Kevin Garvey just can’t catch a break. As far as TV protagonists go, The Leftovers‘ tattooed, bleary-eyed, possibly insane police chief is one of the most embattled. Even in the first episode, he was forced to go through the soul-crushing ordeal of gunning down dogs shortly after watching one get blown away in front of him. Since then, Kevin has been under tremendous pressure in every area of his life.
At home, he has to care for his emotionally damaged daughter Jill and toe the line with her flirtatious best friend Aimee. At work, he’s both the scapegoat for every terrible thing that happens and seemingly the only one capable of cleaning up Mapleton’s messes (the only other cops we’ve seen so far on The Leftovers have been either donut-dunking blowhards or unfortunately inept schlubs). And even in his own head, Kevin is struggling to keep a grip on reality and to maintain that he isn’t succumbing to the same demons that caused his father, once also the police chief, to go on a rampage and burn down a library.
In “Solace for Tired Feet,” contrary to the episode’s title, Kevin finds himself stretched incredibly thin. His father has flown the coop, with the apparent mission of “waking up” Kevin so that he can see the world around him for what it truly is. This installment of The Leftovers is the show’s most enigmatic since its pilot, with extensive dream sequences for Kevin and a host of other intriguing questions, so we still don’t know exactly what Kevin Sr. actually means by that. However, that he has his own Dean (unseen, of course) and also dislikes dogs immensely does not bode well for the future of Kevin’s mental health.
Whatever masters Kevin Sr. seems to be serving (“they” is the only way in which he refers to whatever is driving him) haven’t been clear about exactly what they want from the Garvey clan, but it’s nothing good. There has been a sense throughout The Leftovers, dating all the way back to Holy Wayne’s statement that “grace period’s over,” that some major existentialist shit is about hit the fan, and Kevin is right in the thick of it. “The lucky ones, they’re not needed,” Kevin Sr. tells his son. “They get to stay sane. But we, we’re in the fuckin’ game now. That whistle blew three years ago and you cannot ignore it anymore.”
The thing is, Kevin really doesn’t seem to have been ignoring it at all. Earlier in the episode, Kevin dreams that Dean is outside of his house, having trapped one of the dogs in a mailbox (odd, I know). He walks outside after hearing the word “hero” [A/N: A sharp-eared viewer has noted that the word on the radio is in fact “Cairo,” the name of next week’s episode and the title of an article in the National Geographic Kevin Sr. insists his son must accept] squawk through on his radio, only to find himself unable to shoot through the mailbox and slay the animal. So, Kevin moves closer to the mailbox, only to find that members of the Guilty Remnant are dead in Dean’s truck bed – including Laurie, bloodied with a plastic bag over her head. Then, he opens the mail slot and jumps back just in time to avoid losing his hand to the livid dog inside.