the good will online after last year’s famous jogging scene.

3. That’s not our water.
The idea that Kevin couldn’t drink the water at first read to me like a joke, of sorts. After all, the on-the-nose “Godfather” reference followed up by a little chuckle from Virgil after Kevin name-checked the famous scene was funny and fun. It showed that this world might be terrifying, but it was built on familiar ideas (yet another point to help those who want to believe all this was in Kevin’s head). So taking the expression “don’t drink the water” and making it literal felt similar, even if its actual implementation is pretty mind-blowing. First, did Little Girl Patti drown herself in order to try to trick Kevin into ingesting some of the water? He had no idea he shouldn’t at the time, and Patti does love her tricks (that scene had a dual purpose we’ll get into shortly). But then Doppelganger Patti made a note that she “never touched the stuff” after Gladys offered her a glass of water. She clearly remembered who she was, but wouldn’t she make a better body double/assassin’s bait if she’d been forced to drink the water and fully commit to the role? Kevin may not have ever known that he hadn’t killed the real Patti if she didn’t remember who she was (and then told him). And then there’s Virgil, a man so thirsty he couldn’t resist, drinking so deeply he killed the very bird that could have set him free. Speaking of…

Questions

1. Is Virgil really dead?
Drinking the water doesn’t seem to indicate death, but Virgil did kill the bird he once wanted to protect. At first, it seemed logical to assume the bird represented Kevin, who had been attacked and was being chased — just like the bird — when he first found Virgil in the hotel lobby. But when Virgil killed the bird, it wasn’t Kevin who was affected. It was Virgil, who perhaps unwittingly ended his chance of returning home. (As to the Murphy family, birds represent a chance — a longshot, but a chance — at life. 

It’s also worth noting that — when Virgil and Kevin spoke openly in their cloak and dagger parking garage meeting, and Grandpa Murphy was pressed about how he made his way to this alternate world with Kevin — he said he was “atoning.” To me, that lends credence to the theory he shot himself not just to help Kevin, but out of outside motivation for his past sins. I still assume he was influenced in some way to go that far, either by his latest interaction with Erika or by a yet to be unveiled interaction with John. When Michael gets past his shock at seeing Kevin, we’ll finally learn the truth as to why Virgil pulled the trigger instead of drinking the poison.

2. Is Patti really gone?
This is one question I’m 99 percent sure we have an answer for: Yes, Patti is dead. What makes it a question worth addressing is how Kevin had to go about killing her. He followed Virgil’s advice, but that didn’t do the trick. Luckily, his father figured out how to FaceTime him from Perth, Australia using a fire as a phone and some “shit they called God’s Tongue” as motivation. His instructions to take Patti to the well saved Kevin from wandering the hotel in confusion for the rest of his days, even if how he saved Kevin’s life might have messed him up for the “real world.”

Kevin was not an assassin, as Kevin Sr. pointed out, but why did he have to kill Patti when she looked like a little girl? I get that that was her hiding place, making him saving her from drowning a sick joke fitting for the GR leader, but did her embodiment mean something to Kevin? Was that a way for him to finally “know first who you are,” as the message on his hotel dresser instructed? Or was it more about Patti and her desire to destroy families? Either way, it seems like Patti is dead. Kevin essentially killed her three times — once with a bullet to the head, then again by shoving her down the well and finally by drowning her in the bottom of it. If she somehow comes back, it would seem like quite the wasted effort (and a slight waste of the audience’s time). 

3. What would have happened had Kevin “adorned” himself differently?
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Kevin bypass the police uniform when he chose his clothing, but a suit — something we certainly haven’t seen him wear this season — did feel like an odd choice. Less odd than the religious robes and fitting for someone who doesn’t know exactly who they are, but odd nonetheless. The question, though, is if his mission would have changed had he chosen a different outfit. For one, we had Kevin Sr. telling him he’s not an international assassin, meaning Kevin’s failure to “know first who you are” may have been his undoing in killing Patti on the first try. Second, we saw another person looking nervous and wearing the religious robes when Kevin got back in the elevator before meeting with Neal. From that, I assume Kevin isn’t alone in doing battle with demons. There are others there making the same choices as he has to, but possibly on a very different mission.

So what would have happened if Kevin had been the priest? Or the cop? Would he have still been the man who made a generous campaign donation to Patti, or would that whole scenario have changed? And what does it say about Kevin that he would outfit himself — no matter how unwittingly — as a man who Neal described as having “a great job” because he had “no wife, no kids, no responsibility”? Is that something Kevin wants on some level? In the end, his choices in this episode likely mean more than he wanted them to — an idea pointed out by the man on the bridge who wanted to hang Kevin — but it had to end with him killing Patti. 

Theories

1. Mary is either about to come back or officially dead.
Kevin finding Mary in the hotel, calmly accepting balloons from a man Kevin suspected to be an assassin, indicates she’s still got a shot at life. But if the delivery man was an assassin, he might have finished her off — or Mary could have kicked his ass. Mary being somewhat aware of her situation could explain how she came back to Matt all so briefly. She could have completed her mission or — more likely given the brevity of her stay in reality — she could have built a fire, gotten high on God’s tongue and somehow snuck her way back into the real world. I’m not absolutely sure how that works, but I’m also not absolutely sure how anything works in this world. So here’s hoping next week is watching Mary beat the shit out of some baddies in the fantasy hotel on her way back to Jarden.

2. Michael knew what his Grandpa was going to do, but not why he did it.
This might seem kind of obvious, but Michael’s tearful state upon answering his Grandpa’s door last week seemed to indicate he knew something awful was going to happen. Now, with him burying Kevin’s body, it’s likely he knew everything that was going to happen, just not why. Or, if he did know why, he didn’t believe it (hence the “Holy shit” comment to end this week’s episode). But what’s important about Michael is that he’s in it now. He’s seen what Kevin’s capable of and might now believe his condition to be as real as his Grandpa did. How that plays into the upcoming conflict between the Garveys and the Murphys could prove pivotal.

3. The girls will come back.
One for the believers, and one for the realists. After Kevin’s miraculous return to the world of the living, the next big mystery in need of solving is whether or not Evie and her friends will be back. I’m thinking they will be, if only because this episode is so very other-worldly that there has to be an event to ground us again. Bringing back Evie doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a happy reunion. Who knows what happened to her or in what state she’ll be coming back. (I’m not even arguing she’ll be alive.) In fact, contrasting Nora losing her family to the departure and Erika losing her daughter to death could open up a larger discussion worth having — and either bond the two families or deepen their rivalry.

Grade: A

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