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‘The Leftovers’ Review: President Justin Theroux Unveils the Purpose of Season 3 in an Inspired Penultimate Episode

"The Leftovers" completed its "International Assassin" trilogy in style with a brilliantly bonkers episode that put everything into perspective.

The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 7 Justin Theroux

Justin Theroux in “The Leftovers”

Ben King/HBO

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Leftovers” through Season 3, Episode 7, “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother).”]

Immediate Reaction

The only thing crazier than going back to the afterlife a second time is returning a third time, and “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” was plenty crazy.

But damn if it wasn’t also magnificent.

“International Assassin,” the eighth episode of Season 2, first took us to what’s been casually referred to as everything from purgatory to “the hotel”; a place not of this world but not quite of another, either. It was an ambitious, unprecedented piece of television that dared to show us a glimpse of what “The Leftovers” is all about: life, in whatever form, after death.

Mimi Leder and Damon Lindelof took us back to that place for a briefer stay in the Season 2 finale, when John Murphy shot Kevin. Again he died. Again he woke up in a bathtub. But rather than assassinate Patti by pushing her into a well and drowning her in the bottom of it, he just had to sing.

READ MORE: ‘The Leftovers’: Justin Theroux, Ann Dowd, and Liv Tyler Interview on Reuniting For the End of the World

The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 7 Justin Theroux

The key to these trips is a combination of predominant “Leftovers” themes: the known and the unknown; specifically, self-awareness and giving in to the inexplicable. On all three trips, Kevin needed to discover inner truths by extreme means. He had to help Patti move on to the other side in order to keep his sanity. He needed to admit to himself that he wanted to go home. And in his third trip, he needed to address his contradictory impulses: If he wanted to be with Nora, why did he keep running away?

The answer turned out to be cowardice, in the least traditionally masculine sense of the word. Kevin went to incredible extremes to protect his family, as well as the citizens of Mapleton and Miracle. He literally died to help his dad, his friend, and a stranger. On the surface, he appears to be the bravest and most selfless hero of all. But on the inside, he’s doing it because he’s afraid of being vulnerable with Nora; of giving himself completely to her, just as she’s afraid of giving herself completely to him. They’re both afraid of giving in and losing out, again, be it a break-up, another departure, or the inevitable end that faces us all.

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The Leftovers’ Review: A Certifiably Exceptional Episode 6 Bridges the Gap Between Belief and Insanity

As Kevin wrote in his romance novel, “Now she knew: He was a coward.” He used his temptation to escape — be it to this other world or within the real world — as an excuse to hide his greatest fears. “We fucked up with Nora,” Assassin Kevin said with his dying breath. He did, and he knew it. But facing that emotion has never been Kevin’s strong suit. Last week, Laurie told everyone at Grace’s house, “So everybody wants something. A brain, heart, courage. Kevin’s in the Emerald City, and he’s the one who’s going to give it to you.” But it turns out Kevin met the wizard to find courage within himself. Now he better not fuck it up.

Continue reading for the new facts we learned in Episode 7 and why Senior was the one who brought us to tears.

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