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Exploring 'The Leftovers' Connections to Dante, Australia, & 'National Geographic'

By Dustin Rowles | The Leftovers | November 16, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | The Leftovers | November 16, 2015 |

My initial review of this week’s The Leftovers was largely a knee-jerk reaction in response to one of the most insane plot twists of the year. Stunned silence would be an understatement. The only thing going through my mind when I finished the episode around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning was, “What the f*ck?” and “Is Kevin really dead?

Having thought about the episode more, and having read some comments and spent some time in various online forums, I want to talk about the episode some more now.

Let’s dig in.

— First off, I love J4Sho’s theory that Michael is going to drag Kevin out in the yard and bury him for three days, like the bird that his mother buried, in the hopes that he comes back alive. That didn’t initially occur to me, but it makes some weird Pet Semetary-like sense, and in the promo for next week’s episode, when Michael says, “Holy sh*t,” I love the idea that it’s in response to Kevin waking up.

My only problem with that theory is that, aside from the initial departure, The Leftovers is mostly grounded in reality. That’s why I loved Lori’s explanation to Kevin about Patti: She provided a completely logical explanation for why he was seeing Patti: She was contrived during a psychotic break as a way to a cope with his guilt and pain.

On the other hand, the idea of Kevin surviving after being buried for three days would stretch our suspensions of disbelief.

— I want to briefly put this out there: Does anyone find it odd that the Garvey family is so completely messed up in spite of the fact that — aside from an unborn baby — they suffered no departures in their immediate family. Nora being f*cked up is totally understandable — she lost her husband and two kids, after wishing them away in an exhausted moment. Kevin lost his ex-wife, not to the departure but to the Guilty Remnant, but they were already on the skids. Likewise, he wasn’t terribly close to his son before the departure. Where does all of this guilt and pain come from, anyway? Or is Kevin — like his father — a naturally messed up person?

— The other popular theory about Kevin’s death involves Kevin visiting the other world or the afterlife; that Kevin is a shaman, of sorts. Cindy put forth this theory earlier in this season based on a few quotes from religious scholar and writer Reza Aslan, who is serving as a consultant on this season of The Leftovers.

Here’s one quote that’s particularly interesting in light of last night’s episode:

I like to think of [Kevin] … as either a prophet or a shaman. If I were to pick, I’d say he’s a shamanistic character … They have this ability to go to sleep and either physically or mentally travel great distances to other planes of existence, and then return. This is a very common trope in ancient religious traditions going back tens of thousands of years. Often they have an animal guide. In fact, for many shamans, the first part of the initiation is to find a spirit guide, an animal to communicate with and help them see the other world.

As some people have suggested, Virgil may have killed himself in order to act as Kevin’s guide in that other world. The name Virgil is a dead giveaway: In The Divine Comedy, Virgil was sent to serve as Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatory.

Maybe Virgil did kill himself to serve as a guide, or at least, he believes he will serve as a guide. Michael knows this, too, but maybe he was not thrilled with the method that Virgil chose.

— Meanwhile, some also believe that Virgil killed Kevin on purpose because he thinks Kevin killed Evie. After all, he knew Kevin was out at the lake when Evie disappeared. This doesn’t align, however, with Michael’s belief that Evie departed, but maybe it doesn’t have to.

— Interesting choice to use the poison to kill Kevin, given the season’s cold open dealing with a cave woman dying because she was bitten by a poisonous snake.

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If Kevin does return, I wonder if we might revisit the cave woman and see her return, as well?

— There’s a lot of stuff under the surface going on about Australia this season. That’s where Kevin’s Dad said he was going after he left the institution to “start it up again.” That’s where the letter sent by the man in the pillar was being sent.

In fact, that letter was being sent to “David Burton.” We heard a news report in one episode about a man previously believed to be dead being found in a cave in Perth. His name was David Burton.

Moreover, according to this website, on two separate instances on the same beach in the 1960s in Australia, three children and then one child completely disappeared, never to be seen or heard of again.

Reza Aslan also add this about Australia:

Some of the oldest tribal shamanistic traditions in the world still exist there in vibrant form among indigenous peoples. You see in pop culture and in books the concept of the walkabout, which has this mystic sense to it. People who don’t even know what a walkabout represents use the term when they’re talking about a spiritual journey. In fact, now that I think about it, John Locke of Lost was in Australia on a walkabout before the plane crash!”

It might also be worth noting that, in Virgil’s house, there was a Koala, indigenous to Australia.


— Finally, James BA$L3R on Twitter recalled my obsession with the 1972 National Geographic during the last season of The Leftovers and for that, I love him.

He alerted me to the fact that part of the Japanese characters in the wall behind Virgil when he splattered his brains out refer to an island of Japan, Futagamijima, which was — you guess it — explored in that issue of National Geographic.

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Goddamn, this show is fun.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.