leftovThere is no need to beat around the bush here, as evident in the title: Sunday night’s new episode of “The Leftovers,” entitled “International Assassin,” is the single best episode of any show in 2015 so far. We know that sometimes it can be hard to compare drama to comedy and that there is so much out there to watch at present, but this was still something different. Something mesmerizing. This was not a blip on the radar; it took the radar and detonated it into a million pieces. It reminded us of the finest moments of “Lost,” and yet brought something new, distinctive, and devastating to the table.
Let’s start by getting any trace of hypocrisy out of the way. Earlier tonight, we blasted AMC for bringing Glenn back to life on “The Walking Dead,” and there will be some out there who claim that this is unfair since both shows used a central conceit of, in one form or another, bringing a character back from the dead. The different lies in the manner: For the zombie drama, what we saw was an exhibition in shock value, in exploitation, and of screwing with viewers simply for the same of doing so. They waited intentionally for weeks to give you an answer that was obvious in the first place: He was coming back.
Here, we never really thought it was in doubt that Kevin Garvey would find his way back, and there was no exploitation. The series had no history of that, and they picked up the story right away with Kevin, sitting in a hotel room, unsure of where he is or what he is meant to do. When we first heard from Virgil the concierge his mission was almost laughable: As an international assassin, he was meant to track down Presidential candidate Patti Levin and kill her. In doing so, he would find his way back. He warned him that this world was full of riddles and twists, and there were so many examples of that throughout this journey.
Exhibit A comes via a drowning girl, the same one who turns out to be a kind, innocent manifestation of Patti, one he does not want to kill but feels he has to thanks to a warning from his father. In order to kill her, Kevin must save her first. He must recognize her for who she is, and see her in her most primitive state.
Exhibit B comes courtesy of Neil, Patti’s husband (or at one point, her father seemingly) who further exhibits the sort of emotional torment she went through before the Departure and the Guilty Remnant. These scenes existed within the alternate reality, purgatory (common “Lost” theory), or whatever you want to call this to humanize the character, and show a new dimension.
Then, exhibit C. In order to destroy Patti once and for all, Kevin must bring the child to Jarden, the one place meant to exhibit life. It was almost like throwing the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom, except now it was a kind child with feelings, someone who still accepted her fate like she had done something wrong. This entire journey, written by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, was outstanding. It was a parable, a riddle, a truth, and a journey. It was about finding the strength to carry on, and in a sense allowing Patti to let go.
In those closing scenes with Ann Dowd (who was Emmy caliber throughout tonight), Patti recounted the story of how she went on “Jeopardy!” just to get the money to leave Neil, and when she had it, she still could not muster the strength. It was fear. Fear was the same thing keeper her there, and she would rather cling to an afterlife of misery haunting Kevin than whatever is on the other side.
Now, she gets to do the one thing she always wanted to: Start again. She is now longer drowning, and can breathe once more.
You can view this episode as a ghost story, a quest, or really anything that you want. What matters is that this journey for Kevin brings him back to the real world, and that it may be one of the closest things to a perfect episode of television that we’ve ever seen. This will haunt and dwell within us for at least seven more days, when the next episode airs. Grade: A+.
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