Wow. Good God was that good. After a monumental season that kept on delivering, THE LEFTOVERS presented its very grateful audience with a truly exquisite season finale. When done right TV can be a truly special medium, when done wrong it can be god awful, but this was no doubt an example of premium quality television assembled by masters of their craft.
Season two of THE LEFTOVERS has done an excellent job of winning over its naysayers from its debut season. By the time we reached the ending point the battle was already won, its audience convinced, with the heavy lifting over, we all knew this show was gold. The finale didn’t coast however; it wrapped up events sublimely and provided a conclusion both fitting as a series finale and (hopefully) season finale. We witnessed Mary finally waking up, Meg storming Jarden’s gates, Evie returning to break her parents hearts with her radicalisation, Norah and Tom coming together to protect Wayne’s child from a stampeding mob, a lot when down, but this was undeniably Kevin’s episode, this was Kevin’s show and it was an immaculate one.
The moment where John shot Kevin in that kennel, the moment where we all wondered if they actually had just killed our most unreliable of heroes for a second time, started a series of events that was at times spellbinding and at others simply just flawless TV. As Kevin was once again birthed into ‘Hotel Purgatory’ it appeared to be obvious he was dead, once again lost in the afterlife. Once we could accept that, our frustration wasn’t directed at a plot devise reoccurring too soon but a frustration we shared with Kevin himself. “Oh no, not again!” we moaned as our hero grasped the awfulness of his situation, remembering the misery he had to suffer to escape this place just two episodes ago. The same environment presented itself with the exact same immediate choice, which costume to don, what disguise to cloak himself in. It was rather gratifying to see Kevin skip past the ‘International Assassin’ suit and grab his old police officer uniform, slipping back into the shoes of the man he had been trying so hard to leave behind.
Everything about this sequence was fantastic, none more so than Kevin having to sing a karaoke rendition of ‘Homeward Bound’ as a trial of some sort to return to the land of the living. It sounded dumb on paper, it sounded dumb to Kevin, but at this point he was desperate and so he sang. It was heartbreaking to witness. The way it slowly dawned on us — and him — how true the lyrics of that song were to his life was perfect. We weren’t hit over the head with it, we discovered the connection with him, we felt the pain with him.
The fact however that this was all it took for Kevin to escape the Hotel and return to Jarden was odd to me. Sure, Kevin went through emotional turmoil via the song but it was a little convenient that he escaped so easily this time — why could no one else in the afterlife use this method? Perhaps this was a ruse. Perhaps Kevin didn’t die. Just a thought but perhaps the song and the hotel were all in his mind this time around, a sickly dream as he lay bleeding on the floor of the kennel. This would make some sense but regardless of whether or not he travelled once again to the afterlife, this sequence was worth the trip. What was most effective and truly touching above all else was as Kevin sang his song he seemed to realise that perhaps he should stay in the hotel, that perhaps his family would be better off without him, but then he seemed to have another realisation that vanquished the former, that he did indeed love his family. We watched gripped as this one moment of authenticity debunked the conflict he had been ravaged by for so long. Kevin now knew he had to come back. He had to come home.
Returning to an environment quite different from what he left, the peaceful aesthetic of Jarden removed and replaced with the poisonous fear that had always lived beneath its skin, we watched Kevin march on, determined more than ever, still bleeding from his gunshot wound. The choice to have him find John amongst this chaos was a perfect one and displayed so pertinently the journey’s of these two men. It was indeed a surprise to see them unite through their confusion, John saying to Kevin, “I don’t understand” was a brilliant moment, speaking on behalf of everyone watching the show, only trumped by Kevin’s response, “Neither do I” with a smile shaped like a grimace. And this is where it all comes together for me. This is what it’s all about. What this episode, what this show has conveyed so well is the virtue of ambiguous storytelling and the power of unresolved mysteries. We don’t need to understand everything that goes on, we don’t need to accept, we just need to BE, to roll with the punches. Sometimes things don’t make sense and that’s okay, that’s fine, life is confusing and sometimes all you can do is shrug your shoulders at its nebulous nature. I will always love shows like THE LEFTOVERS and HANNIBAL for championing such ideas.
After all that we and these characters had been through during this episode, let alone this season, ending events with Kevin returning to his home, not knowing what or who he might find there, only to be greeted by everyone he loves in the world was truly uplifting. All the tears, all the pain for that one moment went away, Kevin had found his way home, home to a family that not only loved him but needed him. It was a treat to witness after all the misery that came beforehand, ending this episode and perhaps the show on a note of hopefulness was so the right choice. It felt deserved. It felt right. It was the best possible ending to a finale that should spark envy and inspiration in all of its competitors.
THE LEFTOVERS is a special TV show. Quite simply this is what quality looks like. When it stares you in the face like it has done with this show it’s truly undeniable. TV has never been the same since BREAKING BAD departed. There are still fantastic shows, shows like GAME OF THRONES, like HANNIBAL while it was around, but THE LEFTOVERS has given us something to truly savour with this second season, a perfectly constructed fairy tale that delved into the deepest and darkest corners of the human condition. So, THE LEFTOVERS, welcome to the pantheon of greats. Welcome to TV’s team of champions. You are most welcome. We can only hope that you stay around.