Sunday, April 30, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Leftovers' - Kevin Sr. Goes on an Adventure in the Australian Outback in 'Crazy Whitefella Thinking'

HBO's The Leftovers - Episode 3.03 "Crazy Whitefella Thinking"

With the clock ticking towards the anniversary of the Departure and emboldened by a vision that is either divine prophecy or utter insanity, Kevin Garvey Sr. wanders the Australian Outback in an effort to save the world from apocalypse.

The Leftovers has been teasing a trip to Australia for awhile now. The country first became important when Kevin Sr. decided to move there after he was released from the mental institution at the start of the second season. He traveled there for a new purpose. It was a purpose that he didn't clarify to his son or anyone else. It was simply somewhere where he needed to go to find answers. Meanwhile, the first two episodes of the final season have closed on sequences that take place in Australia. The first was a cryptic glimpse into the future of an older Nora living under a new identity. The second was even more random because it included a group of women kidnapping a chief of police named Kevin and drowning him because it was written in Matt's book about Kevin. That was a disorienting final scene in a tremendous episode of television. The show doesn't wait too long to provide answers for the audience either. That's been a consistent theme of this season. The episodes set up mysteries that the following episode then answers. So, "Crazy Whitefella Thinking" is all about how Kevin Sr. came to be with these women at that particular point in time.

So, this episode is ultimately one big adventure for Kevin Sr. Of the main cast, he's probably the character the audience knows the least about. He's frequently been at the center of the more mystical elements going on in this world. He was hearing voices and they seemingly had knowledge of what was truly going on. They started appearing after the Sudden Departure happened. But this hour does a strong job in bringing Kevin Sr.'s humanity to the surface. He may just be a crazy old man off on a wild journey that ultimately doesn't mean anything. He's searching for purpose because he doesn't want to be perceived as crazy or delusional. He needs to listen to this story no matter where it takes him because then it will give his life some meaning. That's what he's searching for in the Australian outback. Yes, he still may be seen as a crazy old man to the people around him. But he's no longer hearing the voices. He's trying to follow the path that has seemingly been left behind for him to find.

In that regard, Kevin Sr. sees himself as the savior the world needs right now. He believes he's the man meant to save the world from the destruction that is coming from the upcoming seventh anniversary. That's a title that Matt has bestowed upon Kevin Jr. because of all the miraculous things that have happened since arriving in Jarden. He's writing a book about him because he believes that's where salvation will be found. It's surprising that Kevin Sr. and Matt have been in contact all this time. In fact, Matt has even shared his book with Kevin Sr. That's how the pages wound up in Australia in the first place. Kevin Sr. was expecting to sit down and read his story of saving the world from the apocalypse. He views his son as an important figure too - just not the main protagonist for this story. So, Kevin Sr. really may be a delusional man. He doesn't care what his son has experienced. He feels betrayed by Matt because he's not the focus of the story. He views what he's doing as the most important thing in the entire world. Whether that's true or not will have to wait until the anniversary of the departure actually arrives.

Kevin Sr.'s journey in Australia has been a tumultuous one. He's had frequent run-ins with the police for appropriation of the aboriginal culture. The audience gets to see him in action too. He's stealing the sacred ceremonies of the native people for some grander purpose. It's also deeply connected to the tapes he's listening to. They are a road trip he and his son took in the 1980s to Niagara Falls. They are cute tapes to listen to but Kevin Sr. believes they have newfound importance right now. This hour does a strong job in showing what Kevin Sr. has been doing in Australia and why it's all important. But it also has a major scene where he just explains everything to the audience. It's a moving and necessary scene as well. It would have been difficult to include all of that weirdness in the actual events of this episode. It works much more efficiently to be condensed down here. It shows that Kevin Sr. is a man just looking for signs in life to point him in the next direction. He sees everything that way. He's on this journey collecting sacred ceremonies in the pursuit of stopping the flood that is coming on the anniversary of the departure. He's willing to risk it all to collect all of them. He fails in the end because he accidentally kills the only guy who knows the last one.

Of course, that sets Kevin Sr. on a new journey. He has seemingly failed and is defeated. His resolve is now being tested by God. At least, that's how he sees his venture through the outback on crutches. It's a grueling experience that wears him down and nearly destroys his body. He sees it as one big test to prove how devoted he is to the mission. He continues to see symbols and signs throughout all of this. And yet, those moments only further destroy his spirit and resolve. When a man shows up driving a car, it's not a way out. Instead, it's the guy committing suicide and destroying the car in the process. When a snake appears, it's not a simple meal that Kevin Sr. is hoping for. Instead, it's a vicious attack that sends him spiraling even further into despair. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The audience knows that because he needs to run into Grace at some point. He already has the crutches so that meeting is bound to happen soon. When it does, it feels very miraculous. The symbolism the show uses to depict Kevin Sr. as the savior Grace has been looking for is remarkable. He's passed out below a cross and his crutches are spread out to make it look like he has the wings of an angel. It's a beautiful sight really.

It's then revealed that Grace is like Kevin Sr. in a lot of ways. She too has endured a lot of pain and trauma in this world following the Sudden Departure. She lost everything that day. At first, it seems like she has an even worse story than Nora. She believed her husband and five adopted children all departed. It wasn't until later that she learned only her husband did and her children died in the wilderness searching for a place to go not knowing what happened to their parents. It's a brutal story that is so incredibly devastating. Again, it's the show telling the audience instead of showing us. But there's power in words as well. Grace saw the Departure as the rapture. She believed it right away. She's been waiting for a sign to confirm it and give her a way to speak to her children again. She believed Kevin Sr. was that sign. The way she found him led her to believe that. She saw the one page of the Book of Kevin he was holding as instructions for what to do. That's why she killed the police chief. She believed it was all for a higher purpose. And now, she's faced with the crushing reality that it was all just a story she forced herself to believe in order to have meaning in this cruel and unforgiving world. She's faced with that realization when Kevin Sr. comforts her in saying she's not crazy. She simply got the wrong Kevin. So, it's clear these two are going to become an important pair moving forward. With Kevin traveling to Australia soon, it should be quite interesting to see what happens. Will this be the thing that ends the apocalypse? Or is it really just an elaborate story these people desperately want to believe in?

Some more thoughts:
  • "Crazy Whitefella Thinking" was written by Damon Lindelof & Tom Spezialy and directed by Mimi Leder.
  • This season seems to be changing up the music that accompanies the opening credits in each episode. They choose a song that has thematic importance for the hour that is about to happen. So, this week it's "Personal Jesus" by Richard Cheese which is definitely fitting considering how Kevin Sr. sees himself in this world.
  • It's fun how Kevin Sr. is constantly losing time. He blacks out and wastes time not knowing what all he has missed. When he first landed in Australia, he blacked out in a two week acid trip. When he's recouping following his outback adventure, he has seemingly been resting for three weeks - which brings the story up to the present day.
  • It's fascinating to see Matt have very little patience with Kevin Sr. He sent him the book for a reason and is devastated to learn he just casually threw it away. And yet, this dynamic is probably going to get more complicated because Matt wants Kevin in Jarden during the big anniversary.
  • Also, Matt lied about not having any copies of the book. He sent one out to Kevin Sr. Again, all of this seems to be a major mistake. Now, Kevin and Nora may bring it with them to Australia and allow Kevin Sr. and Grace to actually read all of it.
  • The people of Grace's church are also building an Ark for the upcoming flood. That's either a coincidence or there was a lot of information on that one random page of the Book of Kevin that Kevin Sr. ripped out. He did that not even knowing how important and vital that page was.