If you’ve been watching Season 2 of The Leftovers, you’re likely as intrigued and shocked as we are.
Last week, we found Kevin (Justin Theroux) lifeless at the end of the episode after drinking poison with the hope that he could travel to the afterlife and battle his demon, Patti (Ann Dowd), to vanquish her. This episode picks up with Kevin in a whole new world. Here are the most mind-bending moments from last night’s episode, titled “International Assassin.”
1. Kevin wakes up in a nameless hotel
The hotel is its own nameless character in the episode, but is really meant to imply that Kevin’s stay there, just like his life, is only temporary. The fact that he tries to tip the flower delivery man but only has Euros in his wallet is symbolic of Kevin not having the right “currency” to buy control over the temporal nature of things. Whether or not this is his real life or a dream, it’s all out of Kevin’s control.
2. “Know first who you are and then adorn yourself accordingly”
This quote by ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus was written on Kevin’s hotel closet door. Inside the closet, Kevin finds a police uniform, an all-white outfit and a James Bond-ish suit. He puts on the suit. The quote is important because Epictetus believed that fate controlled our lives, but humans controlled their own actions. This implies that our own actions are the most important thing in our lives, giving us great power. It is the hope that Kevin needs to be the “assassin” and kill Patti.
3. Little girl face-down in pool
One moment, a 9-year girl is standing on the edge of the hotel pool; the next, she’s floating face-down. Kevin rescues her, but it’s only when a man returns for her that we learn she is not well cared for. Of course, we later realize that she is a young Patti and the man is Patti’s husband, who cheated on her with women who pooped on his chest.
4. Kevin Sr. on the TV with Australian Aborigines
The TV in Kevin’s hotel room turned on and off on its own, giving us a window into Kevin’s unconscious mind (or perhaps conscious mind, depending on what you think is actually happening). Kevin sees his own father (Scott Glenn), who’s dealt with his own mental illness, in the TV, getting high with Australian Aborigines who are lighting fires. The Aborigines are significant because of their creation philosophy, called The Dreamtime, which implies that a person’s entire ancestry exists as one, combining the past, present and future into one concept. This would suggest that Kevin is his father, as well as his children, all at once and cannot escape their shared experience.
5. “Don’t drink the water”
Kevin is told by Virgil (Steven Williams), now the hotel concierge, not to drink any water because it’s dangerous. This is the antithesis of the “miracle water” from Jardin that people are so eager to purchase and drink, hoping that it will keep them from being extracted from Earth. Water has long taken on spiritual meaning in Christianity, from baptism to Catholic holy water. When Kevin first wakes up in his hotel room, there are four bottles of water on the table, as if to imply that he should drink the water — there’s plenty of it. Of course, humans need water to live, so by not drinking it, he’s going against nature, but also taking control of his life.
6. The bird loose in the hotel
Having just seen Mockingjay — Part 2, we couldn’t help but think how this bird, with its strange tweeting sounds, seemed like some perversion of nature. But we can’t ignore the dead birds that were buried by Erika (Regina King) and then came back to life. Stuck inside the hotel lobby, the bird becomes a metaphor for Kevin, who is stuck in his own madness. While it was disturbing to see the bird be crushed by Virgil, its death releases Kevin from his sickness.
7. Patti running for president
Patti is a candidate for president and Kevin, as the international assassin, must stop her from being elected. Basically, this means Patti is fighting to gain complete control over Kevin’s mind. If she wins, she’ll be in charge of him. So why isn’t it enough to just kill her when he shoots her in the hotel room?
8. Young Patti in the well
Probably the most disturbing moment is when Kevin has to throw Patti as a little girl into the well. She asks if he’s going to drop her or push her. His anguish is palpable. He’s clearly starting to have empathy for the neglected little girl who would grow up to start a cult of silent smokers and be responsible for his wife leaving him. But he has to kill little girl Patti because he needs to go against his own instincts and commit an act that will only benefit himself. There can be no iteration of Patti left alive.
9. Windex in Kevin’s eyes
Kevin must take a lie detector test before he’s allowed to meet with Patti, the presidential candidate. When he answers a question incorrectly, an aid sprays Windex in his eyes. Windex is used to clean glass, and this action, though painful, is a way to clean away the lies he’s been telling himself. When they ask him why they smoke, he finally answers, “To remind us the world ended.” Perhaps the point is for him to stop focusing on what has ended and put his focus on what is now beginning.