Most Powerful Man

You returned to “International Assassin” territory with “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother).” In season two, did you know that was a place the show would have to return to? 

This is a place where I think we kind of return to the question that you asked earlier about audience expectation. I think that when we sat down as a writer’s room, and we’re talking about the season writ large, we already knew that … The most important thing to us was that the show didn’t ignore the idea that Kevin came back to life. If Jon Snow comes back to life, that’s all part and parse of Game of Thrones. There’s magic and dragons, and every once ina while someone will come back to life. That’s what happens.

But we were sort of like, Kevin wants to get on with his life, but what if the people around Kevin are like, ‘No, we want to talk about this.’ What did it mean? And more importantly, how can we use you to get what we want? So this sort of reluctant Messiah narrative began to emerge that was exciting to all of us. We were like, ‘So where is that story going to culminate? I guess they want to kill him again, right? When they kill him again, where is he going to go this time?’

We very quickly decided he can’t go back to the hotel, because we’ve already done that, but he has to go back to a space that sort of models and plays by the same rules that we established the first time around. So we quickly realized that we were having that conversation that you inevitably have when you’re making the sequel to a movie, which is like, ‘How do we use the same foundation that made the first movie work so well, but at the same time, double down and introduce a new idea?’ This time, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s the good guy. That’s why T2 is such a fucking great sequel.

This time, there’s not just one alien, but a billion aliens. It’s not a horror movie, but it’s an action movie. And some of the absurdist humor that worked well in “International Assassin,” it was like, ‘Let’s double down on those things.’ So if there was a subtle dick joke in International Assassin One, we need to go all the way with the dick joke in International Assassin Two.
I think that the audience, as we were imaging what we expected, and we’re like, ‘We just have to double down and go big.’ We kept saying ‘doubled down’, and it was like, ‘If we’re doubling down, I guess that means we’re dealing with two Kevins here.’ I guess at that point, it just wrote itself.

I’m glad you mentioned the dick jokes. One of my favorite laughs of the season is the sound effect of the thud. Great touch. 

I’m glad you appreciate that, because on the mix stage, we did have to get note that it ‘had to have a little more oomph to it’, I believe was the actual note. I don’t know how they generated that thud, but I think it was dropping a watermelon onto a carpet.

 I was just re-watching some of season one and-

I’m sorry to hear that.

Know what? It’s …

I’m joking. Season one definitely has its moments.

Knowing where Kevin Garvey Jr. ends up makes season 1 a little less bleak for me. He’s miserable and pissed in a lot of season 1, but I’m happy knowing where he’s going. 

When there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it definitely changes your perspective versus I think season one where you’re like, “Am I even in a tunnel? What do you mean, light? I’ll let you know about the light if and when I see the tunnel.”

What were some of the ideas and dilemmas Kevin faced from the beginning you wanted to pay off in the final season?

I think that Kevin’s dilemma was always primarily internalized and existential, as is every human being’s, but Nora’s dilemma was physical. She lost her family. You understand why Nora is behaving the way that she is even if she’s behaving in this insane way. For Kevin, it’s much trickier because you’re like, “What did you lose, buddy?” Obviously, your wife joined a cult, but what is the source of your existential despair? I think that what we knew even in season one that I think we made more explicit in seasons two and three is that there is a part of Kevin that basically fears connection and he was even feeling that way before the Departure happened as he articulates to his dad, “Is this all there is? I don’t feel connected to my own family.” He’s behaving in a self-destructive way, sneaking cigarettes, cheating on his wife. All that stuff.

It becomes much more explicit in season two when he’s being haunted by Patti who is basically a physicalized representative of this idea of “There is no family.” It feels like he keeps pushing back towards this idea of wanting to go home to family but at the same time, in season three he completely, totally detonates his relationship with Nora. Says the most horrible thing you can say to somebody who’s lost their kids and now he’s atoning for it, but ultimately, the story that we’re trying to tell is, there’s this thing inside him that’s so afraid of being hurt or abandoned that it inhibits him from forming real connections with other people. Real love. He’s incapable of feeling real love because he’s not willing to accept the risks attached to it. We physicalize that idea in the most powerful man in the world and his identical twin brother, and then he removes it from himself and that basically enables him to go after Nora.

It takes many, many, many years for him to do so. He’s still a little angry. One of my favorite scenes in the finale is when Kevin shows up and he says the most romantic thing to Nora, which is, “I’ve basically been searching for you all these years because I couldn’t believe that you were gone,” but he’s yelling at her and he’s dropping F-bombs all over the place. I was like, “Oh, this is good. This feels like Kevin.” He’s still angry but he’s saying the most romantic thing ever.

***

Check back next week for part two of our Damon Lindelof interview, in which he discusses the final scene and Nora’s trip to the other side. 

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