Since its inception, The Leftovers has been a poignant if sometimes outlandish portrait of desperation and resilience in the face of loss.
Episode 3 of the final season follows Kevin Garvey, Sr. (Scott Glenn, recognizable from playing Stick in Marvel’s Daredevil) as he wanders the Australian outback with little to his name besides stolen aboriginal chants and a cassette of his young son’s voice from back when their relationship was simple and sweet. The father/son relationship provides a bittersweet undertone to the episode, until eventually the tape, like the real thing, gives out.
The episode opens with ol’ Senior listening to an old cassette of himself and eight-year-old Kevin Junior observing ducks at a pond, which is the most benign and therefore heartbreaking thing they could be doing. Every time that little kid says “Kevin Garvey, Jr., reporting,” you feel a pang for the innocent boy in the recording, for the tortured man he grew up to be, for his estranged father, and for the world neither of them could ever have foreseen.
We follow Senior’s journey through the outback, where he’s set on “preventing the apocalypse.” He’s convinced that the next anniversary of the Sudden Departure will bring with it a biblical flood, and when the cops catch him appropriating aboriginal rituals, it’s supposedly in the service of saving mankind.
After the arrest (which is apparently a tradition, since Senior addresses the officer by name), Senior insists on collecting his effects namely, the cassette and player which contain Kevin Junior’s recordings from Niagara ’81.
Halfway through the episode, the tape’s significance becomes clearer, though the sentiment was enough. Senior found it when desperately seeking purpose after a two week acid trip that left him face-to-face with the only local livestock who survived the Departure.
“You have to sing it!” Kevin Junior says in the part of the tape Senior found in his time of need. And thus began his father’s quest to sing away the the rains. But it’s the rains that break him when, stranded in the outback, Senior’s backpack falls victim to a deluge and we realize at the same time he does that the tape is probably ruined beyond repair. Kevin Junior’s voice disappears, and his father weeps not only for their broken relationship, but because the universe took away his last hope, the sign that gave him purpose.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.