What is there to say about an episode that is an entire death sequence / alt-reality?
Let’s bitch it out…
I’m not going to try and deconstruct ‘International Assassin.’ It’s an episode that takes place entirely in Kevin Garvey’s (Justin Theroux) mind – living or dead – as he adopts the persona of a hired killer in order to kill his nemesis, Patti (Ann Dowd). The majority of the episode takes place in an an undisclosed, high-end hotel where he must bypass presidential candidate Patti’s staff, including former Guilty Remnant devotee Gladys (Marceline Hugot) and Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph) in order to kill his nemesis, her Belgian chocolate-loving hiusband Neil (Gary Basaraba) and a child-effigy of Patti. Along the way Kevin Sr (Scott Glenn) Skypes in to provide some static-y paternal advice, while Virgil (Steven Williams) starts off as a guide before slowly losing his mind as the hotel’s concierge.
It’s a series of nonsensical elements strung together as a fever dream, filled with connections to the narrative proper (the bird in the lobby echoes Erica’s bird-in-the-box, the frequent operatic music on the soundtrack ties back to the second season premiere) that mean nothing and everything. In some ways, it’s the most daring episode of television of the year for the sheer “no fucks given” nature; on the other hand, it’s a ponderous slog that outlives its welcome about ten minutes on…then continues for another forty. What to make of an episode like ‘International Assassin’? Perhaps we should just say that we watched it, and then move on.
- Alan Sepinwall compares ‘International Assassin’ to an infamous episode of The Sopranos which adopted a similar narrative approach when Tony dream-walked through a hotel under an assumed name. Having not watched The Sopranos, this doesn’t mean much to me. Anyone else feel like making a comparison?
- I did enjoy the quote by Greek philosopher Epictetus’ – “Know first who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly” – as a wry commentary on the ever-changing outfits within the wardrobe.
- Both Neil and young Patti mention that she talks too much, so it makes sense that Patti gets one final story in about her days as a Jeopardy winner before Kevin drowns her to bring the dream walk to an end.
- Naturally Kevin’s escape from Jarden’s miracle soil is accompanied by an earthquake. The question is how long has he been buried by Michael (Jovan Adepo)?
Your turn: was this a brazen triumph of unconventional TV or a complete misfire? Were Kevin’s adventures at the hotel entertaining? Did you feel for young Patti after she let loose a stream of self-derogatory comments before she was pushed into the well? Sound off below.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO