The Leftovers' shocking season 3 premiere

HBO's post-apocalyptic drama is back, and a new terror is looming

A bone-chillingly shocking start.
(Image credit: Courtesy of HBO.)

The Leftovers ended its second season on a hard-earned moment of grace: After twice descending into the underworld (which, as it turns out, is a cross between the La Quinta Inn and that hotel from the John Wick movies) and emerging again like some hunky, tatted-up Lazarus, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) staggers back to his house and finds almost everyone in his extended family gathered in his living room. His face betrays his intense physical pain (he has, after all, been gut-shot), his confusion, relief, and abiding love (however complicated) for the people who have been waiting for him — and he finally gives in to his tears when his partner Nora says, simply: "You're home."

This could've served as a perfect series finale (indeed, many critics argued that it should have been): Our characters, who've searched for, if not comfort or hope, then at least some semblance of cold solace, in organized religion and cult life, violence and nicotine, sex and pain, finally find that solace in each other. Then again, that was back in 2015, before the hellish slog of an election cycle that ended, for so many people, in an utter doomsday scenario. The Leftovers has become the ideal dystopia for our times; it depicts a world where people still have to go to work, raise their families, and wait in line at Starbucks as they await the next iteration of "WTF Now?" — whether it manifests as another sudden departure or the nuclear fall-out of a presidential tweet. The third season opener, "The Book of Kevin," exploits this tension between the mundane and the obscene to look at what it's really like in this liminal state, where life goes on — until it doesn't. The episode is a case study in disappointment from its cold open, which, like season two's first moments, shuttles us back in history.

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Laura Bogart

Laura Bogart is a featured writer for Salon and a regular contributor to DAME magazine. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, CityLab, The Guardian, SPIN, Complex, IndieWire, GOOD, and Refinery29, among other publications. Her first novel, Don't You Know That I Love You?, is forthcoming from Dzanc.