Season Three of The Leftovers premiered on Easter Sunday and will have its finale on Pentecost, the Christian holiday that celebrates when Christ ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit descended onto his disciples. This is also recognized as the birth of the Christian church.

With those holidays as a guide, it seems like the series finale next Sunday will mark the beginning of the Church of Kevin. Or maybe that’s just a brilliant red herring.

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The Leftovers’ penultimate episode, “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother),” was an insane hour of television. And there’s so much to dissect.

  • The inner struggle between Kevin the President and Kevin the Assassin.
  • The touching scenes between Kevin and his father, first when Kevin Sr. drowns his son, and then when they meet on the roof (with a not-to-subtle nod to the opening of this season).
  • The thud sound when Kevin’s dick lands on the little platform outside the secure bunker.
  • The identical twin trope harkening back to Episode Five, when the man claiming to be God said Jesus’s resurrection was actually just people seeing his identical twin brother.

But instead of diving into any of those topics, let’s try on an insane theory: Kevin Garvey actually died in the first episode of Season Three. Everything since then has been a mix of Kevin’s afterlife and the actual events in the lives of the characters.

HBO/Ben King

Please, bear with me.

Kevin died 40 minutes into the first episode, “Book of Kevin,” when he put the dry-cleaning bag over his head, wrapped the duct tape tightly around his neck, and suffocated himself. It’s a significant scene that the show delivers with a brutal close up of Kevin’s face as he sucks in his final breaths, lingering for one final moment until it abruptly cuts to Kevin, clad in his police uniform, heading out his front door. The rest of the episode plays out like a fever dream, and it’s after the suffocation that we learn that Matt, John, and Michael believe Kevin is the Messiah.

There are moments in Episode Seven that hint at this idea of Kevin’s death in Episode One. On two occasions, Kevin’s suffocation is shown: first when he begins coughing up water in the limo and again when he’s reading the last page of his Untitled Romance Novel. In fact, the final page of that book is the key that unlocks all of this for the viewer, namely this passage:

He imagined her alone. By now she would have searched the house and found it empty. She had suspected it all along and now she knew, he was a coward, a coward dressed in the uniform of a brave man, brave enough to cross two oceans, and a continent to find her, to fight countless enemies, and yet, in the end, he was terrified. He was terrified of her, to lie beside her, to be comforted by her as he wept, to show her he was small, for her to know that and touch is cheek and whisper words softly into his ear. All of that was a nightmare. All he knew to do was run. He took a deep breath of the air, tasting the salt on his tongue and closed his eyes, leaning into the spray as the Merciful picked up speed and sailed for the horizon. He was alone and all was well.

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Think back to Episode One, particularly to the scenes just prior to Kevin suffocating himself. There’s a party at his house, where all of the people important to him—with the possible exception of his father, who isn’t in attendance—are gathered for his son Tommy’s birthday party. It’s a joyful occasion. His daughter makes an appearance. While sitting on his front porch with his friends and his son, Kevin looks through the window and sees Nora playing with Matt and Mary’s baby Noah. It’s a nice moment. Just before the party ends, Kevin says goodbye to his daughter Jill, whom he clutches tightly and watches drive away.

Once everyone has gone, he and Nora make love. Afterwards, with Nora sleeping soundly beside him, Kevin lays awake thinking—he looks terrified to lie beside her—then he wakes up with a start on Sunday morning. Nora is lacing up her shoes for a bike ride. After she kisses him goodbye, he steps out onto the balcony to watch her pedal away. Then Kevin goes to his closet and looks at his shirts. He unwraps a uniform from a plastic dry cleaning bag, throws it on the bed, and sits down and suffocates himself.

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