Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Leftovers, Season 2, Episode 6: Lens

We have a man with newspaper clippings about the missing Evie and her friends approaching Miracle for “research.” Surprisingly this seems to be valid, because they let him in. And with a load of equipment he packs onto the bus (otherwise full of a prayer group of tourists).

Inside he only gets a golf cart as a visitor and we get the standard backdrop of oddness that is Miracle as he makes his way to the Murphy household to knock on the door – and rudely take a picture of Erika without her permission. He then goes next door and actually introduces himself to Nora – Dr. Juaquin Cuarto. He’s asking lots of questions and seems to be trying to connect the disappearance of Evie to Nora’s presence – and further asks if she touched her husband and kids when they departed. All before making even the slightest small talk

Y’know, if she murders him I’ll totally be on her side. Instead she just kicks his equipment off her property and screams at him before reassuring Erika that she’s fine. She does a very good sincere-but-not-really.

The next day she throws a rock through the Murphy’s window… for some reason, before tending to Mary who is now in her care. She also gets a call from one of Dr. Cuarto’s colleagues and hangs up – that’s even worse than PPI calls. Jill continues to be the most calm of the family and Nora is still chaining Kevin up which has its advantages. He’s also hallucinating still (and passing it off as cramp).

The Murphys see the damage and Erika seems to be blaming John (his actions probably don’t win them many friends). They also get another visitor from the Department of the Departed, George – from the “Secondaries” (which Nora says never happens – people who supposedly Departed after the main event) branch who the Murphies won’t speak to. Nora greets him since she also works for the department.

Instead Erika goes into the woods and digs up her box inside which is a dead bird, which she adds to the pile of dead birds. Because this is Leftovers and it likes the random. The parents of Evie’s friends who also vanished want to press Erika into speaking to George. She’s not having it and she’s certainly not being pressed into it.

Erika treats someone who was brutally beaten for selling spring water for ridiculous high prices (that would be John’s work again, against anyone peddling woo-woo). Her fellow medical professionals ensure she gets the job to treat him – so she can pressure the man into not pressing charges against John. She also sees the attackers took the man’s palm print.

Nora follows George to poke for more answers – and learns that the usual “fraud flags” are not apparent, in a new questionnaire they have. Every indication is that these are a genuine secondary Departure. This leads her to question the idea that someone could be to blame for a Departure – and there’s a new “lens” theory – where one person somehow leads to people around them Departing

That is so not going to be helpful for Nora. She goes home to research. Erika finds Lily left on the car by Kevin who is all distracted – when Erika brings her home she learns for the first time that Nora had other children who Departed leading to Nora abruptly closing the door. Kevin is distracted by his hallucinations of Patti (and arguing with her over wallpaper)

Nora also wants to go to the fundraiser for the Murphies despite the whole Matt drama last week – though Nora puts that on Matt, not her neighbours. Jill is also going – with Michael. Nora and Jill are kind of good together.

Before that she takes Mary to visit Matt who is now dressed and apparently allowed out of the stocks. He now has some kind of congregation. He keeps giving Mary lots of attention. He’s not a big fan of Nora taking Mary to the fundraiser – he thinks it may be seen as hostile. Nora gets hostile over this suggestion.

She also gets another call from Corta’s colleague who is pushing the idea that Nora is a lens. Because the demon Azrael has chosen her. Nora listened, stunned for a while before hanging up and crying.

To complete her wonderful day, Laurie calls Nora. She wants to know if Tom is with them – Nora tells her she’s never even met Tom. Laurie asks Nora to tell Tom she’s sorry if he ever shows up. Laurie is also smoking.

Back at the Murphies, Erika and John talk about John beating people up, whether it’s behind the broken window and what he’s really up to violently attacking people (especially since he’s taking palm prints to match the one left on the car which Evie disappeared from). She strips out his excuses and says “you need to hit people because you need to hit people.” He gets all sad and she feels the need to comfort him, She then goes for more batteries for her hearing aids and finds them under huge wadges of cash.

She’s interrupted while changing her batteries by a kid leaving pie on her door step. Caught in the nefarious act of pastry-gifting the kid runs and Erika chases him down. Having caught him and got answers she goes to confront the baker – the same man who bought Nora her groceries. They argue, she wants him to stay away, he’s done something bad in the past – and he’s apparently family.

Things are tense at home and she confronts Michael about praying to the man – but Michael is all about forgiveness.

Fundraiser time, and Nora donates a generous $500 (much to Kevin’s brief surprise). She also runs into colleague George who isn’t willing to dismiss the whole Lens theory yet – and has his briefcase full of documents Nora really wants to read so naturally helps herself to. The Fundraiser also contains a chorus of praise for Miracle being saved which cause John and Erika to look like this

And also is really tasteless – I mean let’s sing a song of praise about how special we are that no-one vanished here while raising money for some vanished kids? Erika seems to be notably separate from the other two women (but, then, she did recently say one of the women smelled of drink).

And the guy who sacrifices goats decides to sacrifice a goat (there’s also a bride in the audience… because… reasons). Erika objects to goat sacrifices in the middle of a quasi-memorial for her daughter and the town people… object. Because it’s just a little goat sacrifice!

Erika’s not having that, she calls out the fact that this guy was killing goats before the Departure happened and was locked up for it – but now, because it’s Miracle, it’s decided that he’s special and should totally kill livestock anywhere and everywhere. She even snaps at John for giving Jerry the goat killer a huge pass. She decides to call out several other random behaviours – Cecile in her wedding dress before raging about how they’re “spared” and “safe” when her daughter is gone

She storms out – with the goat.

Nora is the one who goes after her. And she gives Erika the questionnaires she stole so Erika can see the questions George will ask and not be scared – when Erika questions the idea of “scared” – with Nora claiming the questions will prove Evie didn’t depart. Erika asks her to come in and ask the questions. She reads them, in the random, the poignant – and it looks increasingly more and more like she is Departed. And in the questioning we learn that Erika had withdrawn a large sum of money from their bank… planning to leave John. She also explains her whole bird burying thing – her grandmother says it’s a way to get wishes granted. And how she never believed that or that the town was chosen – until it was spared the Departure. After that she took a bird and buried it – wishing her kids would be ok if she left John. She knew Michael would understand because his faith would get him though – but not Evie. The bird lived – and Evie disappeared. Ericka blames herself

And Nora pisses all over that bonfire. Because why Evie, why not her? Why not John? And did she bury a whole flock to cause the main Departure? Nora uses her own story to harshly call out blaming yourself for Departure - calling it pathetic

Erika asks Nora the same question Nora asked – and Nora leaves in tears.

Back home Kevin demands he and Nora talk – about him losing his mind. He tells her that he’s hallucinating Patti. Patti disapproves. And then Erika throws a rock through their window.

The concept of a lens sounds like it could have a lot of interesting implications. I mean, what would you do with such a person?  A completely innocent, non-malicious person who is even hurting and grieving, but who may cause anyone around them to vanish?

I think it says a lot about this show and it’s random whacky mysteries (above and beyond the departure itself, all the other random weirdness) that when I heard the “demon Azrael” I though “excellent! An explanation – bring on the demons!” before realising that the doctor being a crank is more likely. But I’d take it. Ye gods I’d take ANYTHING at his point

I don’t know what is in the water at Miracle but even if it doesn’t make you vanish proof it does seem to come with some strong hallucinogens

I mean, I get it, I do – something inexplicable has happened so they’re seizing on ANYTHING that may explain it. Jerry sacrificed a goat and no-one vanished here? Maybe that did it? Or wearing the wedding dress? Or singing Oh Clementine every morning or the demon Azrael or… who knows? Who can know? Who can say any of these are NOT the reason? All they’ve got, as the opening lines say, is a whole lot of correlation and no causation

But all these random acts would be great ornamentation and world building on a forward moving story… which I’m not sure we have

I feel like the pacing of Leftovers is slow. No, that’s wrong. “Pacing is slow” suggests we’re going somewhere but painfully slowly. Pacing is slow would be trying to swim up a swift river upstream. This isn’t a river. This is a mudhole or maybe even a tar pit. A pit filled with weird, unknown fragments of plot that have sank to their doom only to occasionally emerge to give us a brief glimpse before seeking again into the murky depth while we wallow and flail about.

The one thing Leftovers has going for it is some excellent acting and directing that can really portray the severe pain and trauma the characters have lived through – and here Erika was another excellent example of that

Nora’s anger shield is… very brittle.