This is part of the 5 Favorite Episodes of 2017 Series. Check out the previous entries here. This is the subjective countdown of my favorite episodes that aired in 2017. Articles include SPOILERS.
After The Leftovers ended, its finale “The Book of Nora”, got a ton of credit and deservedly so. That episode pulled off the incredibly difficult task of sticking the landing of a show with a ton of questions without falling into the same pitfalls that brought the ire of Lost fans (not me) on Damon Lindelof. It earned all of the recognition it received, but it wasn’t my favorite of the amazing third season of The Leftovers. That title goes to the previous episode: “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)”.
I watched The Leftovers from start to finish for the first time this year, and while I’d love to include the first episode in the hotel, I can’t, because of my rules about episodes airing in 2017. The land of the undead is one of my favorite creations on television, not because it’s a unique concept, but because of the way it feels. Nothing makes sense on that side. Everything is abstract. But I never find myself confused. Every choice pulls at precise emotional strings, guiding us on a journey without ever seeing the road. It’s a lot like a dream in that way. Looking back, the story feels outlandish, but when you were in it, it felt completely real.
It’s an insane idea for a story and an incredible gamble of a storytelling device to use once, let alone multiple times in a series, but like so many things on The Leftovers, it just works. Most impressively, they know exactly how many times is right to visit it. The emotion there is so raw, so pure, so intoxicating. It’s tempting to escape, to slip away into the ether where everything is based on feel instead of logic, that you forget that it’s not real.
In this version, Kevin is two people: his international assassin persona from the second season, and the president of the United States. Everyone who sends him there gives him someone to find and to relay a message to. The other side has never been about conquering an enemy though. Each time Kevin travels there, he faces himself: his own fears and shortcomings. Each task is meant to show him something about himself, and that – not the task itself – is the true mission.
Kevin has never felt the same since entering that world. Nothing in his reality seems to feel quite as real. It’s why he suffocates himself earlier in the season, not because he’s suicidal, but because he just needs to feel again. He wants to touch that feeling of purpose that he felt on the other side. At the end of this episode, having figuratively and literally faced himself, both Kevins understand that they came here to gain closure, to put this world behind them, and to destroy it. The most powerful moment of the episode, and maybe the whole series, comes when he looks into his twin’s eyes and pleads with him to end it all. “Why?” he asks. “So we can never come back here.” For me though, I’ll be going back a lot more.