The Leftovers S03E07 Recap: 'The Most Powerful Man In The World (And His Identical Twin Brother)'

Of all the crazy, wonderful turns that The Leftovers took in its second season, "International Assassin" was most certainly the most crazy and the most wonderful. Inarguably the show's best episode and arguably the best single episode of television of 2015 and possibly even just in recent memory, "International Assassin" took everything we loved about the show, threw it out the window and, for one magical night, gave us something completely different and unexpected, something wild, something that could only be described as a self-indulgent fantasy that somehow manages to transcend its own pitfalls and ridiculousness to be awesome and gratifying.

But it's also the show's densest episode, one that requires an extreme amount of context to truly be understood. The Leftovers is a show about conflicting emotions, about the trials and tribulations of its characters. "International Assassin" winds up being the tail end of an arc for Kevin, the end of a journey as he rids himself of the ghost of Patti Levin so that he can "go home" and move on with his life. In the episode, he must embrace the insanity of what his mind has conjured in order to accomplish this and escape the prison of his own making.

Funny enough, season 3's follow up to this episode pretty much recreates the exact same formula. "The Most Powerful Man In the World (And His Identical Twin Brother" takes us back into Kevin Garvey's psyche, surely giving us with it some sort of metaphor about the definition of insanity being repetition in hopes of securing a different outcome. He's once again presented with ridiculous propositions about what the other side of death is and he has to embrace it in order to make it home.

But the one thing that's different, and most interesting about the second go-around in "The Most Powerful Man" is that Kevin doesn't have a ghost to exorcise this time. Evie's appearance was a one-time thing. And Kevin accepts that he might be crazy, but he doesn't really care. He seems to be influenced by those around him, as John and his father want him to use his "gift" so that they can get what they want. Meanwhile, as we saw last week, Laurie's tacit acceptance and Matt's ambivalence aren't going to stop him either. It's like the universe is encouraging Kevin to kill himself once again, and he's come to accept it as his fate.

What we learn when Kevin goes to the other side is once again that there is something waiting for him in the quote-unquote "real world". He learns that he fucked things up with Nora, and the Evie appearances, the elaborate tacky spy novel scenarios, they're all a distraction from something that' real for Kevin, setting us up for a finale next week where he presumably tries and find her and stop her from being eviscerated by the radiation machine.

While "The Most Powerful Man" is essentially about one or two powerful moments in which Kevin figures some shit out about himself and what's important to him, the beauty if it and its predecessor from last season is how much fun Damon Lindelof (and epiode co-author Nick Cuse) allows himself to have with the premise before grounding it in whatever semblance of reality this show has left. The idea is that everything is crazy, everyone has their demons and eccentricities and wild stories of everything they went through in order to figure out their shit post-Departure, and at the end of the line those stories are about characters and relationships, but who wants a show like that that takes itself too seriously? Lindelof instead doubled down on the fun because he knows that dose of reality only needs like five or ten minutes at the end of the episode.

So the vast majority of "The Most Powerful Man", is weird, and silly, and totally jumps into its own insanity. Kevin dies in Australia and wakes up on a beach, naked once again and in the middle of an assassination attempt at the hands of what appears to be a Ukrainian terrorist. Dean (Kevin Carroll's dog slayer) saves him as he lands on the beach in a parachute and tells him his next mission as the international assassin is to murder the president of the United States, who also happens to be his identical twin brother (hence the title) (and a president who appears to be the leader of a Guilty Remnant which has taken over the world and abolished religion and marriage). He can travel into the body of his twin brother by looking at his own reflection, and does so in order to unravel a plot the president has hatched with his defense secretary, the returning Patti, to kill everyone via total nuclear destruction on the seventh anniversary of the Sudden Departure. But in order to do that, he must first retrieve a key from his twin brother, the only other man who could infiltrate his base. He does that with the help of the vice president, the also returning Meg, who is a double agent.

Kevin goes along with all of this because he wants to get the song his father needs to stop the rain from Christopher Sunday, who is the prime minister of Australia in this reality. However Sunday informs him that there is no song, and asks Kevin why he's come here. Patti eventually reveals why; Kevin is there to destroy this reality so that he could never again travel to it. He doesn't want to be there, and that's the only way to stop himself from doing it again. He just had to come to some realizations about Nora before he could go through with this ridiculous plot. His other self tells him he fucked things up with Nora, and then he and Patti watch as the world gets blown up.

The episode goes full circle on the season as Kevin joins his father on the roof, distraught over how he didn't need to save the world and wondering what's next, a clear reference to the cold open from the season premiere in which we see a woman continuously stand on her roof hoping for the world to come to an end so that she can be taken by God as a good believer. The two Kevins Garvey, in this scenario, are some sort of amalgamation of this woman and her family, which she drags up there with her every time they're told the world is going to end, only to become the laughing stock of the village. Eventually the family abandons the matriarch, who continues to make a fool of herself and punish herself for no reason, neglecting the things that are truly important. In the story of our protagonists, Kevin and Senior need to pull themselves off that roof before they're too far gone. Kevin Jr. does so when he destroys the other world. At the end of the episode, he pulls his father off of that roof as he declares he's too afraid to come down himself. And that's how you deliver a fucking metaphor.

"The Most Powerful Man In The World" recreates what was so special about "International Assassin" while doubling down on its insanity and updating it for the themes of this third season, themes of family and letting go. In this case, Kevin and his father realize what they have to let go of, what's important and what they have to do next, much like Matt and Laurie already have. The question now is whether or not they can do the same to help Nora before it's too late. All of this makes for another peak in this fantastic season of The Leftovers, and for that, "The Most Powerful Man In The World" gets 10 Fisher protocols out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Gratuitous Justin Theroux butt shots: so many.
  • I love the lengths that Lindelof goes to to explain why Kevin has a beard this season, yet is still ambiguous as to whether or not he can actually travel to a different dimension whereall the dead people reside.
  • So many good guest spots this episode. Kevin Carroll, Ann Dowd and Liv Tyler all come back, along with Evie and the voice of Bill Camp's maybe-maybe-not God character. Interestingly enough, no Laurie. Does that mean she isn't dead, or that since Kevin didn't see her die, he can't recreate her in what may be his fantasy land?
  • The best part of this episode is how consistent it is with Kevin's apprehension towards Patti. He fucking hates her as much as he did in season 1, even though he "helped" her the last time he was on this side. The most satisfying thing that happens is how he smashes her glasses and then how she pitifully tries to put them back together.
  • Kevin kills the other version of himself in a lengthy scene scores to the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows."
  • "Yes sir, the door can only be unlocked by you and you alone, unless you have an identical twin brother, which would be ridiculous."
  • "If I could do this instead of you, I would." "I know, but the secure location can only be accessed by my exact biometrics."
  • "I couldn't enlighten you with a thousand-fucking-watt bulb."
  • "In recognition of his service, the volunteer shall receive a congressional medal of honor, applicable if congress exists, which it will not. May God have mercy on your soul, if there is a god, which there is not."
  • "I don't think I'm ready to come down... now what>"