Van Redin/HBO

The Leftovers

SSeason 3 EEpisode 1
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TV Show
SSeason 3 EEpisode 1
April 17, 2017 at 12:33 AM EDT

Where’s Erika? Or for that matter, where is Lily? Kevin and Nora’s adopted daughter, who was shepherded to them by Tommy after Holy Wayne was murdered and Christine abandoned her at a highway rest stop, seemed destined for something significant. But something has happened to her, and it’s unrelated to the crazy lady who stripped her out of Nora’s hands during the GR’s ill-fated Oct. 14 stunt. The only trace of the child is what’s left unsaid between Kevin and Nora, and the pain that Nora seems to be wearing. At Tommy’s birthday party, Nora holds toddler Noah as if she’s afraid someone is going to pull him away. Is Lily’s absence related to Nora’s broken arm? We’re sure to find out, because Nora’s future looks very dark.

Kevin seems to be holding up pretty well, all things considered. But maybe not. For one thing, he still has a death wish. When he’s left alone before work, he wraps a dry-cleaning plastic bag around his head and asphyxiates himself. Nora might actually understand such urges since she used to don Kevlar vests and pay prostitutes to shoot her, but this feels like a me-time thing. Though it’s ghastly to watch, his subsequent up-and-at-them prance out the front door makes the stunt seem like part of his regular routine.

The appearance of a sketchy character from his past also bodes ill for Kevin’s inner demons. Dean the Dog Killer is back with some crazy ideas about hellish end-of-times dogs, a Wyoming senator who is really a canine, and a PBJ sandwich that is the key to it all. When the world blows up on Oct. 14, beware of dogs, Dean seems to be saying. Kevin makes the mistake of being honest: “What you’re thinking is happening? Isn’t. It’s all in your head. It’s not real.” Dean blows a dog whistle and leaves disappointed and agitated, reminding me of Meg’s line about tigers…

The next day, Kevin is rattled when a group of protestors disrupt Matt’s baptisms by dumping drums of toxic waste into the Miracle springs. The police try and separate the two groups, but a riot breaks out when the Christians rifle stones at the agitators, some of whom wear T-shirts with Evie’s face on them. While a panicked Tommy looks at his stepfather for guidance, Kevin drifts away from the action, up near a ledge, and then plummets lifelessly into the water. He surfaces and examines the toxic drums. False alarm. The water hasn’t been poisoned after all. Did Kevin really suspect that it was a ruse? No. Does he still want to die? Apparently. But before he wades out of the water, Michael moves toward him and asks to baptize Kevin. Matt watches intently. With the crowd paying close attention, Kevin acquiesces. When he’s dipped under the water, Kevin flashes back to his bathtub birth scene in the dream hotel. Back in the lake, he skeptically whispers to Michael, “That didn’t count.”

Afterwards, Tommy drives a soaked Kevin to change. Understandably, Tommy has questions: about Kevin’s actions, about the Oct. 14 “gas leak” that killed Evie and the GR. But their conversation is interrupted by a bullet that whistles through the windshield. “You changed, you sonofabitch,” yells Dean, who trains his sights on Kevin, whose wet gun malfunctions. Just as Dean is about to kill Kevin, Dean’s head explodes. Tommy shot him. Interestingly, when the on-duty police arrive to investigate, an unruly mutt violates the crime scene and swipes a PBJ sandwich from Dean’s corpse.

Kevin survives again, and if you’re paying attention, it’s almost as if he can’t be killed. For example, he wrapped a cinder block around his leg and jumped into a lake… only for an earthquake to save him. He swallowed poison and was buried… only to rise from the grave. He took a bullet in the gut… and lived to walk home and embrace his family. He tries to suffocate himself with a plastic bag… but can’t. He plunges into what could be toxic waste… and gets lucky that the water is clean. Now Tommy, the man who once was the little boy who helped bring Kevin and Laurie together after a seemingly random traffic accident, rescues him from certain death.

People are paying attention. Matt is paying attention. So are Michael and John.

Mary is leaving Matt and taking Noah back to New York. When Kevin defends him and asks Mary for patience, she tells him that Matt is writing a book about him, a gospel. “He thinks the New Testament is getting old,” she says. “He got pretty excited when you rose from the dead.”

Kevin rushes to confront Matt and lashes out, telling him crazy stuff like this is why his wife is leaving him and taking his son away with her. Very calmly, Matt lays his cards out on the table in the most Matt-like way possible, quoting Jesus: “If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower.”

John sheepishly concedes that he too believes that Kevin might be something special — especially if there’s a chance of Kevin’s powers bringing Evie back. Michael brings Kevin the gospel, the one and only copy, trusting him to do the right thing. Hurrying outside, Kevin is about to toss the book into a barbecue pit. But something stops him, and when he looks up to see what all the other tourists are staring at, he sees a skywriter announcing the time until the Oct. 14 anniversary.

A bird approaches. A dove? A carrier pigeon? And then more of them — carrying messages. A woman gathers them in cages and bikes them past green pastures of sheep. It’s Australia, yes? She pedals to an Anglican Church (a church that resembles one from a Leftovers promo that revealed an ark being built near it). We can’t see the woman’s face until the woman she works for, a nun, says, “Sarah: Does the name Kevin mean anything to you?”

“No,” she says, and we see that it’s an older version of Nora.

“The Book of Kevin” was a terrific bolt of a premiere, reframing everything’s that happened in two seasons, shuffling some of the essential relationships, and doubling down on clues that once seemed too preposterous to be anything more than the ravings of a lunatic. I’m happy to play the role of the Millerite woman for seven more episodes.

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A “rapture” drama from Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, whose book of the same name served as inspiration for the series.
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