The Leftovers “International Assassin” Review (2×08)

22 Nov


“Holy shit.”

Holy shit is right. This is undoubtedly going to be a polarizing episode for the viewers, but it’s one that gripped me from start to finish. It’s both hilarious and absolutely devastating, and it rides a trippy wave of energy as it plunges deep into the show’s supernatural elements. It’s not an episode that takes us on a “WTF?” journey just for the sake of it; it’s also a character and theme study that deftly brings us back to the beginning of the season. Goddamn, this hour is a pleasure to watch unfold.

Let’s start at the beginning. “Know first who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly” reads a plaque in Kevin’s hotel room, and I’d say this is one of the more important images of the episode. Kevin chooses not to be a cop or a holy man; instead, he dons the ‘international assassin’ suit, therefore becoming an assassin whose job it is to take out Senator Patti Levin (at this point in the episode, I was all in because it was awesome). Note how this connects to something Patti tells him later on: “They’d rather put a bullet in my head than accept my truth.” Kevin goes the assassin route throughout the episode, using violence to attempt to unburden himself and avoid the ‘truth’. Of course, this all culminates with him pushing child Patti into a well.

And here is where the episode’s emotional power comes from. Kevin listens to Patti and her Jeopardy! story, to her explanation of the power of silence. It’s telling that even though he pushes her down the well, he ends up with her there at the bottom. Perhaps this is a distillation of the episode’s big focal point: the idea that you can’t really assassinate all your problems, that you can’t really assassinate all the people and experiences in your life. Instead, what you must do is listen and understand, and this is what happens with Kevin. What follows can be read as a rebirth of sorts, considering he ends up crawling up out of the ground and–full circle!–is found by the guy who dragged him away at the end of episode seven. In general, this is a full circle episode, as we’re brought right back to the cave collapse that kicked off the season. This feels like what this entire season has been building up to, and it has me extremely excited for the final two episodes this year.

I’ll end with this bit by Patti: “On October 14, attachment and love became extinct. In an instant, it became cosmically, abundantly clear that you can lose anyone at any time…our cave collapsed.” So, we attempt to latch onto other things, to put our faith into other things. The problem, however, is that the cave is already a pile of rubble inside the Earth.



-Ann Dowd and Justin Theroux are both stellar in this.

-Is the bird flying in the hotel a reference to Erika’s buried bird? Would it all have been different had Kevin chosen a different outfit? What’s up with Mary? If I wanted to try and unpack this entire episode, I’d be here for days. I love this.

– “I can’t even find a single woman to take a dump on me.”

-Kevin smokes to remember as well. Not quite so different from Patti now, eh?

Photo credit: HBO, The Leftovers

4 Responses to “The Leftovers “International Assassin” Review (2×08)”

  1. JustMeMike November 23, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    Interesting take – not sure I buy it.

    I was going with two possible scenarios – the whole of drinking the poison and dying and Virgil kills himself rather than ‘saving Kevin’ was a dream. And 2) This is Kevin’s version of insanity (following his own father into oblivion) – and as dear old Dad said – I am cured now because I just did what every told me to do. –

    Drink the poison, don’t drink the water, stay in the hotel room, kill Patti with the provided weapon, take the child Patti to the well, push her in, then try to help.

    I see that the episode had some humor – the repetitive but grandiose chorale music, the occupied toilet, the faux lie detector which of course flashed a red light when Kevin lied – but I thought that his own projection.

    Not sure what the bird in the lobby meant and I did flash back to Erica and her bird.

    To be honest, this episode made me feel uncomfortable – and yet it was so far frp,
    normal tv fare’ that I see why you say you loved it.

  2. Mel November 23, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

    One of the best episodes of the series so far. A series that in my opinion keeps getting better and better. I like the fire alarm. And that it was his father that was making it go off by trying to communicate with him by building a fire. And the ending was awesome. His mom was the one who buried birds and that was the same bird. Did you check out the beach chair and the snacks? I was certain he’d be in a hospital. But my boy buried him. That was so awesome. Great episode.

  3. Matthew Thompson November 29, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    I finally caught up on this and am sorry it took me so long. This has been very compelling TV this year and I’m enjoying it much more than last year. My favorite episode is probably “Lens.” That scene towards the end with Carrie Coon and Regina King was spectacular. Those two are just amazing actresses. I really liked this episode too. I wasn’t sure if I would because of the oddness of it all, but it was fascinating to watch. Felt a little like Inception with a dash of Lost or something. I don’t know, but it was cool.


  1. My Top 15 Television Episodes of 2015 | Polar Bears Watch TV - December 29, 2015

    […] The Leftovers-“International Assassin”: This is a very polarizing episode, but put me in the “love” camp. It’s trippy […]

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