In “The Most Powerful Man in the World”, we get yet another/final trip to Assassin land, and perhaps, closure to Kevin’s inner-escapism.
The official mission Kevin is on, given to him by Kevin Sr. and the rest of the disciples is, of course, pointless. The Playford kids don’t answer Grace’s question about their shoes. Evie doesn’t believe Kevin when he tries to pass on John’s message. Christopher Sunday explains, as he tried to with Kevin Sr., that no song exists to stop the rain from coming, and when Kevin finally wakes from a nuclear apocalypse in the other world to return to his own, he sees that the storm has stopped. Maybe some other apocalypse will happen later on Departure Day, but it won’t be the great flood.
But these trips have never really been about saving the world. In many ways his most desperate, and thus most powerful, assassination mission yet, because the problem is wholly internal this time. His mission was in fact, about saving Kevin Garvey. Kevin no longer knows what he wants to do, or be, and he has just destroyed things with the woman he has realized he both dearly loves and is terrified by. Kevin goes into the water, repeatedly, half out of the hope that he may not come up.
And who is there to save Kevin from his own misery and confusion? Patti Levin, returning the very difficult favor he did by drowning her in a well in “International Assassin.”
Patti seems initially monstrous, as she tries to manipulate President Kevin into launching a nuclear missile strike that will bring about the end of their world. But once again, Patti’s motivations prove to be more complex and less evil than that. Yes, she is destroying this world, but she’s doing it FOR Kevin, who needs to stop having it as his escape for every time things are difficult for him back in his own.
If Kevin left the Assassin Realm intact, he would always have a place to retreat to. Kevin now understands that he could not keep dying in search of the answer. Living was the answer, a messy choice that would continue to confuse him. But living inside the confines of his real life had to be the only option moving forward, because flight and escape had cost him parts of his soul, not to mention his future with Nora.
He told himself and others that he was going to send messages and ask question for others, but those weren’t the real reasons. He was forcing himself to look in the mirror, in many different reflective surfaces, to see his own failings. Not to condemn those flaws, not to engage in more self-hatred. But to see how his lies and evasions were holding him back.
In the end, Kevin read from a book, not a holy book, but a book of truth.
In the romance novel his assassin self wrote, the real Kevin became apparent. He finally spoke openly about feeling weak, alone, stupid and unworthy. He messed up with Nora because on some level, he didn’t think he deserved her, and so he sabotaged their relationship. The only thing more frightening than being unloved is being loved. Kevin didn’t know how to handle someone seeing who he really was and loving him anyway. Can he rectify that screw-up?
Maybe he can. Maybe he can sit on the roof with his fragile, uncertain father. He had to go far away to learn what he already knew: Everyone’s weak, everyone’s afraid. While he was away, ending it all, the world went on without him.
Show-runner, Damon Lindelof is fascinated with crafting these stories where we see our leading man’s internal struggle and constant back and forth between, “I am truly important and mean something in this world” and “I’m but a speck of dust in an infinite universe and nothing I do really matters”. In the wake of The Leftovers finale next week, I can only hope that he has something else brewing in that brilliant dome of his. Game of Thrones can certainly entertain, Better Call Saul can hold us over, but his shows demand a deeper attention and are something I truly look forward to.
- It was awesome to hear the original opening credit music to the show playing before this episode. I was wondering if they would bring that back this or next week one final time. My guess is they will go back to the Iris Dement opening from season 2 for the finale.
- This episode is overflowing with great, surprising, deadpan jokes, and I particularly enjoyed God/David Burton explaining to Kevin that he only told Meg he was God as a pick-up line. That feels more or less accurate to the version of Burton we met on the Tasmanian lion sex party boat in “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World.”
- Junk Scanner 😛 : “No one would go to that length.” – Aussie police chief Kevin (Who is his head of security in this experience).
- “The Most Powerful Man in the World” is, like its predecessors, surreal, hilarious, and devastating, able to spin quickly from the whimsy of Patti singing a song about identical Kevin’s to the tune of the theme to The Patty Duke Show, to the unexpectedly poignant reading from the romance novel, to one Kevin cutting out the other’s heart in order to destroy the world and save himself. Like those other times, it has no business working, except that all of it does, right down to the way Verdi’s “Va Pensiero” once again always blares at just the right dramatic moment.
- Kevin Sr. is perhaps the most narcissistic character on the show but he’s more humbled in this ep even before the storm goes away without divine intervention, leaving him forlorn on a roof just like the Millerites. There’s a tenderness to the way he lowers Kevin into the tub, after first acknowledging that he can’t, in fact, do this most important part himself.
- God is a troll: David Burton convinces Kevin to leave his guns behind with a Machiavelli line about how all unarmed prophets have been victorious while all armed ones have been destroyed, when the actual Machiavelli quote says the exact opposite. He’s actually being Machiavellian to trick Kevin into doing what he wants.
- Ann Dowd and Liv Tyler are back in the main title sequence again. (Michael Gaston was a cast regular in season one, but is listed in the closing credits here with Lindsay Duncan, Bill Camp, and the other guest stars.)
How will it all end next week??? God only knows.
You can follow Peck on Twitter @BigTimerPeck