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The Leftovers “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” 

The Leftovers “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)”
Photo Credit: Ben King/HBO
Photo Credit: Ben King/HBO

The final season of The Leftovers has worked to slowly disassemble everything we thought was true coming out of an unexpected, bright, and even hopeful, season two. The tonal change from the dark despair of season one’s Mapleton, NY to the golden gospel of season two’s Miracle, TX was drastic, and in many ways a major relief from the bleakness that made the initial episodes of The Leftovers difficult to watch.

Season two gave us magic, the suggestion of a greater power, and glimpses of a place that could be heaven. Back then, it seemed like maybe there was a reason for the departure and a mythic way to make amends.

But little by little, we’re seeing that it’s an illusion. In “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” Kevin sees the “otherside” for what it is—a way for him to run away from his problems (read: Nora). A little fantasy world for him to funnel his energy into. And as horrific as blowing up the fake-world is, Kevin’s decision to do so is necessary for him to terms with what’s happening in real life.

Photo Credit: Ben King/HBO

Of course, this fantasy world of Kevin’s has wormed its way into lots of other people’s lives. Matt, Kevin Sr., John, and Michael have all believed in Kevin’s abilities as holy, as way to heal. We saw Matt come to his senses in “It’s Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World,” and we see Kevin and Senior do the same in this penultimate episode. Senior on the roof at the end of this episode, realizing all of this predictions were wrong, reeling from thinking he killed his son, and wondering out loud “What now?” was a perfect summation of how then of this series is playing out. In a lot of ways we’re back to beginning; it’s season one all over again, when the grim truth of reality reigned supreme.

Photo Credit: Ben King/HBO

But grimness aside, “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” was chockfull of the dark, absurd comedy that The Leftovers has become known for. To begin with, just to have two Kevins was strangely funny, and a nice call-back to the story about Jesus’s twin from “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World.”

Kevin as the Guilty Remnant-supporting President of the United States is such a great contrast to his real life persona of anti-GR small-town police chief. Kevin is so earnest while he’s on the “otherside” and it makes all of the nonsense happening that much funnier. Him fumbling through teleprompter readings, ending with the surprised utterance of “I’m the president,” to the delight of the crowd of onlookers, was a hilarious and slyly satirical take.

Photo Credit: Ben King/HBO

I cackled during the penis scanner scene, and again when Kevin, irritated with Patti, refused to give her glasses back and then proceeded to smash them to pieces. I also love the “otherside” theme music, which is especially playful, like if Kevin is staring in a lighthearted heist film (which, frankly, isn’t that far off). Meg and Patti as high ranking members in the US government reminded me how much I miss Liv Tyler and Ann Dowd on The Leftovers.

This is partially due to how nice it was to have clear villains on the show. Back when Patti was running the Mapleton branch of the GR, or when Meg was planning on taking over Miracle, it was clear that they were the “bad” guys. We knew we had to root against them. We don’t have that luxury in this final season. It’s not a negative though—we’re just dealing with an entirely different set up now.

But what Meg’s speech to Kevin made clear was that of course the GR wasn’t really evil. They don’t actually believe family doesn’t exist. They are just like everyone else. Kevin’s coping mechanism is traveling to a fantasy world where he’s an assassin; for GR members, it’s joining a cult and pretending they don’t love anything. Both are ways to disconnect from your real life, to deny what’s happening, and to avoid your problems.

Photo Credit: Ben King/HBO

And we see the same sort of half-hearted commitment in John. He’s a believer in Kevin, and by extension, Senior’s apocalyptic flood theory, but only because claiming belief gets him closer true goal—Evie. John is a man of god, so it’s not unreasonable for him to believe in an afterlife where Evie is, or even “The Book of Kevin” he and Matt wrote.

But he’s also been heavily influenced by Laurie. And his intentions are made clear when he’s satisfied after Kevin’s first attempt to go to the otherside, since he got the closure he needed from Evie. He doesn’t think a flood is coming, so he doesn’t care if Kevin go back under. And in Kevin’s conversation with Christopher Sunday (as the Australian Prime Minister), Kevin realizes that doesn’t believe any of it either.

Photo Credit: Ben King/HBO

And so this wild, cosmic ride that is The Leftovers is boiling down to something small: the relationship between Kevin and Nora. This gives some extra heft to the one lingering question, which is what’s going on with the flash-forward where Nora claims to not know Kevin. It’s difficult to speculate on how the finale will wrap up our story. But given the superior storytelling that has transpired over the course of this final season, I’m of the opinion that it will be exceedingly difficult for anything to mar what exists as one of best television shows of our time.

The series finale of The Leftovers airs next Sunday, June 4 at 9/8c on HBO.

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