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Does the W.B. Yeats Poem Patti Recited In 'The Leftovers' Hint at Answers to a Larger Mystery?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 17, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 17, 2014 |

Michael Robartes Bids his Beloved be at Peace , by WB Yeats

HEAR the Shadowy Horses, their long manes a-shake,
Their hoofs heavy with tumult, their eyes glimmering white;
The North unfolds above them clinging, creeping night,
The East her hidden joy before the morning break,
The West weeps in pale dew and sighs passing away,
The South is pouring down roses of crimson fire:

O vanity of Sleep, Hope, Dream, endless Desire,
The Horses of Disaster plunge in the heavy clay:
Beloved, let your eyes half close, and your heart beat
Over my heart, and your hair fall over my breast,
Drowning love’s lonely hour in deep twilight of rest,
And hiding their tossing manes and their tumultuous feet.


It’s the second stanza there that Patti recites to Kevin in the final minutes of “Cairo,” this week’s stunning episode of Damon Lindelof’s The Leftovers. But before we break it down as it pertains to the episode, let’s first note that “Cairo,” the name of the episode, is where much of the action took place this week. If that name sounds familiar, it was also a word uttered in a walkie talkie in Kevin’s dream sequence last week, plus there was a reference to “Cairo” in the National Geographic magazine that Kevin’s Dad gave him last week.

In what may end up being important detail, depending on whether you believe the events that took place in Cairo last night were real or a dream, it’s also worth noting that in real life, Cairo, NY is a five hour drive from Mapleton, NY (where the Garveys live). Whether you believe it was real or a dream sequence may also depend on what you think of Dean, the dog-killer, and whether he actually exists (he is, for the record, a Lindelof creation. He does not exist in the books). We will explore the Dean question more below.

For now, what we do know is that Patti is dead, having taken her own life in order to ensure that her death was important, that it had purpose. What’s that purpose? To ensure that Kevin “understands” why the Guilty Remnant matters. Also, perhaps, to frame Kevin for her own murder.

For the purposes of Yeats, however, we need only understand that — whether it was Kevin who was going to kill her, or if she was going to kill herself — Patti knew she was about to die.

The Yeats poem illustrates exactly that. She was saying goodbye. Goodbye to life, and goodbye to her loved one. Those “Horses of Destruction,” in Irish folklore, are the gods of nature and chaos, who are associated with the horses of Manannan, who reign over the country of the dead.

Others have associated the horses with the North, East, South, and West as the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, but any way you look at it, the poem is referring to an ominous event, and the narrator, Michael Robartes, is saying goodbye to his love, as Patti is saying goodbye to hers.

But who is Patti’s beloved? Is it “Neil,” whose name she wrote on a bag of her own feces before leaving it, presumably, on his doorstep several episodes ago? Or is her beloved someone she lost on October 14th?

I don’t know.

But there’s also this other weird and remote and nagging possibility, and that is that her beloved is Kevin. And that neither Patti nor Dean actually exist. That they are figments of Kevin’s dreams. That Patti represents Laurie. That Dean represents one half of Kevin, and that the scene in Cairo is a metaphor for Kevin’s relationship with Laurie. That this was really about letting go of Laurie — Kevin’s “beloved” — and that Patti’s death represented that.

It’s a mindf*ck of a possibility, and it gets into some serious Lost territory (and suggests that Dean and Patti exist in the series only to play out the interior battles that Kevin is having with himself over the loss of Laurie), but the way that certain things don’t add up make me wonder this.

Like, for instance, 1) the fact that Dean and Patti don’t exist in the book. Or that 2) Cairo is five hours from Kevin’s home. And that 3) the answering machine message Kevin left to Nora is incoherent, and 4) how did Kevin take those shirts out there over and over and over, and how did he not notice that the shirts the dry cleaners gave him back must not have had the police insignia on them, unless they did, and unless the shirts in Cairo don’t exist because that’s a dream. 5) And what about the bite on Kevin’s hand, which is obviously not from a dog? Plus, 6) that song over dinner at the beginning of the episode was Otis Redding’s’, “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.” Coincidence? A wink? 7) It would also make sense that his subconscious would use the camp cabin from his youth to play all of this out with Patti, would it not? 8) And why would Patti refer to Dean — of whom there is no record of existence — as a “ghost” (while he thought of himself as a guardian angel)?

You can see why I might suspect much of what went on in tonight’s episode was a dream sequence, that this was all one terrific Jacob’s Ladder mindf*ck.

On the other hand, Kevin did apparently leave his bed at some point in the middle of the night because when Jill checked in on him the next morning, he was gone. Maybe Kevin is crazy, and what we’re seeing is from the perspective of his own addled, psychotic brain.

What is clear is that Lindelof is fucking with us, and I absolutely love it.

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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.