The Leftovers continues to excel in its second season, and no more so than in this, its most experimental episode to date (one which, coincidentally, is also one of the most experimental episodes of television I’ve ever seen). Some viewers aren’t going to like it due to its ambiguous and religious nature, but for those like me who appreciate these elements, it smashes everything it tries to accomplish.
Rather than leaving Kevin’s fate in the balance, ‘International Assassin’ directly continues where last week left off. Kevin wakes up, naked, in a bath tub, and is promptly attacked after choosing how to adorn himself – hence the titular assassin.
Kevin wakes up in a purgatory-like place, and already the parallels with Damon Lindelof’s other show Lost are evident. Many believed that the entirety of Lost was the main characters in some form of afterlife, and to directly continue and exploit this narrative thread is a bold move indeed from Lindelof.
It’s not always clear what is happening, and sometimes it is frustrating waiting for answers, but ‘International Assassin’ is mind-boggling.
Setting the episode in an afterlife allows for several deceased characters to return. We see Holy Wayne, Gladys, Virgil and Patti in this afterlife, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if some other members of the Guilty Remnant were played by the same actors as last year – I’m going to have to have a rewatch of season one to see if I can glimpse any other cameos.
It’s brilliant to see these characters (albeit different versions of them) back, but the entirety of this episode is building towards the eventual encounter between Kevin and Patti. And inexplicably we’re given two.
The first is entirely what I expected. Patti is bold and garish and laments her ex-husband’s desire to be shit on. In this reality she is running for president, and in order to return to life Kevin has to assassinate her.
Both Justin Theroux and Ann Dowd are captivating here. Dowd is clearly relishing playing a different version of Patti, whilst Kevin’s confusion is wonderfully conveyed by Theroux.
But it soon becomes apparent that this isn’t really Patti. It’s a decoy, who has received plastic surgery to look like her. Kevin kills her anyway, because why not?
This zany episode is littered with throwbacks to previous episodes. We see a bird flying around the hotel foyer, and it isn’t explained how they are returned to life. I can’t imagine somebody travelling to a well and drowning a bird. But somehow it doesn’t matter.
Like I’ve always argued, the mysteries of The Leftovers aren’t important. Like Lost again, it’s the characters that pull us in.
We also see Virgil saying he has to atone in this afterlife, and instantly Kevin knows that something is amiss. He knows that Virgil is dead, but even that doesn’t deter him from continuing his quest to rid himself of Patti and returning to life.
But the most striking throwback is that of Kevin’s father, Kevin, Sr., appearing through the television set. What if his ‘ability’ to hear voices actually connects with those in an afterlife, and he’s helping them return to life? Whatever the case, I hope this thread is continued and not forgotten. I have a feeling it’s very important.
But everything has been leading to the final confrontation between Kevin and Patti, and the entire thing is heartbreaking. The ‘real’ Patti is actually the child version of her, and despite knowing he’s going to have to kill a child, Kevin is nothing short of heroic when he rescues her from her bedroom and journeys to Jarden with her. You can tell he doesn’t want to kill her, but knows that it’s the only way to rid himself of Patti once and for all, and the scene in which he pushes her into a well is harrowing. But it doesn’t stop there.
No, the older version of Patti calls for Kevin, and Kevin drops into the well for one final soliloquy. Ann Dowd is exceptional in this segment.
In the end, Kevin and Patti don’t hate one another. There’s a love, almost, and this scene is captivating and touching in equal measures as Patti explains her motives. A story about the gameshow Jeopardy transpires into Patti wanting, but being unable, to leave her husband, and her desire for silence.
Suddenly everything falls into place and the viewers are seeing Patti in a new light. I may not have always liked her, but I think on rewatching this show I’ll have a certain empathy for Patti now that we know what drove her to join the Guilty Remnant. Lindelof manages to humanise her in her final, beautiful moments. And then, in an act of mercy, Kevin kills her.
Two key threads from ‘International Assassin’ have me both dreading and looking forward to the final two episodes. Firstly, Michael is surprised as hell when Kevin scrambled out of his grave, suggesting that both Michael and Virgil entirely believed Kevin to be dead. Does this mean Kevin was in on Virgil’s plan to kill him for good?
But most interestingly, Mary Jamison is glimpsed in the afterlife, despite being alive in the present. Does this mean she’ll die at some point in the future? Or does it mean her mind is already dead, and it’s merely her body that continues in the present? And if so, can she finally return to life for good?
I think Matt and Mary’s story has been building towards this all season, and I can’t wait to see its culmination.