REVIEW: The Leftovers – “The Book of Kevin”

The following is a review and recap of the first episode of the third season of The Leftovers (HBO). Expect Story Spoilers.

Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta’s The Leftovers is back on HBO for its final eight episode long season. I managed to bingewatch the first two seasons of the show during my Easter break last week, and I am, honestly, hooked. Therefore I’ve decided that I will review each and every episode of this last season of The Leftovers. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

In the first episode of the third season – The Book of Kevin – Meg (played by Liv Tyler) and her group of Guilty Remnants ‘meet their maker,’ Kevin (played by Justin Theroux) reunites with an old ‘friend,’ and Matt (played by Christopher Eccleston) has started working on a gospel based on the show’s leading man.

But, just like season two, the third season opens with a prologue set in the past. Unlike the second season’s prologue, this one, seemingly, makes much more sense. It revolves around the reaction to the so-called ‘Great Disappointment‘ of the Millerite movement.

William Miller, a baptist preacher, believed that Jesus Christ would return in the 1840s, but every time Miller announced a return date, he was wrong. People in his movement lost faith, and in the prologue we see how the most devout were struggling.

During the sequence, a woman is reading from the Gospel of Matthew (24:36) and when she’s finished a version of Larry Norman’s I Wish We’d All Been Ready plays. Of course, we later learn that Matt (short for Matthew) and Mary’s son is named Noah (named in the gospel chapter being read).

My first thought while rewatching this is that Matt’s uncertain proclamations about the anniversary of the ‘Sudden Departure’ or Kevin will lead his congregation – and the rest of Jarden, Texas – to go against him when either nothing happens or Kevin’s next death is a permanent one. But it may be way too early to speculate about this.

“It’s just a matter of time before one of those fuckers bites your face off.”

It was a bit of a shock to me that the first thing we see after the prologue is one last moment with Meg before her group of angry, rebellious Guilty Remnants were seemingly blown up. While the following time jump wasn’t necessarily needed, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the Guilty Remnants.

I can’t imagine that we won’t see more of them. It would actually surprise me if we didn’t get anymore episodes with Liv Tyler. I’m guessing we’ll get a point of view-flashback episode with her, at the very least. After all, John still isn’t confident that his daughter isn’t out there alive somewhere.

“No. No. This is not a joke, okay? Mr. Gary Busey is coming back from Heaven on the fourteenth. How is he going to know where to land?”

Ahh yes, of course good old Gary Busey has a following, for now let’s call them the Buseyites.

What’s really wonderful about these opening scenes with Kevin is how strange it is to see everything be so good for him. His adopted son is back and he has seemingly not only warmed up to the family life, but he seems to have also matured quite a bit.

Kevin’s family is doing great, or so it seems. Sooner rather than later we start to see small chinks in their collective armor. Mary is desperate to leave Jarden, Texas and her husband, Matt is reading into things, Lily is nowhere to be seen and neither is Erika.

Of course the most interesting chink in the armor is Kevin’s major flaw or problem. It is admittedly tough to grasp whether he is killing himself each and every day, or if he’s ‘just’ addicted to the rush of being about to die. He has seemingly done it multiple times and he’s perfectly willing to offer up his life when he’s doing his job.

The asphyxiation scene reminded me a lot of what Nora did a long time ago. Perhaps Kevin is also trying to remind himself of the pain, or maybe Kevin is unconvinced of the greatness of his daily life.

“Dogs are taking on human form and infiltrating the highest positions in the federal government.”

One thing I definitely did not see coming in The Book of Kevin was the surprising return of Dean – everyone’s favorite tobacco-chewing dog hunter who once called himself a ‘guardian angel.’

Is he ‘on to something’ with his new theory about dogs? I doubt it. But maybe it’s foolish of me to do so. It sure is odd for Kevin to brush it off as easily as he does. Kevin has done some pretty outlandish things himself, and peanut-butter obsessed dog-people is just a tiny bit more crazy than Kevin coming back to life after being an international assassin in a hotel populated with dead people.

“He’s writing a book about you.”

Is Kevin the symbol of a Christ-like figure? Is Kevin becoming a false prophet? Is Kevin the antichrist? – These are the types of questions one could easily ask this show with the way it is positioning itself. There is more to this mystery than just a potential gospel.

At one point we see Kevin wear a crown at Tommy’s party, and earlier in the episode we see Kevin ride a white horse. Of course, you could also call Kevin the false prophet of the Book of Revelation. In any case, we may have to soon question what Matt preaches. If it is the gospel of a false prophet, then that may be what ultimately ruins Matt.

“Sarah, does the name Kevin mean anything to you?”

That final flashforward scene raises a lot of questions. Why is Nora being called Sarah? Where is Kevin? How come ‘No,’ is her answer? There is no way we can answer any of this yet. However, there is a pretty interesting apostle theory going around.

In an attempt to match all of our main characters up with the classic apostles (perhaps due to Matt and Kevin’s exchange about him not being Jesus), one suggestion is that perhaps Nora is the Judas of the story. Perhaps she sells out Kevin. Perhaps the theory is way off the mark. Perhaps not. It’s way too early in the season to fully speculate on this.

But one thing is for sure. This was a fantastic episode from start to finish that lived up to one’s expectations, managed to surprise us, and managed to add plenty fuel to the fire of online speculation. It’s the best The Leftovers season premiere yet, and I’m excited to review and recap the final seven episodes of the series. The end is near, but The Book of Kevin makes sure the final ride is going to be fascinating, to say the least.

A

– Jeffrey Rex

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