‘The Leftovers’ Went Full ‘LOST,’ Here Are the Theories to Make Sense of It All
If you didn’t think Damon Lindelof would get all LOST on us on The Leftovers, you thought wrong. In Sunday’s episode, “International Assassin,” (spoiler alert) the HBO series took a break from reality for a heavy dose of the surreal. Written by Lindelof and Nick Cuse, the son of LOST collaborator Carlton Cuse, it makes since why the HBO drama took an unusual turn.
After last week’s cliffhanger that left Kevin dead from drinking poison and Virgil dead from shooting himself, we found Kevin waking up naked in a hotel bathtub. He put on a suit which sealed his (afterlife?) duty as an “international assassin” and then he killed a bunch of people Bourne Identity style. His mission was to assassinate Patti, who in this other realm was a speaking Guilty Remnant leader running for President.
As that last sentence proves, Sunday’s episode was a bizarre and sudden shift for the series, opting for intense fight sequences over talky dialogue (though there was still a generous portion of that) and abandoning the logic for belief in the supernatural. But what we actually saw happen in the episode is still up for debate. Did Lindelof take us to the afterlife, a metaphorical purgatory, a deep level of Kevin’s subconscious or all of the above? Here are some theories and speculations.
Kevin went to purgatory.
The “other side” Kevin and Virgil traveled to may have been purgatory. According to the rules laid out in the episode, the hotel seems to be a place where those who died after the Sudden Departure go. Beyond Kevin and Virgil, we saw Holy Wayne, former Guilty Remnant member Gladys, Patti and a bird, which could be a reference to the birds Erika buried. But the hotel isn’t a permanent place of death, since Kevin had the chance to return back to Jarden. Mary also may have appeared as the woman receiving the congratulations balloons (is she having a boy?). The hotel is most likely a place outside of the realms of life and death where one goes to work out the anxieties and contradictions they’re wrestling with on Earth. When Kevin selects his wardrobe, the Epictetus quote on the dresser reads, “Know first who you are, then adorn yourself accordingly.” Kevin could have chosen the police uniform, a clerical outfit or GR whites in addition to the suit. Perhaps each of these represents a different element of his identity, yet he chose the most aggressive of the four, one that abandons the law, faith and the completely lack of it. Maybe Kevin’s only way of relinquishing himself of Patti was by adopting this persona.
Kevin was hallucinating.
The argument could be made that everything we saw in “International Assassin” was just Kevin traveling within his subconscious, not to a realm of the afterlife. Kevin could have dreamed this world based on situations and people he’d encountered in real life. First off, a hotel room was where Kevin was at during the Departure. He could have constructed a hotel as a place between life and death based on his reference for the spot where his life, and the lives around him, suddenly changed. He, of course, knew Patti and Gladys in real life. He met Holy Wayne in a bathroom last season moments before the man died, making it even more interesting that Kevin’s encounter with Wayne this episode was once again in a bathroom. Kevin also knew who Neal was because what Patti told him of her husband, which may also be derived from what Laurie told him about Patti’s therapy sessions. Kevin knew that Mary was pregnant, which could explain why he saw a woman who looked like her receive balloons. Kevin also knew his father was visiting Australia, and in the dream world Kevin Sr. magically video called his son from Perth. Another connection one redditor pointed out was the appearance of the white Mercedes Evie and her friends disappeared from in this alternate world. Perhaps it was all an Inception-like dream.
Kevin was resurrected.
This theory is not totally exclusive from the previous two, since Kevin could have been resurrected from a purgatory, a dream or a combination of the two. Yet regardless of where he went, his resurrection was similar to that of the cave woman from the season’s opening. At the end of the episode Kevin traveled to the well, a “conduit between the living and the spirit world” where you toss in whatever you want to unburden yourself of. The Jarden well, however, appears to be in the same location of the town’s river, the same place the girls disappeared from and the same place the cave woman was resurrected. After Kevin pushed little Patti into the well, a hawk cry is heard, much like the hawk in the prehistoric opening. After consoling and finally killing Patti, an earthquake erupts, also like the cave story, and Kevin is brought back to life.
We’ll likely never know exactly what the world of “International Assassin” was and I doubt the series will ever revisit it. But it’s what happened there that will shape Kevin and likely the rest of the season. He ended his other worldly trip as an assassin, killing Patti and Neal, among others, and buried his police uniform along with the other wardrobe options. Perhaps Kevin finally buried any understanding he may have had for the GR’s motives (he understood their cigarette smoking in the episode), any faith in the divine and any regard for the law. Now that he’s killed and faced the weakest parts of himself, I expect the Kevin we see from now will look a lot different. As the man on the Miracle bridge told Kevin, whatever he chooses will change him.