{TB Talks TV} The Leftovers – J. Iblings Response: “The Prodigal Son Returns”


By: Jeff Iblings, Contributor

Here we are, the season finale of . It’s been quite a journey. I know I for one was wondering if there would be a satisfying ending to the first season show. Thankfully, the answer is yes.

I’ve enjoyed this show immensely, from beginning to end. Don’t get me wrong. I had my worries that at the end of this episode we’d be left with so many more questions than what we started with. Thankfully this show has had a unique vision, a plan, thanks to two creators and a stable of writers with their minds fixed on an ending. They pulled it all off. This isn’t an easy sort of show. There are multiple layers, Easter eggs, tips of the hat, a downbeat mood, and yet it still came off fairly masterfully.

Patti has set something in motion, and she’s had an end plan from the very beginning. It wasn’t much of a secret. I figured the use of the dolls was for the most sinister and heart-rending thing they could’ve possibly done, and it was. We see the plan unfolding in flashbacks, and then Meg and the rest of the GR taking to the vans to unleash this hell they’ve planned for the town. It unfolds before our very eyes to a pitch perfect orchestral version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.”

They have planted still lives all over Mapleton. Where once a departure took place, now a proxy, a reminder has arrived. It is the most cold hearted and sinister thing to do to those already suffering. The response to it on the face of Nora so intensely that we can picture all of the town’s reactions at once. These wax figure representations are hideous; they are pain incarnate. They were meant to get a reaction, and they sure as hell do.

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Kevin is in a sticky situation. Patti has forced her own demise. It’s an end she’s prepared herself and all of her followers for. She’s inflicted a different sort of pain on Kevin, but with consequences just as drastic. No one would believe Kevin did not do it, and that’s really the point. Fuck with a person long enough and you can break them. It’s how the GR recruited Meg and all of the others. For a man already questioning his reason, Patti was aiming for a kick over the ledge of sanity. Thankfully he has Matt, a trustworthy friend and shoulder to lean on.

Matt has been a solid counter measure to the GR’s agenda. He is an antidote to the nihilism they’ve tried to poison the community with. He lost his wife and his church, but he didn’t give up. His perseverance has remained strong, and so has his friendship. He helps Kevin bury Patti, and assures him they are in this situation together.

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Kevin’s mind is not yet ready to let him break away from the lingering fears of insanity though. In a dream sequence, we see Matt drop Kevin off at the mental hospital. He’s there with his father and Patti. They fight over him, like an angel and demon wrestling over a soul. Until she finally screams for him to “wake the fuck up!” and snaps him back to reality.

Kevin and Matt have a moment in a dinner, almost the mirror image of the one between Patti and Laurie. For the first time, Kevin unburdens himself. This is his confession, and he confesses everything: his desire to leave his family, the affair with the woman as the departure happened, and how after the departure he wanted nothing more than his family back, but he “started to lose them one by one.” This is the cathartic moment he’s so desperately needed all season long.

The death that Wayne has foretold of all season long has finally come to him. Kevin finds Wayne in the bathroom, bleeding out and having a moment of doubt. It’s the same question we’ve asked all along. Is he legit? Are his powers for real, or is he selling a placebo, telling people what they want to hear? Even Wayne isn’t sure if his powers are real or not. To prove it to himself, he asks Kevin to make a wish, and he will grant it before he dies. Without a shadow of a doubt Kevin wished for his family back.

When Matt and Kevin get back to Mapleton they find themselves in the middle of a shit storm the GR created. They’ve poked a hornet’s nest with a stick, and now the town is stinging back. The provocation was meant to get the town to kill the members of the GR.  Based on all the gunfire, beatings, and burning homes, they got what they wanted.

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We saw in an earlier episode with Gladys, that when faced with extreme pain the vow of silence disappears. It is the same when Laurie is pulled out of one of the burning houses. The only word she’s said since joining the GR is “Jill,” and it’s done to help Kevin save their daughter’s life. We are seeing Kevin’s wish come to fruition.

Nora’s goodbye letter to Kevin, told through voice over, left me thinking for a moment that she was going to kill herself. Instead it brings us full circle, and we find the wish Kevin made has pulled all the strings and all the missing parts back together. Kevin has wished to have his family back, and he gets one. Perhaps not the one he wished for, but a better one. Wayne was the real deal, and he was right, the child he had with Christine is the bridge. It is the bridge that keeps Nora from leaving, and when she finds the baby, the family is complete. Kevin, Jill, Nora, the baby, and a black dog once wild. They all got what they need.

Thoughts on the finale:

–  Intense and superb. Carrie Coons should get an Emmy for her work in this episode alone. She’s been a bright spot in the entire show, but her work here shows so much range. I can’t believe I haven’t seen her in anything before.

–  In the aftermath, Laurie and Tom reunite. Will they form their own family? The statue reminds us of her lost child, but now she has regained a different lost child.

–  What happens to the GR in the wake of this horrendous thing they’ve done to the community?

–  I’m curious about Christine and Dean. Will they be back?

–  Season 2 can’t come soon enough. This is probably one of my favorite shows right now.


For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.

Twitter: @OfSoundnVision

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