UK TV review: The Leftovers Season 2, Episode 7 and 8
The other side10
James R | On 30, Nov 2015
Catching up with The Leftovers? We recommend watching Episodes 7 and 8 back-to-back in one sitting. This review contains spoilers.
The Leftovers is not the kind of show that deals in cliffhangers. And Jarden is not a town of miracles. Until, of course, they both are. Episode 7 of Season 2 delivers the series’ first genuine edge-dangler – and the result is a bravura double-bill of mind-boggling television.
“I’m just as lost as you are,” says Patti early on. When your own unhinged hallucination says that, you know things are bad. But the show argues that listening to your imaginary friend is important – at least, as far as Kevin Garvey’s dad is concerned. And hey, he used to hear voices all the time.
You’re inclined to agree: Ann Dowd’s return as Patti, far from being an indulgent cliche, has become a driving force for the whole season, repeatedly raising the question of what to believe and what not to believe. That debate comes to the fore when Laurie turns up at Jarden looking for Tom, who wasn’t comfortable with what she was making him do: yes, she finally confirms that they did indeed make up the story that Tom had inherited the power to heal people with magic hugs. The dropouts from The Guilty Remnants, though, were all too happy to be convinced.
“Their brain would sooner deal with magic than feelings of fear, abandonment and guilt,” she explains to Kevin, with her psychologist’s hat on. Kevin, of course, is carting around all of those things, from Laurie leaving him – to join a cult, no less – and the scary thought that he might be going insane to the lingering trauma of having Patti’s messy death on his hands.
Enter Virgil, who seems to have a solution for Kevin: off himself with poison so Kevin can face Patti directly, only for Virgil to inject him with adrenaline and start his heart up again. It’s not unlike his dad’s cure for the visions that haunted him: just “do what they told him to do”.
But Patti’s deceptive tirades feed right back into that grey area, as they both seem to share a will to die, but also to live: neither Patti nor Kevin want her shackled to him. Or do they?
“You got someone looking out for you, or you’ve got yourself the most powerful adversary,” decides Virgil. His apparently mystical knowledge, though, is tainted with the murkiness of much more earthly sins: we learn that he abused his son, only to come back to life after John tried to kill him. Suddenly, John’s lack of faith becomes horrifyingly clear: of course, he doesn’t believe that Jarden is a town of miracles. For him, it’s a place of curses.
But that doesn’t make it any less surprising when Kevin agrees to take the poison – only for Virgil to throw away the adrenaline and instead blow his brains out all over the kitchen wall, leaving grandson Michael to clean up the mess. It’s a shocking conclusion that leaves even more questions hanging in the air than usual – questions about belief, reality and punishment.
The two halves of this unique coin couldn’t be more different, but Episode 8 answers those lingering questions with a thrilling bang: if the first chapter was The Leftovers’ usual brand of supernatural drama, the second is closer to a Bond film. Garvey wakes up in a hotel, sports a sharply cut suit, and is promptly attacked by a florist – just another ordinary day in the life an international assassin.
In this bizarre limbo, Garvey is called “Harvey”, the receptionist (Virgil) doesn’t know who Kevin is, and the hotel TV keeps frazzling out. Oh, and Patti is running for President. Heaven, it ain’t.
Kevin, we discover, has arranged to have a one-on-one with her – a chance for him to assassinate her by picking up a gun hidden in the toilet. “Like The Godfather?” quips Garvey. It’s fitting that for a show normally so obtuse in its everyday tales, the one episode set in such an otherworldly place should be the most literal and visceral – and director Craig Zobel (yes, the Compliance guy back again) nails the thrills of this strange building, punctuated with genre staples, such as clandestine car park meetings and, yes, gun-wielding assassinations.
Is it purgatory? Is it all taking place inside Kevin’s mind? “There is no Patti, Kevin. There is only you,” argues Laurie in Episode 7. But Virgil, Kevin and – yes – Kevin’s dad (who seems to connect with the hotel via Skype and issue his own advice) all demonstrate Kevin’s need to have Patti exist as physical being, so that he can process the issues she represents, be they mental, spiritual or emotional. Such a bold mix of the abstract and the immediate requires one heck of a leading man to pull it off and Justin Theroux does his best work in the series yet, turning what was becoming a one-note mental breakdown into an engaging story that we follow as he works through it, beat by beat.
The world-building is typically top-notch, from the symbolic – the well that Kevin must take Patti to, a direct link back to the opening prologue of Season 2 and the spot on which Jarden built the water source (a conduit between the living and the other side) – to the literal. There’s a great attention to detail on display, from the tiny bird flying around the hotel lobby (a reference back to Erika’s bird in the shoebox?) to the sign we briefly see on the wall: “Know first who you are, then act accordingly.” If it ever seemed unsure of itself before, The Leftovers here confirms that it knows exactly what it is: the kind of show that can tackle the afterlife and still find sympathy for the devil, all the while never losing its audience.
“When the mind is in emotional distress, it will grasp at any construct that makes it feel better,” explains Laurie in the first half, again smartly paving the way for what’s to come. “After the 14th, the whole world needed to feel better.” Virgin puts it in a more poetic way: “On Oct 14th, attachment and love became extinct.” After 16 episodes of showing us people chasing false magic rather than deal with feelings of fear, abandonment and guilt, Episodes 7 and 8 of The Leftovers Season 2 actually show us that magic – and proves it to be real. Michael’s single expletive when he sees Kevin come out of other side says it all. Maybe Jarden really is a place of miracles after all.
Season 1 and 2 of The Leftovers available on Sky Box Sets. Not got Sky? You can watch The Leftovers online on with NOW, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription that includes live and on-demand access to Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, FOX UK and more.
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