Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Leftovers, Season 1, Episode 3: Two Boats and a Helicopter

This episode we’re following Rev. Matt and his crusade to tell everyone what terrible people the Departed were. We begin with Matt’s sermon at church in which he asks people to pray for a girl called Emily in a coma. His prayers are interrupted by a man barging into the church, beating him up and making him eat one of his leaflets describing the crimes of one of the Departed, presumably a woman who meant something to the man.

Matt is checked out in hospital and Kevin arrives to confirm Matt doesn’t want to press charges – it’s not the first time this has happened. We also learn that Matt knew Kevin’s dad and there’s some big awkwardness they don’t want to talk about. On the good side, when Matt goes to check on Emily he finds she’s woken up and is totally ok now. Matt proudly tells the orderly there that his congregation prayed for her that morning, the orderly tells him that she woke up the night before.

Matt’s also being followed by a couple of Guilty Remnant, smoking away.

That night, a man sneaks in with his baby to get him baptised without his wife knowing (since she’s not a big fan of churches). Matt doesn’t accept payment but tries to get the man to bring his wife to church though he says it’s not going to happen with her. Instead he dishes dirt on another of the Departed gambling away his kids’ college fund.

Matt goes to the Casino and convinces an employee there to break confidentiality by showing a file on a child abuser who Departed – and, because he Departed, is now regarded as a hero. And just to add to the randomness, two pigeons decide to land on one of the tables in use – and stay there.

Back at the church he draws up another condemnatory leaflet and tries to give some clothes to the GR who are following him around, smoking at him. He tries to convince them they’re wasting their time with him – they just stare and smoke.

Matt also has money trouble – as we learn when he goes to the bank – someone has offered to buy the church which is owned by the bank since Matt couldn’t pay the bills. The only way he can save his church is by coughing up $135,000 by the next day.

He turns to Nora (the woman who lost her whole family), his sister (with an awkward “world’s greatest dad” mug). Like everyone else, Nora asks after Matt’s wife, Mary and he fobs off the question. He’s there to borrow the money from her. She refuses, she’s not invested in the church like him (I also like the byplay of her objecting to him telling her not to get upset – you don’t get to make her upset then not tell her to get upset). He wants her to lend him the compensation money she got for losing her whole family. She agrees – but only if he agrees to stop distributing the leaflets, thinking he has some other agenda behind it after an accident; she disagrees with his crusade. He objects to her invoking godly purpose when she doesn’t believe in god (then why are you hitting her up for money to save a church) and he asserts that it’s a test. She says he may be failing it and that his church isn’t helping

To which he tells her that her husband was having an affair. My gods man what are you thinking?! She reacts with hysterical laughter and he leaves.

Matt goes home (on the TV there’s a super creepy advert of creating models of the Departed for burial) to relieve the care worker, Roxeanne, there – who hasn’t been paid for 3 weeks, Matt’s money troubles are showing all over. She’s there to care for Mary, his wife, who is completely unresponsive. After caring for her he goes to bed and suppresses sobs; he prays her help and has sudden inspiration.

He goes behind Kevin’s, grabs a shovel and runs into Laurie. He tells her that Kevin’s dad, the ex-police chief, left something for him to collect. Laurie just wants to be sure Matt won’t tell Kevin she was lurking round his house in the middle of the night. Matt digs up a huge wadge of cash and one of his leaflets that accuses a judge of having taken bribes and a note from Kevin’s dad saying Matt deserves it. (From what we’ve heard Nora say, this judge was someone Matt first targeted).

He drives off and sees pigeons on a red traffic light that flashes oddly. This, for some reason, leads him to a casino where he turns the $20,000 into chips. He goes to the Roulette table and bets all of it on red and insists on playing on the table (despite it being way over the table’s usual amount) he saw the pigeons on earlier. He wins – repeatedly. Turning $20,000 into $160,000. In cash.

And when he leaves the casino he is mugged. Don’t just hang around in your car with $160,000 in cash in a paper bag. Matt fights back – repeatedly slamming the head of his assailant into the tarmac (hey, when the rev gets on the sin train he goes for gold). He buries the money and steals some street signs (ok… what… why… have we just stopped making sense now?)

As he’s driving along he sees a car drive by two members of the GR and someone inside throw a rock at one, hitting him in the head. He stops to help and call 911- and the car comes back. The next rock hits Matt

He has a series of visions while he’s unconscious, of a doctor ominously telling him something is “spreading”, a burning building, and a car crash with him and Mary during the Departure (the car that hit them had no driver – he Departed) in which Mary is badly injured. The last, at least, is a memory and the cause of Mary’s current condition and then another memory/vision of him having sex with his wife (who turns into Laurie and then fire because random).

He wakes up in hospital and realises he has to get to the bank before it closes to stop the church being sold – yelling his way past a nurse he runs. He grabs the money he stashed in his car (I don’t know what he buried, maybe only some of it) and drives to the bank. They let him in despite it being after closing but it’s too late – he was unconscious for three days.

Going to his church he sees the windows being painted white – it has been taken over by the Guilty Remnant. Matt isn’t happy

The complexity and nuance The Leftovers add to their characters is impressive. I mean, it would have been easy to just have Matt object to the idea this is the Rapture because he finds it theologically unsound. It would have been easy to have him object to the idea that this is the Rapture because some of the Departed were terrible people; especially since, as we saw in the first episode, labelling the Departed as “heroes” or similar positive labels is not unknown. But his argument invoking truly terrible people who Departed being linked to innocent children and genuinely good people who happen also to be Departed is an extra powerful addition of nuance – and it feels more outrageous when you see him lay it out that way. It’s a nice touch and gives some important motivation as to why he’s doing this, especially given the violence and push back he faces.

The flip side is that his bare assertion to Nora – a woman who lost her whole family – that the Departure was a test also shows that part of his objection may be as simple as doctrinal difference. Isn’t he, after all, making his own assertion based on pure faith and even denying Nora of all people the right to argue against it because of her lack of faith? It’s a big knotty mess of human dilemma

And we end up with a great big dollop of odd irony – he may be the only man in town who regards the GR with any level of respect and they buy his church out from under him

Again, The Leftovers focuses 99% on emotional drama and then we have psychic gambling pigeons…