Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Leftovers Season 2, Episode 10: I live Here Now

After the revelation of last episode we return again to the night when Evie first disappeared – this time following the girls. As soon as they’re out of ear shot of their families they become silent, turning off the radio, not taking. When one cries, Evie tells her not to – through writing.

They go to the lake, set up their car to be found and watch Kevin jump in the lake – before the earthquake drains it and saved Kevin.

Now we’re back to Kevin digging himself out of the ground after being poisoned and being found by a surprised Michael. Patti is gone.

At the Murphy household tension are high and they finally open the present Evie got John for his birthday on the day he disappeared – inside is a bug. The cricket that was driving John up the wall: John is happy but Erika bursts that bubble with a hard truth – she caught another bug simply because John wouldn’t let it go – which pretty much sums up his character. This revelation doesn’t go down well.

John finally learns that it’s Kevin’s hand print on his daughter’s car – grabs a gun and goes with the Rangers to pay his neighbours a visit. Big tense confrontation time. Kevin goes with John to somewhere “neutral” to talk.

John takes Kevin to the kennels for questioning while there John tries to play nice but, well, isn’t exactly wise. He brings up John’s father and that Virgil abused John oh and that Kevin came back from the dead (just to push John’s buttons who loathes the idea that Miracle is special). To top it off, he tells John that maybe Evie did this to her family because she didn’t love them all that much

John shoots Kevin. Well that’s a counter-argument

That leaves Laurie and Jill to talk and Laurie – she who joined the Guilty Remnant, she who didn’t talk to Jill for weeks, perhaps months, says “you’re going to have to talk to me.” Jill deserves a medal for not slapping her upside the head for that one. Laurie is too aware of her own epic guilt to make any kind of convincing arguments against her.

Nora has a crying baby and Mary and ever more frazzling nerves. It being the anniversary of the Departure doesn’t help nor someone calling on people to turn to Jesus: she breaks the radio and an Earthquake hits. Like everything on this show it could be related, it could be random. After the shaking stops Mary wakes up and talks, asking for Matt.

They go to see Matt who is predictably overjoyed. Then terrified of her not being in Miracle, of her cure being reliant on Miracle; Mary’s also overjoyed about being pregnant and confirms that she was awake when that child was conceived. Nora leaves them for a while and wanders off – noticed by Tom and Meg. Tom tries to guess that Meg wants to hear “there is no family” only to have Meg, confusingly, say family is everything.

Meg charges into Miracle with the trailer, smashing her way onto the bridge and then parks – after telling them she has 35lb of plastic explosives. And out of the Trailer come Evie and her friends all dressed as good Guilty Remnant.

John goes out and sees them – and knows his daughter’s alive and he’s just murdered an innocent man. Nora is smug because the girls didn’t Depart while Matt is worried that they can’t get back into Miracle. Evie holds up a sign saying “One Hour” which everyone assumes means when the explosives go off – it’s also 1 hour to the four year anniversary of the Departure.

Michael and Erika have gone to church where they’re celebrating how their town was saved. Michael objects and gets up to speak – he speaks out against the idea that the town was spared that, just because people didn’t Depart, didn’t mean they didn’t lose people in other ways and didn’t have other problems (drawing on a childhood memory of when their dad was imprisoned).

They then learn bout Evie – ad Erika runs past the barricades to her daughter, hugging he even while Evie ignores her and looks through her no matter how she speaks or touches her.

The clock counts down and dozens of people in the camp change into the white of the Guilty Remnant. Oh and the trailer is empty – no bombs.

What they do have us a huge number Guilty Remnant forcing their way into Miracle through sheer numbers. Erika makes the mistake of asking Evie why – oh Erika, it’s Leftovers you’re not meant to understand. Evie just writes “you understand”.

And someone woman who has been harassing Lore and the baby all day grabs her baby saying “she’s not yours.” The woman then drops the baby in the middle of the stampeding crowd (all the people in the camp outside Miracle surge inside) and Nora throws herself over her, sheltering her as people walk over her. It’s Tom who pulls he to her feet and safety in the trailer.

Kevin wakes up naked in a bath again – apparently in the same hotel as his last death hallucination. This time he dresses as a cop. More randomness, more booze, more crypticness and karaoke and a guy who helped him get back last time. Apparently the key to returning to life is karaoke.

Why have an hour+ long season finale if you’re going to stuff it with this much filler?

So Kevin is now alive but with a terrible bullet wound. Why don’t people return from the dead all the time?! He emerges to find the welcome station pretty much in ruins and full of Guilty Remnant led by Meg. She sings. Because why not. Evie joins in. He seems to be better form the bullet wound.

Miracle itself is full of partying people who are also looting and burning and generally being random. There goes the neighbourhood. Belatedly remembering he is actually shot, Kevin goes to the clinic and starts bleeding to death only to be found by John. Best line of the show:

“I killed you.”

John tearfully breaks down not understanding a thing what is happening. You and the entire audience, John. After some doctoring, Kevin invites John to stgay and they part as apparently friendly neighbours. What’s a little shooting between friends?

Then we have an Earthquake. He goes home to find his whole extended family gathered. Well that’ll work, they all hate each other. No-one sings karaoke. I kind of expected them to.

Hey still waiting for an explanation of the prehistoric snake-bite lady, remember her?

Ok, I get it. I get a lot of what the Mystery of this show is for – it’s to establish the whole theme of what is real and what isn’t. Ultimately the whole question of the Leftovers, after the initial Departure, is whether woo-woo is real. We have a gazillion events which could be woo-woo – or could be a character desperately wanting to believe or they’re hallucinating or making as much sense as the woman who wears her wedding dress every day or Erika burying her birds

I think that’s what underpines a lot of the whackiness of Leftovers, every character – every last character – is doing something odd or extreme or inexplicable because explicable no longer has any meaning. They’re all dealing with a reality where the rules have suddenly, shockingly changed and who knows what the rules are now? How can you say anyone is wrong – and each character gets more extreme and the extremeness of it pushes everyone else: from the Guilty Remnant being supreme arseholes to people being horrendously brutal to repress them. From the people trying to get into Miracle being so bizarre, to the Rangers in Miracle becoming storm troopers to stop them. From people setting up new cults, to John brutally attacking anyone who believes Miracle is… miraculous.

I get that. And I even like that – it’s fascinating how they develop all these characters trying to live in a world so inherently lacking in certainties.

But it pushed too far and had too much randomness for the sake of it that went nowhere. Did we need a full episode of Kevin’s after-death hotel experience? And now after-death hotel? Did we have to have Tom and the Guilty Remnant and the rape (which was then denied?). Did we have to have Matt in the stocks? Did we have to have the woman randomly grabbing the baby (was that meant to be a comment on interracial adoption?)

In the end, it drowns you. It drowns you in random. It drowns you in symbolism. It drowns you in questions and weirdness. It drowns you so much that the what is actually meaning and actually fascinating character growth is just lost. It’s too much of a Madlib for it to have purpose.

Diversitywise the Murphy family remained relatively prominent which pretty much surprised me – though calling out the trope of the magical, mystery Black man is great but means little if you do live up to it – and it’s equally dubious that John spent so much of the series being the angry, sinister threat.

There are also disabled characters – Evie has epilepsy (which we hardly ever see because we hardly see her), Erika is hearing impaired (which is depicted and it made a point of depicting her difficulty hearing rather than just rendering her hearing unnoticed with hearing aids all the time) and Mary has clear disabilities (though most of them, as I’ve said, seem to be clearly meant to depict her as such a terrible burden on poor Matt… and she hasn’t been awake long enough for us to see different).

Mental illness is more… fraught. In some ways every single character is suffering from deep trauma that affects them in some ways – hope, despair, truly extreme actions are all very much a part of this show. And Laurie even openly talks about them as mental illness diagnosis. Of course, the flip side is that while some characters are clearly dealing with mental illness (Nora paying a woman to shoot her) and trauma, equally several of them could actually be because of woo-woo. I think that mental illness is not present just as a depiction but as a tool to advance the theme.

We do have a number of female characters – and while the focus is still very much on John and Kevin, I think Nora, Erika, Meg and Laurie definitely get their own powerful screen moments as well. Despite her anger and pain, Erika may be the last reasonable person left on this show. And I kind of loved Patti.

Despite a pretty damn huge cast, we have not one LGBT person. Which follows the first season of only one episode bit part of a nameless gay character. The erasure is glaring