Justin Theroux is good at many things – no one quite does despair and bewilderment quite like him – plus he is super good looking to boot, but one thing he is not so hot at is singing. This we discovered in his rendition of “Homeward Bound” as he buys his freedom from the hotel limbo nightmare (Part II) in The Leftover’s season 2 finale and the episode benefits from his shaky and far from perfect vocal.
When Kevin wakes up in that same bathtub and is faced with the same selection of clothes he opts for the uniform he once wore. His mission isn’t to rid himself of Patti this time; instead he needs to find his way back and we don’t have a whole episode to complete this task. Instead things take an even more surreal turn when he gets told that all he needs to do is sing for his freedom like a twisted version of a reality competition. Luckily it isn’t based on how good Kevin is and he crushes the song on a deeper level than talent. Also I get how hard it is to sing along to Simon & Garfunkel because a) I am a terrible singer and b) Simon & Garfunkel are one of my go to writing/reading music choices and I tend to enthusiastically join in at random points.
Instead what this song allows Kevin to do is see flickers of his past from the cigarettes he smokes (being the only thing he shares with the GR), to the issue of National Geographic his father was intent on him reading and then to the images of family when all was not well in “The Garveys at Their Best” prior to the sudden departure (with the lyrics “I’ll play the game and pretend”) and ending on Nora’s smiling face when they decided to really make a go of it at the start of this season. These last two are the most important because they focus on the one thing Kevin realizes he desperately needs and that is family. Patti wanted to destroy the idea of family because the only ones she knew had marginalized her and treated her like shit, but now Patti is gone and Meg has a different opinion on the matter as she tells Tommy that “Family is everything.”
The latter helps Tommy with his journey and thereby becomes part of the striking final motif joining the rest of his family at the Garvey/Durst residence while chaos reigns outside. Everyone is searching for something to make them feel okay and while some are better at pretending (see Michael’s story about the truth behind the bathtub incident) Tommy has been bouncing from one ideology to another finding temporary solace. Nothing has stuck, but seeing Nora and Lily in danger on the bridge connects both his pre-departure life and the one which started his journey on looking for a broader meaning in this fucked up world. Tommy has never met Nora before, but he played a vital part in Nora’s decision to stay when he left Christine and Holy Wayne’s baby on his dad’s porch and she was the one who found her. Lily gave hope and the chance for these broken people to connect.
In the second episode this season Kevin couldn’t quite understand why Nora spent such a vast sum on money on a house she had never seen and Jill was the one who had to point out the obvious – she did it to feel safe. When Tommy bundles Nora and Lily into the Airstream he tells her she is okay and they are safe. Everything she has wanted to feel since October 14, four years ago.
Babies aren’t band-aids (and now I’m singing a weird version of “Bad Blood”) and one of the questions which plagued Kevin this season (mostly from Patti, sometimes from Jill) was whether he really loves Nora and Lily or if they are just an attempt to cover up the chaos. Ever since Holy Wayne hugged Nora she has been full steam ahead on the ‘everything is good’ train and Kevin’s Patti revelation coupled with the ‘lens’ theory really shook this whole idea prompting her to flee the house. It’s why she reacted so violently to the radio discussion about the departure and moving on, but she also has her faith renewed in her choices by how panicked/devastated she is when Lily is snatched from her arms. The image of Lily lying unprotected on the bridge is where my stress levels went through the roof as was Nora’s decision to lie down and protect her with her body as the crowd continued to surge forward. But Lily is more than just a concept in helping Nora move on and this confirms just how important she is.
The same can be said for Kevin and while he has never wavered from his position of loving his family this rendition of “Homeward Bound” is like the weirdest test of putting his money where his mouth is. It is an ordeal of a completely different kind to the challenges he has previously faced and he nails it. The tight close ups on his face captures the intense emotions of the song and what it means to Kevin; it’s not just the far from perfect singing which shows a lack of vanity in this performance as there is also snot dripping from his nose. Justin Theroux continues his spectacular portrayal of Kevin’s desperation and desire to be with his family again as his voice cracks on certain words.
It turns out that “Homeward Bound” wasn’t the first choice of song for Kevin to sing as Damon Lindelof tells Alan Sepinwall in this excellent interview that Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” was the original intended track (it is still on the wheel). They couldn’t get the rights and so it fell to Simon & Garfunkel and I agree with Lindelof that this is a better choice. I also love that Justin Theroux pointed out that he can’t sing and still went with it.
Despite losing a fuck tonne of blood (an official measurement) Kevin does indeed make it home and I’m not even going to question the logistics here – maybe there are miracles in Miracle – and his place is far from empty (as John fears his house will be). Panning around the darkened room with the strains of the Leftovers signature theme we first see those he had told to stay (Jill and Laurie), Matt and the now wide awake Mary, followed by Tommy holding Lily still dressed in his all GR white and finally Nora entering the room illuminated by a candle. Kevin has found his way home in all senses of the word. And as with the first season finale we are left with Nora saying the final line of dialogue and a repeated sense of hope even as everything burns up the street.
It is unclear whether The Leftovers will get a third season pickup, but I am so not ready to be done with this crazy fucked up world. Especially if next season has some kind of version of all these characters living under one roof as things sure could get uncomfortable fast. But first Kevin should probably go see a doctor about that hole in his chest.
And for your listening pleasure here is the Simon & Garfunkel version of “Homeward Bound” and sadly HBO has yet to put up the Kevin version.