Tea & Review: The Leftovers – Crazy Whitefella Thinking

On The Leftovers, faith and abjection are two sides of the same coin. People like Matt Jameson (Christopher Eccleston) and other followers of pre-existing belief systems have tended to attribute divine explanations to the Sudden Departure, while the more nihilistic among the cast have mocked the idea of meaning in such tragedy. As with all loss, some look for any reason to believe it was meaningful, while others are determined to spit in the face of consolation.

And then there’s Kevin. (No, not that one.)

Kevin Garvey Sr. (Scott Glenn) was, until now, the least developed central character on this show. As the ostensible main character’s father, he was a part of the narrative from the very start, but he had always existed on the sidelines. Now, we not only get to get a glimpse of his Australian adventures; we also get to learn a little bit about his past and what makes him tick.

And here’s the thing—Kevin Sr.’s not a likable character. He refuses to believe he’s anything other than the savior of all mankind, and this leads him to degrade Australian Aboriginal customs, alienate Matt and disregard his son, and accidentally kill one of the few people who was willing to help him. As far as heroes go, he’s firmly of the ineffective variety, and he appears to have done more harm than good…thus far.

Faith has clearly played a big role in Kevin Sr.’s decision-making, though not the sort of faith we’re used to seeing on this show. This episode establishes that he doesn’t necessarily care about any sort of divine power. As far as he is concerned, the voices in his head are commanding him to save the world—whether it’s for or from God is beside the point. The mission is to secure a future for humanity, regardless of what the almighty wants.

At one point in “Crazy Whitefella Thinking,” Kevin Sr. explains to Aboriginal tribal elder Christopher Sunday (David Gulpilil) that, early on in his time in Australia, he took up a stranger’s offer of an obscure hallucinogen so that he might talk to God. He wanted to commune with a higher power, but not out of some zealous obligation. He just wanted answers. Later in the episode, he curses the heavens for putting obstacle after obstacle in his path. The elder Garvey’s view is that God can be either an ally or an enemy, depending on the circumstances—in the Leftovers universe, this seems to be a unique stance.

It could be that Kevin Sr.’s ego is informing his perspective. Other characters have structured their lives around The Sudden Departure, or religion, or the apocalypse; Kevin has structured him around the idea that he is the center of everything. This affords him some flexibility when it comes to ethos since he doesn’t allow himself to be anchored by rules. Forget the law, forget sacred rites, the world needs saving.

But that might all change.

At the end of the episode, Kevin Sr. meets his reflection in Grace (Lindsay Duncan), who’s experience with the SD is another unique one: she believed her entire family had departed, but in fact, her kids had gone looking for her when their dad disappeared and had died in the Australian wilderness. She is wracked with guilt because she knows she could have saved them, had her faith in the idea of the Rapture not been so strong.

This guilt is only compounded when, after reading an excerpt from the Book of Kevin, Grace and her comrades inadvertently murder a man, believing him to be the unkillable cop described in Matt Jameson’s Biblical sequel. When she tells her story to Kevin Sr., Grace is on the verge of despair. But her new friend knows just what to say to pick her spirits up: “You’re not crazy, you just got the wrong Kevin.”

The old man’s faith in himself might just be contagious.

Additional Notes:

  • The music was, as usual, on point (although “I Love a Rainy Night” was almost too on-the-nose).
  • It seems likely that the man who lit himself on fire was rejected by the same people Nora is planning to seek out.
  • Kevin Sr. seems not to remember his conversation with his son in the afterlife, most probably because it was during his weeks-long acid trip.

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