Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Leftovers, Season 3, Episode 2: Don't be Ridiculous

Like pretty much every episode of The Leftovers, this episode exists to show us he mental states of people

Which are pretty much obvious anyway, but hey let’s have an entire episode of random encounters and mood music so we can emphasise what these emotions are all so we can have an hour long episode in which virtually nothing substantive happens so we can say, yet again, how the Depature left everyone in emotional pieces. Again.

This is what we’ve been doing for 2 seasons and barring a whole lot of Kevin hallucinations, not much has happened

This episode is all about Nora. Nora, she who lost nearly her entire family to the Departure and has now become a hard nosed fraud investigator for the Department of the Departed, ready to cut through all the myths and legends that have risen up about it

So when the old guy who has been up a tower since the Departure began finally falls off that tower and dies she and Kevin are quick to investigate. His wife, clinging to her faith and desire to believe, insists the man Departed. Kevin is happy to leave it at that because it makes everyone happy and peaceful while she gets right in there, forces Matt to admit he helped the wife cover up the death and they buried the body in secret. Then she has that body dug up and takes photos of it

She’s also pretty good at shooting down any of the other fictions that are rising up. Including the idea that Kevin is a messiah which she mocks gloriously (much to Kevin’s discomfort) and even has an awesomely effective moment when she praises John for the book. But she praises it as “exciting”. She’s praising it as a work of fiction.

Nora has no time for fiction and lies and even self-delusion around the Departure. This is underscored when someone contacts her offering her a means to contact her departed children. She’s furious and gets her boss to fund her to follow this up intending to expose it

While still hoping. This tiny, desperate hope that maybe this would be true – that tiny hope that keeps hurting her.

She follows it up and finds a man who is very like her. He lost several members of his family as well – and he looks like he’s a true believer in this method even as Nora believes he is a victim of a fraud. He angrily shoots her down when she tries to psychoanalyse him – because he lost all those members of his family and it was completely arbitrary. This is a major element of the Leftovers and the Departure – there’s NO REASON. It’s completely random and there’s apparently nothing you can possibly do to avoid it or figure out why. He angrily tells her that what he’s doing is to try and gain some control

Obviously this is a parallel. Because Nora storming around and shutting down any fallacies around the departure is pretty much the same thing. She is seeking her own control – putting the Depature in the past and slamming everything that may change that.

She checks the testimonials of the many people who have taken this means to join their family and it’s painful – either seeing all these people  who were desperate to see their families and were defrauded, or all these people who actually managed to be reunited with their loved ones. Of course Nora is deeply affected by this

While visiting she watches a playground full of children while clearly torn up about it. She also visits Erika for booze, tramlining and talking about loss and how Nora still feels she is falling apart after the loss of her children. Erika lays it out simply – she had Evie to bury when she died, but Nora didn’t. Nora had no closure

She also explains her broken arm – she did it herself to cover her new tattoo. It was a tattoo of her children’s names: but then she realised this would be something people talked about forever – she would always be asked about and have a display of her lost children forever. She would always be Nora Cused, the woman who lost her entire family.

And it’s all powerful and meaningful and deep but my gods we KNOOOOOOW. We know this. This has been established by Nora over and over and over again for 2 seasons and we’re having yet another episode of excellently acted, very emotional, very well written and well done to not actually advance the plot so much

Thus established, Nora returns home and she takes that picture she took of the corpse and publically displays it. Including front of her grieving wife.

This is Nora, a woman who has lost so many she loved who refuses to hope and is angry at anything that gives people false hope. She’s angry about all the lies and the deceptions and the frauds and even the self-delusion people have. Because she still has that crumb of hope and it still hurts her and she’s trying to get past the narrative of “Nora Cursed” the woman who lost all of her family and move on to a new life – but she can’t. And all those little hopes and delusions will keep pulling her back, because, as was clear with Erika, she doesn’t have closure. She had no body to bury. She still has that hope

But she’s also brutal – because she came through fire and she kind of has no patience for those who were singed. Because she doesn’t really see the collateral damage in her quest to stop all the lies and the false hope.

And this episode did a great job of showing all that – but we already knew this, didn’t we? We’d already seen this?

When she comes home she also runs into Zack who tells her, somewhat randomly, about his opinions on being adopted and also finally explained what happened to Lily (her mother wanted to reclaim custody). She also finds out about Kevin’s self-suffocation thing. She doesn’t over-react about this: she doesn’t even demand he explain. She knows that they’re all hurting and dealing with it in different ways. She doesn’t expect him - or herself – to be all healthy here

Which is why she bursts into peals of laughter when Kevin suggests they have a baby. She has no illusion about how ready they are for that

So now that’s all the character development done (again) it’s time for the plot – she gets a call from this person purporting to be able to send her to her children and they tell her she has to go to Australia. Which she agrees to and Kevin wants to come along

So to Australia where we have a weather report apparently predicting hellfire, locusts and blood (I’m assuming this is normal for Australia), a police chief who is a bit of an arsehole and runs over kangeroos (because why not) and is kidnapped by a bunch of women who drown him (also, no no no need for the c-slur. Really, this edgy nonsense is unnecessary, bigoted and encourages the perpetration of these words as acceptable. There are so many alternatives that don’t have the weight of this word)

They’re trying to drown him because he’s a police chief named Kevin so it’s time to tie him to a board and lower his head into the water. It was not eaten by a crocodile, stung by a jelly fish, bitten by a sea snake or savaged by a koala. So I don’t think this is being filmed in Australia.

We also see Kevin’s dad has moved to Australia as well

Look I get this episode is so incredibly powerful and emotional and thematic. This is something that The Leftovers is so very good at. So incredibly good at it. It is, I can’t and won’t for a second deny that. The horror of the Departure, the uncertainty around it, everything be forever in doubt and the emotional wreckage it left in its wake – it’s all so very powerful. But it has been very powerful for 2 seasons now and I need something to go with this powerful background.