“You were the lamp that led me from that night/You led me forth to drink Parnassian water/then on the road to God you shed your light.”
—Statius to Virgil, Purgatorio 22.64-65
Written by Dante Aligheri in the 14th Century, The Divine Comedy is an epic poem considered to be one of the most defining pieces of literature about our ideas of hell and the underworld. Drawing heavily from the medieval Christian philosophies and theology of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, the poem is divided into three sections, which are the three realms of the dead—hell, purgatory, and paradise. In the epic, Dante is guided through the various circles of hell and purgatory before reaching paradise. He has a wise guide throughout the journey. That guide’s name was...Virgil. Of course, it’s no coincidence that this is the name of the man who has offered to guide Kevin into the realms of death to do battle with his “most powerful adversary.” I would suggest that Virgil’s suicide was not a devious act of narcissism but that he killed himself to act as Kevin’s guide to the world that awaited him.
We’ve learned that this is not Virgil’s first encounter with such matters. He’s pointed to Edward, the man on the pillar at the city center of Jarden, as a “success story.” And we know that Virgil himself was resurrected previously after John shot him and “cleansed him of his sin.” Several times now Virgil has explicitly stated to Kevin that he needs to be his guide to the other side and back, first mentioning he could help him back in the Jarden visitor’s center. Is this Virgil’s calling? Is this how he makes amends for the sins of his past? Had he revealed his suicidal plan to Michael, thus leaving him in tears, just before Kevin arrived? Is this also why John struggles so profoundly with miracles? How could God work through someone so flawed?
Like John’s father, Virgil in The Divine Comedy was no stranger to hell either. He was previously sent there by the witch, Erictho. This is how is he able to wisely pilot Dante through the circles he needed to pass in order to reach paradise at the end of the poem. What might that look like for Kevin and Virgil? Well, in the epic, Dante must overcome his pity for the damned (Patti? the Departed? himself?) in order to cleanse his soul. At one point Virgil asks Dante, “Still? Still like the other fools? There is no place for pity here. Who is more arrogant within his soul, who is more impious than one who dates to sorrow at God’s judgment?”
In The Divine Comedy, Dante is eventually brought into heaven by the first love of his life, Beatrice. Is Laurie, perhaps, Kevin’s own Beatrice? She seemed to hold the key to Patti’s demise in his waking life. Will her presence be what utterly keeps Patti at bay or is the battle Kevin is headed for in the underworld his only chance for peace and redemption? Of course, all of this rests on one central question that we are left with at the end of the episode—Is Kevin truly dead or will he somehow rise again?