People who don’t watch The Leftovers often think of it as “that show about the Rapture” or ask “isn’t that the trippy religious show?” And while it’s more about the nature of belief than religion itself, episodes that focus on Matt Jamison or Kevin Senior most closely follow that assumption, simply because they are the truest zealots in their respective causes. In this Kevin-centric episode “Crazy Whitefella Thinking,” The Leftovers tackles the deadly consequences of what happens when belief intersects with appropriation.
As “Crazy Whitefella Thinking,” reveals, Kevin earnestly believes a Biblical style world-ending flood is imminent unless he does something mystical — like appropriating sacred ceremonies and calling on Australian Aboriginal elders — to help prevent it. He’s also certain that his way is the only right way. In a phone call with Matt Jamison, who he’s curiously remained in touch with, he tells Matt to move past his “stupid book.”
If the show featured a white guy from small town New York engaging with Aboriginal tribal practices without bringing up the word “appropriation” or showing its consequences, that would be a problem, but that’s not what happens here. Just like Tommy follows the nearest authority figure, Matt turns to scripture, and Kevin Junior obsesses with his experience in the afterlife; Kevin Senior now turns to the nearest spiritual figures he thinks might hold answers. In his own words, this is “at best, a misguided detour.”
The consequences are immediate and deadly. When Kevin visits the elder Christopher Sunday, Sunday tells him to start with his leaking roof if he wants to stop a flood. In an accident falling off the roof, Kevin lands on Sunday. He later discovers that Sunday died from his injuries.
At the episode’s end, Kevin’s story becomes intertwined with Grace and the murder she committed at the end of the second episode. Kevin and Grace both subscribed so strongly to their beliefs, so certain of their righteousness, that both killed another person along the way.
But rather than learning from their experiences, the episode leaves the two united in a mission to stop the impending flood. Human nature doesn’t change on a dime, after all.
The Leftovers does not shy away from the selfish, dark, and deeply uncomfortable sides of the human penchant for seeing meaning and purpose. While “Crazy Whitefella Thinking” isn’t as immediate or engaging as the Nora-centric “Don’t Be Ridiculous,” it continues the show’s dialogue with the nature of belief in an off-kilter way that only Kevin Senior could.
The Leftovers third and final season is currently airing on Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.