Tech. Science. Culture.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

The Leftovers Capped Its Stunning Season With a Baffling Yet Satisfying End

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The Leftovers ended way more satisfyingly than it began—there were no Clan of the Cave Bear vibes in “I Live Here Now.” The finale allowed itself a few maudlin moments, but also had some very cruel ones. And while it solved a few riddles, it was mostly content to “let the mystery be,” as the theme song instructs.

Spoilers follow!

For everyone (or maybe just me) who wondered all season if Kevin Garvey’s dog would ever reappear, the answer is yes—at the very end of the episode. Kevin reunites with the pup he brought all the way to Texas from Mapleton, and who’s been hanging out in quarantine with all the other new-in-town pets this entire time. As soon as the dog is out in the open, though, it gives Kevin a look and bounds across the bridge out of town. As we’ve learned, Jarden is a heavy place—despite the sainted light it prefers to cast itself in—and it’s not for everyone.


Dogs were a key theme of season one, but season two looked in other directions, and it benefited greatly from a sense of distance—from Mapleton, and also from the departure. As “I Live Here Now” begins, it’s the four-year anniversary of that memorable October 14. We know that Meg and her Guilty Remnant faithful are planning something big to commemorate the date, and we also know that it will involve Jarden’s three most famous missing persons, including Evie Murphy.

For all its WTF moments, The Leftovers has been excellent about using its fluid time structure and shifting points of view to eventually let viewers know the realities behind some of its mysteries. We see Evie and her friends leave the house the night of John’s birthday, and we see them fall silent in the car. When the girl driving begins to cry, Evie takes a pad and pen and scrawls “DON’T.” We see them stage their disappearance, and Kevin—in a suicidal trance, carrying a cinder block tied to his leg—sees them too; he and Evie lock eyes for a moment.


Then, we slip back two episodes, to Kevin’s return from the Hotel of Purgatory. Michael tells him he’s been dead for eight hours. Patti’s gone—for good—but Kevin has remembered everything and can finally come clean to John, a confrontation that has been building all season. But first, another long-awaited confrontation: between Erika and John. Erika, who revealed to Nora that she’d been planning her own sudden departure before Evie vanished, tears open the birthday present that Evie got John (“The greatest gift you’ll ever get”), and it’s a dead cricket. This is a reference perhaps to Erika’s birds-in-a-box wishing technique, but also something I’d suspected the box contained all along, given its size and the fact that John was obsessed with the chirping intruder throughout episode one.

“She found it,” John marvels.

“No, she didn’t,” Erika snaps.

She explains that she heard it while John and Michael were searching for Evie—well after she’d handed over the wrapped gift. Evie must have found another one “because you wouldn’t let it go.” John has trouble letting anything go, and it’s made him an angry man who came very close to losing his wife. And he may still lose her, since his reply is “Fuck you, Erika.” But another target for his rage soon appears: Kevin, whose palm print has proven a match to the one found on the missing girls’ car. Cue a terribly tense scene, in which a gun-toting John—desperate for someone to blame—drags Kevin into the animal quarantine building near the Jarden bridge.


Kevin’s not afraid to say three things that make Kevin even angrier: one, that he went to John’s father, Virgil, for assistance in dying and coming back from the dead; two, that he knows Virgil molested John and is the reason that John went to jail; and three, he knows Evie faked her disappearance, and her motivation just might’ve been that “maybe she didn’t love you.” That’s enough for John, and he shoots Kevin. Kevin dies ... again.

Meanwhile, just a few feet away, the refugee camp outside Jarden is in a frenzy. After being told that the national park is closed in honor of October 14, a beatific Meg slams her Airstream through the gates and parks it. She’s arrested, but not before telling the cops she’s got 35 pounds of plastic explosives tucked inside the trailer ... and a trio of silent young Guilty Remnant members, who make their dramatic exit. Evie scribbles a sign: “One Hour.” Tick-tock. John runs to the scene and wails in disbelief. His daughter is alive—and he’s just shot another man for apparently no reason.


Meanwhile, down in the camp, Matt and Mary share a joyful reunion. After one of this episode’s many earthquakes (and a quick blast of “Let Your Love Flow”), Mary finally regains consciousness. Nora grabs Lily and wheels her sister-in-law to see her husband; though Mary’s a bit confused, she is overjoyed to find out that she’s pregnant, and confirms that she did wake up the night she had sex with Matt. So, he’s not a rapist after all. Yay! Of course, Matt still believes in the powers of Miracle, so he urges Nora to get Mary back into town ASAP.

They’re heading that way—Nora at a fast clip since a grubby woman’s snatched Lily out of her arms, in the episode’s single scariest moment—but as the “One Hour” draws to a close, there’s no explosion. There are just a ton of people who suddenly reveal they’ve been hiding white clothing in their travel packs all this time, changing into Guilty Remnant togs and barging the town gates.


Erika, desperately trying to get her daughter to snap out of it, races to the bridge and looks in the trailer. It’s empty. (Was anyone else expecting that mom and newly silent daughter would communicate via sign language? I was totally waiting for that, and it didn’t happen.) We’ve learned by now that Evie wasn’t the adoring daughter her parents thought she was; moments before she emerged from the Airstream, Michael was standing up in church, dismantling a sentimental story that Erika’s fond of telling, in which the young twins allowed the bathtub to overflow because, as Evie explained, “I just wanted to see what would happen.”

The truth, Michael says, is that Evie was upset about her father being gone (to prison, for almost killing Virgil)—and he turned on the water to drown out her cries. “We are not spared,” he grimly tells the congregation. Nobody may have departed from Jarden that October 14—and there are certainly some unexplained goings-on within its town limits—but it’s not a perfect town. And the fact that nobody departed may have actually intensified its problems, forcing its residents to live under the illusion that they’re somehow more special than the rest of the world.


We are not spared. But there’s still something unusual about Kevin Garvey, who wasn’t even in Jarden on October 14. After John shoots him, he wakes up in the same Hotel of Purgatory bathtub (nearly overflowing ...) that he did in “International Assassin”—but this time, he chooses his Mapleton police uniform to wear instead. And without a target to kill (RIP Patti), his stay is much shorter. The man he saw during his first afterlife journey telephones his room and summons him to the lobby, saying that someone is attacking a police officer. But instead, he finds a karaoke party in full swing, with a “wheel” that chooses the song for the performer. If Kevin sings, the mysterious man tells him, he can go home. It’s his ruby red slippers of Oz. When Kevin hesitates, the man chides him: “You pushed a little girl in a well, and you don’t want to sing?”

Point taken. And since Kevin has come to realize that there’s no place like home, he spins and lands on “Homeward Bound” by Simon and Garfunkel, which he warbles with a trembling voice. Here, the show can’t resist matching up images to some of the lyrics (“Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me...” with a shot of Nora, etc.), which ... okay. Cheesy, but it’s a big emotional moment and it mostly works. And like Dorothy, he’s suddenly back in Kansas, having cheated death now three times throughout the season (including the failed suicide in episode one). He’s badly bleeding, the area around Jarden’s bridge is burned, the welcome center’s been taken over by Meg and her smirking minions, and there’s a debauched street party going on downtown—not to mention, his dog leaves him—but he’s determined to get home.


On his way, he encounters John, who can’t believe his eyes (after a day spent not believing his eyes, really): “I killed you!” “Nope,” is Kevin’s exhausted reply. “I don’t understand what’s happening,” John admits. So John has the ability to feel something other than fury, after all. “I don’t either,” Kevin replies. “It’s okay.”

The weary pair stumbles back to their street, and Kevin tells John he’s welcome to come over if nobody’s there. (Who would be there? Michael, alone?) The Garvey house is dark, too, but once Kevin steps inside, everyone he loves is there: Laurie and Jill, who’ve seemingly come to a tenuous understanding amid the chaos; Matt and Mary; Tommy, holding Lily; and Nora, who gets the final line: “You’re home.”


After an entire season of trying to figure out what home means, and how to feel safe amid regular doses of heavy chaos (and handcuffs, ghostly visions, earthquakes, etc.), Kevin’s finally made it. “Where is My Mind?” has been Kevin’s theme song this season, and he has his answer now: it’s here, right here, with these people in his makeshift family. Life will still be crazy, no doubt—and it’s now abundantly clear that we will never, ever find out where all those departed people went—but at least Kevin’s got one important part of his life figured out at last.