The Leftovers: “A Most Powerful Adversary” Season 2 Episode 7 Review

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This may have been the weirdest episode of The Leftovers, which is definitely saying something.

In this otherwise brilliant season of television, the handling of Patti has been the one thing sticking out for me. At first, she seemed like too easy of a way to keep Ann Dowd on the show. But man did “A Most Powerful Adversary” really justify Patti’s continued existence on the show, through both narrative and a stellar performance from Dowd (as if that’s any surprise).

The tone was immediately set when Patti says “It’s going to be a hard day, buddy,” at the top of the episode. Nora is gone and Kevin is handcuffed to the bed post, with the key nowhere in sight. Finding out later that Patti was blocking the note Nora left that led to the key pretty much summed up Kevin’s problems. Patti has become a danger to his very existence. There’s nothing he can do that she doesn’t get in the way of anymore, pestering him and clouding his judgement.

The beginning here, where she just continues to nag him as we’ve seen before, had me worried for the rest of the episode. It didn’t help that we got a very out-of-place scene with Jill screaming profanities in the church and calling it flirting. Since she’s become the grounded rock of the “family” Kevin and Nora made, it was hard to believe she’d be so immature here. It also broke the “perspective” of the episode by not featuring Kevin at all when pretty much the rest of it was focused entirely on him.

But the episode picked right back up when Michael took Kevin to his grandfather. The show teases us by having Virgil know exactly what Patti looks like. It was smart to have this lead to the reveal that when Kevin blacked out, he went to Virgil for help getting rid of Patti. But like the people whose homes John lights on fire, Virgil appears to offer a solution to problems that can’t exist. He tells Kevin that the best way to get rid of her is to temporarily die and do battle with her. As in, Kevin has to cross over worlds and vanquish Patti, as if she’s some sort of demon. This is of course completely nuts, but I love how The Leftovers just drags us along with it. As Kevin starts to hope and believe it’ll work, I did as well.

It’s not soon after that he meets with Laurie, who has come to Jarden looking for Tommy. This reunion coming so late in the season only empowers the moments they share here. At first, Kevin’s angry. But the second time they meet, Laurie gets a chance to remind him why she was perfect for him at one point in time. Patti doesn’t show up when Laurie is around. She tells Kevin that he’s not well, like his father. The way she lays it down, gently but matter-of-factly, put Kevin in a place of forgiveness.

Upon Laure’s return to a Garvey household, we don’t get to see the full blowout from Jill and her’s first scene together. It’s a moment that has to happen, but appropriately not in this episode. Instead, after hearing Nora confirm that she’ll come back if he gets rid of Patti, Kevin opts for Virgil’s solution over Laurie’s. Something seems off immediately though, as a visibly upset Michael walks out of the trailer when Kevin shows back up. Before Kevin drinks the poison, he has a final verbal showdown with Patti. It walks a thin line of heroic and just bonkers crazy. Kevin is either about to destroy his demon, or he’s going to destroy himself because he didn’t seek the proper kind of help.

After he goes limp and appears dead, The Leftovers pulls the rug out from under us in the best way possible. Virgil commits suicide instead of saving Kevin. It’s an insane situation. Why did Virgil have it out for Kevin? What is his reward here? Did another HBO show just kill off its main character? The cut to black was painful. The Leftovers doesn’t like to give us answers, but now the questions are urgent. Whatever happens next, I’m now pining for the next episode like this is some cliffhanger happy thriller. Instead, it’s the most artistic show on TV at the height of its powers. Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • Virgil guiding a warrior to the demon’s lair of sorts. I’ll be on the look out for any other things that line up with Dante’s Inferno in the next three episodes.
  • Justin Theroux was terrific this week. If he’s actually dead, he went out with one hell of a bang. It’ll be sad to lose Ann Dowd as well.
  • If Kevin is dead, will Jill turn to Laurie or Nora?

By Matt Dougherty

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