The Leftovers: “International Assassin” Season 2 Episode 8 Review

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Well, uh, right then. The Leftovers went there, uh, maybe. What is sure to be a polarizing episode ends up being both satisfying and perhaps too much of a stretch.

“International Assassin” takes place in one of two places: Kevin’s head or an actual afterlife. Either way, the purpose of this episode is for Kevin to “do battle” with Patti once and for all. It’s an exciting and often emotional entry. For an episode that strays so far from the show’s more grounded reality, it is often successful.

Kevin wakes up in a hotel room. He puts on a suit from the wardrobe, sitting between his Mapleton police jacket and a priest’s robes. A delivery man brings him flowers, but then tries to kill him. It’s clear that wherever we are, Kevin is now a spy. His assignment? Assassinate Senator Patti Levin.

You have to admire the pace at which the show fills us in on these details. We’re thrown into this new unearthly world with Kevin, discovering the purpose of it all as we do. It’s certainly an exciting way to tell this story. His first confrontation with Patti, where she monologues like a Bond villain, was just so full of tension. There’s no doubt that Justin Theroux and Ann Dowd were in top form this week.

But that version of Patti turned out to be a decoy, only for her to manifest herself as a little girl. Removing her proved to be a much more difficult task for Kevin, especially as she innocently rattles off everything supposedly wrong with her. After he pushes her in the well, adult Patti asks for help, and he jumps in after her. The Jeopardy conversation was the most emotional of the episode. If Kevin is making this all up in his head, he’s created a very hard person to hate for himself. But after he finally drowns her, we see him crawl out of the ground, where Michael apparently buried him.

As powerful as this crazy journey was at moments, The Leftovers was reaching farther into the supernatural than it ever has before. It half worked. On one level, this show continuously hits such pure, raw emotions, that it’s easy to forget the cataclysmic event that ripped 2% of humanity from the face of the Earth. This episode then works as a strong reminder that not everything can be explained.

But on another level, this episode is offering answers of sorts to things it maybe shouldn’t. Frankly, the boring answer to “International Assassin” is that it was all in Kevin’s head. Patti’s declaration of war on him last week got some great payoffs here, real or not. It’s more exciting to think Kevin and she duked it out in purgatory. The show knows this, which is where the episode becomes a bit problematic. Sure, there are two very distinct possibilities of what is really going on here, but the show seems to favor one way more than the other. By making that choice, it betrays the entire premise of The Leftovers, which is the grief of not having answers.

What this episode’s impact will be on the rest of the season remains to be seen. Honestly, the next two episodes could improve this episode by having the themes of the season finally click into place, or completely destroy it by showing it as just a means to keep Kevin alive. The Leftovers is no doubt smart enough to avoid the latter, but we’ll really only know in two weeks time when the season ends. Until then, the jury is still out. Grade: B+

Some Other Notes:

  • Purely on a technical level, this was the most beautiful episode of The Leftovers. The soft fades and the operatic music (identified as “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”) was Kubrickian in the best way.
  • However brief, it was great to have Holy Wayne and especially Gladys back.
  • As great as Ann Dowd has been, I hope this episode marks the end of Patti. She has at time been the least interesting part of this phenomenal season.

By Matt Dougherty


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