‘The Leftovers’ Season Two Finale: Homeward Bound

Leftover finale

Justin Theroux in The Leftovers. (photo: Van Redin/HBO)

I didn’t know what to expect from the season two finale of The Leftovers, but I definitely didn’t think the episode—and possibly the entire season, and maybe even the series itself—would climax with Kevin Garvey belting out a Simon and Garfunkel song in limbo.

We’ll get to that.

I did wonder going in how this last episode could possibly feel satisfying, if there was any chance it might wrap up everything up. Season finale’s are tricky, especially since so many of the current crop of super serialized cable programming tend to be structured as though there are going to be one hundred episodes in the first half of the season, only to then cram incident upon incident into the second half to make up for it, creating a kind of glut that’s often just kind of overwhelming.

We open tonight with a flashback to Evie and her pals staging their disappearance in order to go join up with the Guilty Remnant, and discover that Kevin spotted them moments before attempting to drown himself, an incident that Kevin suddenly remembers upon clawing his way out of the grave following his near-death vision quest in episode eight. He returns home anxious to share this memory with Evie’s father, John, only to arrive moments after John finds out that Kevin’s handprint was found at the scene of the supposed crime.

John hauls Kevin off for questioning and we cut over to Nora, whose struggle to care for both her baby and comatose Mary is eased a bit when Mary wakes up following yet another earthquake. There are a lot of earthquakes tonight. Nora takes Mary to reunite with Matt in the filthy pilgrim camp just in time for Meg to storm the bridge with a truck supposedly packed with explosives, and to reveal that Evie and her friends have joined the GR.

Meanwhile, John’s interrogation of Kevin culminates with Kevin getting shot in the chest.

I’m skipping some stuff. John and Erika and Jill and Laurie and Tommy and Meg all have nice, tense little exchanges. Michael gives a speech in church that amounts to him pointing out some thematic stuff that I have to believe anyone who has been watching the show already gets. There’s a wrenching scene where Erika confronts her daughter on the bridge while the pilgrims excitedly await their explosive destruction, and a subplot about Nora seemingly doubting whether she has a right to raise Lilly as her own child that seems shoehorned in.

As much as this season has treated the cast like an ensemble, this episode treats Kevin like the central character. After getting shot, Kevin once again wakes up in the hotel from a few weeks ago. Once again he’s given a choice of outfits, and this time instead of ‘international assassin’ he selects ‘police officer,’ which means that instead of having to assassinate someone in order to return to the land of the living, he has to…sing karaoke. A task that he balks at, until that weird dude who tried to hang him the last time he was trying to beat death goads him by pointing out that he previously had no problem dropping a child into a well.

So Kevin sings ‘Homeward Bound’ in Limbo. Mentions of cigarettes and magazines in the lyrics flash to Kevin’s secret smoking and that issue of National Geographic his father was obsessed with in season one and give way to further visions of his children and Nora, Kevin becoming more and more overcome with emotion until the song ends and he’s all tears and snot and he wakes up, back in his body, alive despite the gaping wound in his chest.

He wanders around what’s left of Jarden, which the GR and pilgrim invasion has transformed into a kind of endless Woodstock ’99, until he finds John, who is pretty surprised to find him alive. John helps him tend his wound and, crying, says he doesn’t understand what’s going on. Kevin tells him he doesn’t either, and that it’s okay. They walk home together, part as friends, and following another earthquake Kevin goes inside to find Jill, Tommy, Laurie, Matt, Mary, Nora and Lilly all waiting for him.

The end.

I said earlier that Kevin’s karaoke performance seems like the climax of everything and I think the reason why is because it forces Kevin to ask himself why he finds murder so much more compelling and easier than vulnerability. It’s like he’s always wished he was a character on The Walking Dead, with lip service paid to family and love and all that shit but mostly clearly defined enemies who could be vanquished with a machete, and he comes out of the song comfortable being a character on The Leftovers, where nothing is quite so simple.

As of this writing there’s no word on if HBO is going to renew the show, so this finale may well be all there ever is. If so, it’ll be a shame not to see what might happen now that all the central characters are finally in the same place, but at the same time it’s also a nice ending, because all the central characters are finally in the same place. Along with everything else the show is about, The Leftovers has always been about community, about how people in need band together for good or ill, and how gross it gets when what brings them together is an arbitrary or ideological framework. In the final moments of this episode we finally see a community that’s come together out of not just necessity and a need, but also something like love.

Sure, some of them barely know each other and some of them hold grudges of nearly insurmountable intensity against each other, but doesn’t every family basically boil down to being a bunch of co-dependent assholes damaged in complimentary ways?

Anyway. I had a lot of fun watching the show and talking to you (whoever you are) about it this year. Thanks for reading.

‘The Leftovers’ Season Two Finale: Homeward Bound