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Scenes You Watch Twice: Kevin Garvey Sings Homeward Bound, The Leftovers

5 minute read to tell you a little bit about a scene from The Leftovers which stops you in your tracks.

5 minute read to tell you a little bit about a scene from The Leftovers which stops you in your tracks.

Straight away, upon first watching, this scene stood out as a cut above anything else that came before it in what was, already, a pretty-damn good television show.

The Leftovers, in case you've missed it, is a drama set in contemporary USA, dealing with the aftermath of a freak event in which people, all over the world, suddenly disappeared. No warning, no trace and no explanation. It's a post-rapture, emotional dystopia and it's brilliant.

The show is the analysis of the human psyche and emotions we endure following severe emotional trauma: losing your wife, husband, baby or parents. It's wrought with symbolism and allegory, asking questions about Atheism and Religion, alcoholism and purity, hypocrisy and honesty.

With no explanation for the sudden disappearance of their loved ones, a world full of people deal with it in a world of different ways.

Kevin Garvey, the show's protagonist, is played excellently by Justin Theroux. A former police chief who copes better than most with what happened on that fateful day, October 14th.

His family, on the other hand, does not cope and, as a by-product of the disappearances, he loses his wife, son and - emotionally, at least - his daughter.

His wife joins a cult which aims to make the rest of the world feel guilty for getting on with their lives and his son hits the road in the hope of finding peace and salvation, touching against crime, and various cults and false messiahs and heaven knows what else along the way.

They, like everyone else in the world and in life, are trying to come to terms with a loss which becomes too hard to bear at times. And a fear that this feeling could be inflicted upon them once again in the future, at any time.

Kevin is left to get on with life, raising a confused and angry teenage daughter alone and care for an elderly "insane" father who knows more than most about what happened on That Day, but is written off as a psychotic. But's it's a psychosis which runs in the family.

Added into the mix are the hallucinations (or premonitions?), blackouts and psychotic episodes Kevin goes through himself whilst on his personal search for normality - being shadowed by the spirit of a woman he murdered (she was the relentless leader of the cult his wife joined), being so desperate that he pays to be poisoned to death and brought back to life, not knowing what's real and what's fantasy, attempted suicides whilst sleepwalking... There's so much he goes through. But he just wants to get back to a normal life. To get back home.

Home, to his new life and new partner, Nora. Home, to their adopted baby. Home, to his now peaceful teenage daughter.

And, home, to happiness. In a world like it was before the day before life suddenly and irrevocably changed for the worse.

He is promised, during one of his psychotic episodes, a deal. This takes place at a hotel we see him in, at various points, right from the outset of the show. He's been here looking for answers and suspects. It's part dream sequence, part psychotic episode, part purgatory.

But he is here, this time, after been shot in the stomach and left to die, during the denouement episode of season 2. Taking place in the hotel bar, during a low key karaoke evening, the bar is filled with familiar faces. One of which makes him a deal.

He is promised, "If you want to get out of here, all you have to do is sing."

And he does. With beautiful, painful emotion.

Spoilers below...

It's a shock Theroux wasn't given personal awards for such a raw performance in this and many, many other scenes throughout the entire show. Despite critics praising the second season and the performances of various of the shows leading lights, writers and director - and rightly so - it reportedly pulled in less than a million viewers per episode and is due to be canned after a final season 3.

The saving grace, for fans, is that this stops the show from becoming a drawn out, over done failure in the end, like Lost, 24 and many other successful television formats that left many fans feeling robbed by the length of time to reach the ending or it being unsatisfactory in itself. Let's hope it gets the recognition it deserves - but maybe only once it's properly finished?

This statement is purely based on the fear the writer has of station execs and money-men getting hold of creative successes and fleecing them till they're dead. Thankfully, however, I don't think that would happen with this show.

The shows writers and creators spoke earlier this year at the Peabody Awards on this very subject.  The creators, Damon Lindelof (Lost) and Tom Perrotta (author of the novel on which season 1 was based) explained that each season is designed to be taken at a time and can be viewed in isolation, if needs be. Though the whole show can be, of course, taken along one longer narrative.

Quite a skill to write this way and make it not become so aware and layered that it becomes un-enjoyable to watch.

At the moment, at the end of season 2, Kevin has escaped purgatory after his karaoke rendition of Homeward Bound, and made peace with his would be killer (or is he his murderer?) who shot him in the stomach - things were, after all, a little stressed at the time. He's walked through the previously untouched and free of dissapearances Jarden (mind the nomenclature), his current hometown, which has descended into a flame filled, sordid hell on Earth, and he opens his front door...

Carry On Reading Things Like This

Check out this great magazine which asks questions similar to those posed by The Leftovers. What is life and who controls it? I don't know. Nobody does. But it sure does throw up some interesting characters and situations.

See plenty of them in Union...


A truly special piece of photojournalism and written reportage. Covering everything from hanging out with biker gangs who fight for fun and an interview with an ex-spy who thinks he's Jesus. And loads more.