Kevin can’t believe what he believes most of the time. Image: HBO via screen grab

The previous seasons of The Leftovers focused on the devastating aftereffects of the Departure, an event that altered reality and coaxed some mighty strange behavior from those left behind. Season three began last night, and instead of looking back, the world is now looking ahead—to the end.

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Just from its title, the premiere (“The Book of Kevin”) makes it clear that the HBO show’s final season will frame the Departure in a more Biblical way than it ever has before. But it didn’t stop there. The opening vignette, set in the 1840s, followed one woman’s determined faith in a doomsday cult that never delivers on its promises. The Leftovers has always been very careful with its musical choices (remember “Homeward Bound”?), and I can’t be the only secret fan of Christian scare films who shrieked in delight upon recognizing “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” the dour (yet folksy) ditty that opens 1972's Rapture melodrama A Thief in the Night. Could this be a hint that Antichrist is coming to The Leftovers?

Jarden, Texas, is certainly no longer heaven on Earth. It’s been three years since Guilty Remnant members busted down the town’s not-so-pearly gates, then were all conveniently eliminated by either a drone strike or a gas leak (depending on which story you believe). Kevin (Justin Theroux) has returned to his police roots, serving as the town’s top cop—no small task in a place that’s become inundated with pilgrims who believe the end is near as the seven-year anniversary of the Departure looms. Meanwhile, as always, he’s got all kinds of secret personal shit going on... primarily the fact that he seems to be immortal now, a fact that’s inspired his God-fearing brother-in-law (Christopher Eccleston) to pen a new Gospel with his name on it. Outraged, Kevin threatens to burn the book, and the camera lingers a little too long on his face, ringed in flames, as he contemplates tossing the manuscript on a nearby barbecue grill. Flames. Is there a hint there as well?

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All of the teasers and trailers for season three have indicated that there’s going to be plenty of action outside of Jarden—notably, Kevin’s got to get to Australia soon and reunite with his father. While last season’s metaphysical meander made for many excellently head-scratching moments, this new ticking-clock structure, with just 13 days to go until something happens (a horrific flood? Another Departure? The Great Tribulation?), is immediately exciting. And no doubt there will still be plenty of excellently head-scratching moments—this is The Leftovers, after all.