It’s been a long time since we saw The Leftovers and now the Garveys and company are back for one final season. It’ll be nice to catch up with everybody, right? Well, except for the people who aren’t there and nobody wants to talk about. But at least people are happier than we saw them last. Definitely no dark secrets. Not on this show. It’s time for “The Book of Kevin”.

OK, so there’s no opening theme this week. I don’t know if that’s a change for the season or if it’s just for the premiere. And we pick up three years after Season Two, with the seventh anniversary of the Departure just two weeks away. Well, actually we pick up in 1844 in a small rural community. It looks a little bit like an Amish society with everybody in plain clothes and the whole community built around the church. We see a family of three, clad in ropes, going up to stand on the roof at night, seemingly awaiting the rapture. There’s a guy with a coop full of carrier pigeons furiously writing equations, seemingly calculating the date of the second coming. And every time he revises his math and picks a new date, that family goes up on the roof and waits. Each time they looks more disappointed and the other townspeople taunt them a little more.

It’s a really nice opener. Less weird than last season’s cavemen but it’s effective and beautiful. Anyway, the doomsayer’s followers gradually lose faith and even the father and son of the family we keep seeing peels off and we’re just left with this one sad woman climbing to the top of a barn and wait as a thunderstorm rolls in. She climbs down the ladder the next morning, drenched, and makes her way through town. Her husband and son shun her and she heads back to the church again. There are a bunch of people in white curled up on the floor, sleeping or maybe dead. She lays down with them and we pan through time to the Guilty Remnant holed up in the Jarden Visitors’ Center at the end of last season. Evie wakes up and she and Meg seem to be the only ones awake. Meg tells her it’s OK to talk now. She tells them about Siegfried and Roy and the way they’d do tricks with the tigers every night. Somebody drills a hole into the door from the outside and Meg says “it’s only a matter of time before one of those f*ckers bites your face off.” Evie heads outside where Federal agents are fleeing the scene, and something that I thought was a plane but now I realize is meant to be a drone heading in the GR’s direction. We see reflected in Evie’s glasses a fireball heading right for them. And then everything goes white.

Three years later.

We’re still in Jarden, and now Garvey is the Chief of Police. They did away with the old wristband system and now “all are welcome”. Riding a white horse, he leads some tourists in. Once he reaches that tent village, he runs into Tom, also a cop now, arguing with some bros that their inflatable Gary Busey violates the height ordinance. Yes, you read that right. Kevin agrees to let it slide, but they have to tell him if they see anything even remotely dangerous. These dummies don’t seem useful in that battle, but there you go. Also, it’s Tom’s birthday and they’re having dinner tonight.

Garvey gets back to his horse and sees that somebody left a flier for Matt’s church that promises “14 Days To Go”. We hear Matt’s voice over a PA – his church is full and there are people listening to the service outside. Just like the church in my neighborhood used to do! He’s talking about the significance of “seven years” in the Bible – there were blessings and curses lasting for seven years. Every seven years all debts were erased. And the seventh anniversary of the Departure is almost here. Matt admits that “probably nothing” will happen, but if it does, it’ll happen in Jarden, Texas. He talks about how it, like Tahiti, is a magical place and shows off the perfectly healthy Mary and their son. (They named him Noah, because of course they went Old Testament.) Also, he’ll be baptizing people at the spring tomorrow, which is full of water once again.

Garvey heads… backstage? That’s not what you call it in a church, but it’s an office behind the sanctuary. Michael Murphy is doing something on his computer that makes him close it as soon as Garvey shows up. Matt finishes up and Garvey is not happy about the flier. Matt says it isn’t his, but it’s not convincing. Garvey says they can’t have another incident and he needs Matt to tone it down. Matt and Michael agree unconvincingly and Garvey’s hand brushes a leather binder that’s going to be super important in a bit. Once he’s gone, Matt asks “did he see it”? Oh, Matt.

Garvey addresses the cops and explains that they’re going to have more visitors than projected and they have to be on high alert until Departure Day. Then he turns it over to Nora, who has a cast on her left arm that looks almost exactly like Martha’s on Baskets. She’s also back with the Department of Sudden Departures, and she goes over some protocol with the officers. If a suspect starts talking Departure, they’re to get her immediately. Things seem to be pretty good between Kevin and Nora, which makes me feel good. And then, Garvey has a visitor.

It’s Dean, the dog hunter. From Season One? The dude who helped Kevin abduct Patty when he was sleepwalking? This can not go well. Dean is way happier to see Garvey than vice versa and he has got a tale to tell. He’s got half a peanut butter sandwich in a cooler and he’s worried that the dogs have adapted. See, a Senator in Wyoming ate part of a sandwich at a fundraiser despite all the fancy food available. Anyway, he’d like Kevin to test it for canine DNA. See, dogs are taking on human form and infiltrating the government and they’re ready to assume the presidency which would kind of be a step up. Garvey straight up makes fun of him. He says this is all in Dean’s head (and we see a shot of Garvey pushing a little girl into a well while trapped in a dream to indicate that he now knows the difference) and they should talk tomorrow. Dean blows a dog whistle to see if Garvey is one of “them” and that’s way funnier than it should be.

Hey, there’s John Murphy! And now he’s doing that thing where he takes handprints and then counsels people. You know, the thing he beat that dude up for doing last season. And it’s a nice callback to when he was getting handprints from everybody in town to match Evie’s car. He seems to know a lot about the guy he’s talking to, and when Garvey passes through and goes upstairs, it makes sense. Laurie’s up there, creeping the guy’s social media and feeding everything to John through an earpiece. It’s kind of akin to what she and Tom were doing before – there’s a genuine attempt to help there and the Google assist is just bells and whistles. Also, John and Laurie are in a relationship now and it seems like they’ve got it together. No sign of Erika, then?

Everybody gets together for Tom’s birthday party and they try to make it a surprise even though he knew about it. When called upon to make a wish, he offers to give his wish away and Nora’s reaction is hard to parse. As he blows out the candle for his secret wish, Jill shows up at the door with balloons.

Later at the party, the guys are talking about where they were on their 25th birthday. Matt was in Guatemala suffering from food poisoning and hallucinations. Kevin was a cop then and on his birthday, somebody hit his car. A woman and a two-year-old, shaken but OK. That was how he met Laurie and Tom – they were married a year later. Matt and Michael have a strange reaction to Kevin calling the meeting “divine intervention” – they almost seem offended by it. After the party, Jill leaves to go back to college. If she stays with Kevin, it’ll bother Laurie. If she stays with Laurie, her mom will spend the whole time apologizing. She asks Kevin (not in a bratty way for a change) if Nora ever talks about Lily and, yeah, we have not seen her. What happened to the baby? Garvey says she doesn’t and maybe they should try and get her to.

After the party, Garvey and Nora talk and they’re very happy. She says she’s getting the cast off the day after tomorrow, but I have a feeling that’s not going to pan out. (Why would they put a cast on for one episode unless Carrie Coon actually messed up her hand? Fargo, did you break Nora?) They talk about baby Noah, and they’re both thinking about Lily but they don’t say anything. Later, they’re in bed and Garvey’s lying awake, looking haunted. Uh oh. Right up until now, I thought he had it together. Well….

It’s morning and Nora heads out for a bike ride. Once she heads out, Kevin does what appears to be a normal ritual for him (he has all the accoutrements in a box labeled “cufflinks”). After getting his uniform out of the closet, he duct tapes his legs together, then puts a heavy duty plastic bag over his head and seals it with more tape. We watch until he stops breathing and then… cut to Garvey in uniform, leaving the house. Oh, man.

Tom calls him over the radio – some kids dumped poison in to the water where Matt was baptizing converts. When he gets there, it’s a whole scene. The believers are clashing with this young people wearing t-shirts bearing Evie’s face. Their leader talks about how three years ago, the ATFC assassinated 93 members of the Guilty remnant with a drone. They start rattling off names, including Meg and Evie. That is definitely what we saw happen in the beginning of the episode. It turns into a fight with actual stones thrown, and it’s a bit of a callback to the first episode when the Guilty Remnant turned Heroes Day into a riot, especially since the church members are wearing all white. The cops are doing their best to hold it together and then Garvey just jumps in the water and declares that it’s not poison after all, just a prank. He does not have a lot of concern for his own well-being at this point.

Michael takes this opportunity to climb into the river and baptize Garvey, whether he wants it or not. He has a flashback to waking up underwater in the dream world. On the way out, Matt whispers to Michael “that didn’t count”. HA!

Tom drives Garvey home for a change of clothes. They talk about what really happened to the GR and Garvey parrots the official story about a gas leak, but in a way that says they have to believe it, not that it’s true.   Suddenly somebody shoots at their patrol car. It’s Dean and he keeps shooting after the car crashes. Garvey rolls out and draws his gun, but it’s wet. Dean walks right up to him, points the rifle at him and says “you changed, you son of a bitch” and then Tom shoots him dead, covering Garvey in blood and head.

Later, cops and forensics clean up the scene as the Garveys watch and talk about what it’s like to kill somebody. Kevin tells him about when he killed somebody, only he talks about when he killed the Patty impersonator in the dream world and he talks about it like a real thing. A dog runs over to Dean’s body and runs off with the still-bagged peanut butter sandwich. HA!

Kevin returns home after cheating death three times to find Mary and Noah there with Nora. Mary is there to tell Nora that she’s taking the baby and leaving Matt. He won’t allow her to cross the city limits, because he’s afraid she’ll go back into her coma, and she’s done with it. Garvey is the one who actually advocates for Matt, until Mary tells him “he’s writing a book about you”. Oh, it’s going to get weird. She explains that Matt thinks the New Testament needs an update and it stars Kevin. “He got pretty excited when you rose from the dead”.

He heads straight to the church where Matt and Michael are cleaning up and confronts them. Kevin wants to see this book, but Matt won’t let him near the only copy. John comes in at this point, bringing the guys some food. Kevin clues him in, expecting him to be the voice of reason and John is all “remember how I shot you and then you came back?” Garvey tells them it’s ridiculous and that he can die just like anybody else. Matt: “Of course you can. Just not here.” And that’s why he suffocates himself in the morning – he suspects that’s true. It makes Garvey mad to hear somebody say it and he spits back at Matt that his wife is leaving him and Matt just accepts that as part of his mission. Garvey demands to see the book and Michael brings it to him, over Matt’s protests. It’s the leather binder we saw earlier. Oh, as this is going on, we learn that John doesn’t believe Evie is dead even though they found her body and the dental records matched. Matt leaves with the book and gets ready to thrown it on a fire but then he watches some skywriters spelling out “13 days to go” and stops. And then, there’s a long pan across the sky and we follow doves back to a coop. A grey-haired woman whose face we don’t see takes messages off their legs and tosses the messages into a bucket. She puts the doves in cages, loads them on his bike, and heads off. Turns out, we’re in Australia now.

The woman brings to doves to a nun, doing some gardening outside a church. She seems surprised at the number of doves and she gives her some money. Then the nun asks, “Sara? Does the name ‘Kevin’ mean anything to you?” and Sarah seems to be lying when she says “no”, but that’s not important. What is important is that Sarah is a dead ringer for Nora, only twenty years or so older!

What in the actual hell?

–This is usually where I get into my theories, but since it’s the premiere, I just want to mull things over. What happened to Lily? Why is Nora in a cast? What is the rest of the world like right now? Note that this is maybe the first episode ever where nobody talks about anybody who disappeared during the Departure. It’s been seven years and people have picked up the pieces. And since Matt does the legwork in explaining the Biblical significance of seven years, I can sit this one out.

But man, this one’s got water, breath, birds, and Australia, the four big symbolic elements of The Leftovers. I also loved the callbacks to “International Assassin”, including Kevin opening his closet and picking out his uniform. He looked in his heart and realized who he is, and that dude is a cop. And damn, the hero on a white horse should not still be such a potent image but it worked last week on Hap and Leonard and it works here.

I’m really curious about this Sarah, and we’ve been assured that we will learn what her story is before the end. That’s a smart move, since we know we’re never going to find out what happened to the Departed, but this gives us a very immediate mystery that can have a payoff. Give me a week and I’ll probably be ready to go off half-cocked with some theories.

Only seven episodes to go. We’re going to get through this together.

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