I shot you in the chest – point blank – and you got up, walked into town. Didn’t even go to the hospital until the next day. – John Murphy
It’s almost shameful how good The Leftovers is, and with the endpoint seven weeks away, Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta aren’t dealing with the challenges many showrunners and executive producers face relative to an uncertain future. This is how they wanted to tell this story, and though the series hasn’t been a ratings juggernaut, it’s been arguably the biggest critical darling in all of drama. Since day one, it’s been on top of my list, alongside Fargo and The Americans. It’s been HBO’s best drama, and Season 2 stands with some of the all-time greats in terms of unforgettable stretches of television.
It may be sacrilege to say on Outkick, but The Leftovers is better than Game of Thrones by a substantial margin. I won’t compare it with Veep, because they’re just too different. But, it’s better than True Detective ever was, it’s better than Westworld has been, and it’s probably going to go down in the annals of TV history with Deadwood, another three season HBO show spoken of in reverential terms by its congregation. I’m one of them. Deadwood is one of the best shows of all-time, and The Leftovers is attempting to climb that same hill.
More than any other series, this one is the true successor to Lost. Lindelof may not have originally planned it, but in the way the mysteries are laid out, the characters and their respective backstories, plus the interwoven nature of every strange, cryptic event, there’s no other conclusion. I was one of those who adored the Lost finale, but far more despised it. Critics have seen seven of the final eight Leftovers episodes, but my reviews are being written after each, to avoid any accidental problems or spoilers. As you read this, I know far more than you, but when I wrote this, I knew exactly the same information you do.
In 1844, a group of parishioners listens to a prophet talk about the future, warning of an enormous, universe-shattering event on the horizon. It’s end-times theology, the same kind of thing that often leads cult members to sell away their fortunes and imbibe children’s drinks to take their own lives. It’s been around since the first churches, and it’s profitable. Larger tithes, more focus on religion, a sense of having to be in church during the week, in addition to Sunday. While many denominations do not preach hell fire and brimstone, many others do.
The prophet turns out to be wrong many times, and thus the followers dwindle. One woman stays devoted, even after her husband leaves and takes her young child. She listens, she follows, she pays attention to every word, and she ends up on a rooftop in a torrential downpour. Forced to take the walk of shame the next morning, she’s laughed at and stared at as if she were a complete imbecile.
Anyone with any knowledge of Lost understands the relationship of religion to that show, and certainly to this one. Damon Lindelof and his writing partners have never overtly attempted to sell one idea or another. The stories have been created in such a way that they can support multiple belief structures. As a Christian, I took the ending of Lost to mean the only explanation for a series of unexplainable, otherworldly events to be the existence of God. The Leftovers is the opposite show, however, as the predicament of everyone we meet is so dire, dreary, and bursting with hopelessness.
Kevin Garvey has attempted to kill himself several times, and has been unsuccessful. When he wanted to drown, an earthquake saved his life. When he lost all semblance of reality and was trapped in a mind spiral, he attempted to drink poison to get to the other side. He did it, but still survived and crawled out of a grave. John Murphy shot him towards the end of Season 2, but again, he’s still with us. To him, it’s a curse. While he’s back in a familiar role as chief of police in Jarden, when he’s alone, he still puts a plastic bag over his head and contemplates death, almost daring his own mortality to win its first (and last) battle.
He loves Nora, he cares for the child that may have saved her life (at least from the front porch), and he protects Jill and Tom, but he’s miserable. He’s confused, he’s seen too much, and there’s no refuge from his past. How many mistakes did he make prior to the departure seven years ago? How many times did he attempt to run from his problems, befriending disturbed men like Dean along the way? What is he living for at this point? These have to be the questions he asks himself, because Justin Theroux plays Kevin with an expression of fearful discombobulation at least 90 percent of the time.
Lindelof stated from the beginning that if people were watching to find out what originally happened and why it happened, they would be disappointed. The show isn’t about the event. It’s about the people left behind and what they must deal with, regardless of meaning. It may have been a rapture-like event, but the show has never tried to portray it as THE Rapture. Many of those we’ve met are imperfect, but many of those who departed were the same, and there was a randomness to it all. If anything, The Leftovers has attempted to define purpose for its people, rather than a purpose for the event.
If you stayed behind, not by your own choice, what would you do? Matt Jamison still believes, and he now sees Kevin as a Christ like figure, even though Garvey calls him insane and drops f-bombs as often as possible around him. Michael and John Murphy seem to agree, but are more understated in their thoughts. They’ve seen Kevin withstand things humans shouldn’t be able to, but never forget, after the departure, what’s “shouldn’t” anymore? If that can happen, what can’t?
Maybe Dean isn’t wrong about the dogs either, although he won’t be around to see what’s next. That was a grisly death, and a pretty gruesome visual for the audience, to say the least. It was also another moment where Kevin was basically dead, and was saved, this time by a shotgun blast from his son.
The baptism scene was the latest example of unrestrained chaos on the show, and again it surrounded the Guilty Remnant. Through the reflection in Evie’s glasses, we saw the military drone take out the Visitor’s Center. Kevin tells Tom what the official report says about that event, using the group’s penchant for chain smoking to tie in a gas leak and an explosion, but we know it’s a lie. It leads to the toxic waste prank, and to Kevin leaping into the water. As soon as he did so, the show wanted the viewers to again witness Garvey as a man ready to die. “I just knew.” Tom called BS, and so do the rest of us.
Matt is about to lose his wife and son, because he’s been so overprotective and strange with them since she woke up from the coma. He’s busy writing a new gospel, based on the life of Kevin Garvey. He’s a true believer, just like the woman in 1844, just like Michael Murphy, and increasingly like John Murphy, who buys into the Kevin theory while now married to his ex-wife and engaging in a fraudulent medium business with her.
14 days remain before the end of days according to one contingent of theorists. One day passes during the episode, from that point at least, leaving 13 days, which we see written in the sky. Then comes that final scene and the woman on the bicycle taking doves to a nun in Australia. Because we never saw the face until the last second, it was clear the reveal would be major. And it was. It was an aged Nora, who when asked if the name “Kevin” meant anything to her, “Sarah” said no. What the hell does that mean? I have no idea yet, except it’s pretty clear Nora is headed to Australia, and based on her face, the world isn’t over in 13 days.
When I saw the bicycle, I guessed correctly. Did you? Why else did we see her pedal away that Sunday morning when Kevin opened the cuff links box?
If you noticed the condition under Nora’s eyes in that last shot, it looked awfully similar to the woman in 1844 after she descended from the rooftop. It may be coincidental, but The Leftovers generally doesn’t roll that way, so it’s probably an important detail.
As we re-enter this world again, we’re reminded immediately what a visually stunning show this is, and what a beautifully artistic series it is as a whole. The score is perfect, and the way it’s shot, with the occasional slow-motion techniques, the blur effects, and the cinematic sequences, is truly exquisite. It’s a marvel to behold. The story has grown by leaps and bounds since the pilot, and while today I have no idea how the series will end or if there’s a lesson to be learned before the closing moments of the finale, I’m more intrigued than I ever have been before.
It’s mind blowing television, and emotionally affecting unlike anything else on television. The Americans can match the dread, but The Leftovers can create lasting pain through even the smallest details, and has the bonus of a world that has seen part of its population disappear into thin air. Every Kevin Garvey flashback is a personal nightmare for him, and not one single person on this show is mentally stable. How could they be after the events of seven years ago, and the issue three years ago?
Kevin was ready to toss Matt and Michael’s book into the lit grill, but he didn’t actually do it. That’s interesting by itself, simply because the stay of execution mimics the subject of its words and pages. Kevin has attempted to burn himself, but a skywriter has found a way to distract death long enough to chase away the eternal white light.
Shit is not good in Jarden, Texas, and the chief of police is trying to suffocate himself with a plastic bag after great sex with his wife. Different groups believe different things, including John unwilling to believe Evie is actually dead, but the entire place is a powder keg, filled with individuals that struggle simply to understand why they wake up in the morning.
This is the world of The Leftovers, a series that continues to impress and set its own bar for creativity and imagination, not to mention award-level drama. Seven more episodes, and I can’t wait to see where we’re headed. Not often am I this blank on what’s to come.
I love this feeling.
I really love this show.
I’m @JMartOutkick. The beard looks good on me, too. Anybody got a Gary Busey inflatable?