Pete Carroll and the Seahawks like to say, “It isn’t how you start, but how you finish.” It’s a piece of advice that the Seahawks should be better at following but that the Leftovers writers seem to be following perfectly well. This is the show’s third and final season, and it’s stronger than anyone anticipated, even after a quite good sophomore season. And the endings of the episodes themselves are killers. Gut punching, jaw-dropping, wow-that-was-fucking-crazy-is-it-next-Sunday-already? killers.
Co-creator, Damon Lindelof, Lost co-creator/producer/mastermind, might have fucked up the end of that great show, but he seems determined to right his legacy here. One thing Lost did excellently was cliffhangers—they stuck in your brain for days, and the Leftovers has also succeeded in episodes that have a great finish.
The finish, then: Nora, smoking on a bed in a hotel room, the sprinkler system raining on her room, the Book of Kevin on fire in the sink, Kevin leaving her, probably for good, to go to find his father, to the tune, of A-Ha’s “Take On Me,” framed in a way that reminds me of the band’s great surreal-world-within-a-world video. Nora can’t get to the other side, Kevin and Nora are broken both together and alone.
They are in Australia, having come here for Nora to chase down the radiation machine that will transport her to neverneverland where her children supposedly are alive. From the beginning, it’s clear that there’s something amiss between Kevin and Nora—she ditches him at the airport because she has Global Entry, leaving Kevin to stand in line with the plebes. It turns out she had strapped $20K in cash to her body and didn’t want to let him know.
But he knows, asking her “What are you smuggling?” She tells him about the radiation machine, but she doesn’t tell him that she’s not investigating it because she thinks it’s a hoax, but because she wants to partake in it herself.
She gets a phone call and goes on a wild goose chase that begins with a stranger giving her a baby as she’s about to board a bus and ends with her despondent in a warehouse with two Swiss (or Finnish, we’re not sure) doctors, who are playing, guess what? —A-Ha’s "Take On Me"—on a piano in the warehouse. They present her a sort of riddle before they accept her cash and let her go to the other side: “Two different twins are born. One of them will grow up to cure cancer. If only the other one dies now. You don’t have to kill the baby yourself, but you do have to nod to make it happen. Do you nod?”
Back at the hotel, Kevin has been following Alice down another rabbit hole—well, first he sees his own crazy father being called out as Australia’s Most Wanted on a talk show, and then he thinks he sees Evie in the audience, wearing a headdress, and he goes to the studio to find her.
When he catches up to her in an alley, it’s not clear if she is real or a figment of his imagination, his imagination being a quite active one, but when a stranger sees them both, Kevin realizes that she is real. A fist fight and a bloody face later, Kevin is undeterred. He calls Laurie to tell her what he’s seen, and emails her the picture, and she tells him not to look for Evie. Which he ignores.
Throughout the series, the lines between imagination, reality, and psychosis are constantly blurred. We don’t know how much of Kevin’s visions are a part of his mental illness, or how much are true visions. We don’t know if he’s really been killed and come back to life, or if it’s a deranged delusion. Just like his father, he’s either crazy or a crazy visionary. As he enters the library, the A-Ha song plays—a classical version by Genghis Barbie—again perhaps alluding to the fact that the world-is-not-what-it-seems. During the standoff with “Evie” in the library, with Laurie on the phone, it becomes more and more clear—Kevin is delusional. Laurie talks him down and gets him to realize what is really happening. Evie is not Evie.
“You never tell somebody that they are in a psychotic break when they are in a psychotic break,” Laurie says and he starts to listen. He saw Evie, she posits, because he understands why she ran away, to get away from the crazy cult of her family.
“I came to be with Nora, she’s the one that ran away,” says Kevin.
When Nora and Kevin finally meet back up at the hotel, Nora is smoking illegally in her hotel room (she covers the smoke detector with tin foil) and raging against the women who won’t let her go in the machine, and Kevin is defeated. “What’s wrong? You can tell me anything,” she says.
“No, I can’t,” he says and points out that the last time he told someone he sees dead people, it ended with him in handcuffs, thus beginning the most epic fight ever and ending with a Biblical rain inside the hotel room. When Kevin walks out of the hotel, he runs into the other crazy whitefella, his father. He's left Nora, but he’s not alone anymore.