Here at TB Talks TV, we are working hard to bring our readers and subscribers new and exciting TV content. To that end, we’re going to be starting “dueling reviews” for The Leftovers. Our contributors Liz Hannah and newcomer Jeff Iblings will each be reviewing the new episodes and posting their individual responses. We want to use this feature to encourage more conversation around the show – what you liked, what you hated, and what you just didn’t get. We hope you enjoy the different points of view and we encourage you to leave comments about your own.
By: Jeff Iblings, Contributor
Episode two gets us no closer to understanding the meaning of The Departure, but that’s not really point here. The aftermath of the vanishing is just the setting. Sure there’s a whole lot of mystery surrounding what it all means, but The Leftovers is a character study. It’s about a world where everyone has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, everyone has lost someone through six degrees of separation, everyone wonders “why them, why not me?” It’s about how you deal with the overwhelming loss and the fear. Fear of a world unraveling around you. Fear that it might happen again or worse, fear that you’ll never find out how and why.
The episode starts with a government Seal Team 6 style raid on Holy Wayne’s ranch. He’s deemed a national threat by the NSA due to selling Senators his services, where he heals them with his “magic fucking hugs” and also to statutory rape charges in Pennsylvania. Things go off the rails fast, it’s a blood bath. Tom saves Christine (the gummy worm girl), but must kill a man to do so.
We find out some interesting things about both Tom and Wayne in the aftermath. Wayne is a form of holy man, a sin eater. He has the ability to take the pain and suffering of others into himself, unburdening them. The dark part is that when he’s full, he recharges himself by having sex with very young asian girls like Christine. Tom is an enigma to both us and Wayne. When he tries to take away Tom’s pain from the killing, Tom rebuffs him. Wayne tells him “You’re the one mutherfucker I can’t figure out. You’re all suffering and no salvation.” Wayne is jarring in everything he does. There’s a creepiness, a dangerous and untrustworthy element to the intensity in which he’s played by Patterson Joseph.
Tom on the other hand is a blank slate. He wears a mask that covers what is really going on inside. We get a momentary glimmer of what’s hiding underneath when he has a brief meltdown. It seems he wants to hold on to his pain. Perhaps it makes him feel alive. I look forward to learning more about him during the rest of the season, but so far there isn’t much to connect us to him emotionally yet.
Chief Garvey on the other hand is a full blown mess. We find him several weeks later in a mandated therapy session after the end of episode one when he’s found killing dogs in the middle of the street. He’s having weird stress dreams, and is afraid that like his father, he may be losing his mind. No one else has seen the Mystery Man with the entire tin of chewing tobacco in his mouth, and he’s beginning to think it may all be in his mind. Some of his coworkers think so as well. It also doesn’t help that when he’s at his most stressed, the bagel he puts in the toaster over mysteriously disappears, and the Mystery Man’s truck shows up in his own driveway. The keys are in it, and there is a dead dog in back.
Justin Theroux plays his character with such intensity and sadness that at moments it’s hard not to think he is losing his marbles. Being the Chief of Police he has the burden of not just his own problems on his shoulders, but that of the entire town. The relief on his face is incredibly vivid when the Mystery Man shows up at his house and both his daughter and her friend see him too. He’s so relieved in fact that he goes and visits his father at the mental hospital. Mostly to find out how he knew he “lost his shit”. The great thing about this scene, is the warmth between the two, and that the father seems to be the serene calm one compared to Kevin’s unhinged demeanor. That is until the voices start telling him things. “Someone come to see you? They said they sent or are sending somebody to help you” … the Mystery Man?
Perhaps his father is not crazy like he says, but either way, if this someone shows up, he tells Kevin to keep it to himself.
Now there is a scene with Kevin that some people ragged on online, but I thought was a nice little gem. Remember the bagel that went missing when he was most stressed and at the end of his rope? After his interaction with his father he heads back to the office to take apart the toaster oven. Inside, are the two burnt pieces of his bagel. He’s not losing his shit after all.
Meg (Liv Tyler) is in the “pledge house” of the Guilty Remnant cult. Each day they have her give up something of her own until nothing is left, breaking her down little by little. They also make her chop down a tree with an axe. She barely makes any headway, gets pissed and quits. The last thing in her suitcase, the last thing they can take from her is her mothers sweater. “I don’t want to feel like this anymore”. She smells it before she hands it over, and it’s not overtly stated (that I remember) but it would seem her mother is one of the disappeared. This is the pain she carries. Giving away the sweater is her way of giving away the pain … and with a sense of anger and sadness, and all of the other emotions playing on her face all at once she goes out to finish chopping down the tree and complete her transformation. I have to give it to Liv Tyler, she was fantastic in this episode. I’ve never seen her with so much range before, and I hope we see more of it.
The final interesting storyline has Jill, Aimee, and the Frost Twins following Nora Durst (the lady who lost her entire family and gave the Heroes Day speech in episode one) after Jill bumped into her at the coffee shop and saw a gun in her purse. She also purposely breaks a coffee cup to see how people will react. It appears Nora’s way of dealing with the pain, and awkwardness of everyone feeling sorry for her is to test the boundaries of peoples patience.
There is an interaction with her and Eccleston’s character that leads me to believe that Nora’s new line of work, questioning survivors so they can get departure benefits from their insurance company, is a way to feed him the information she learns. He has been under used so far, but it seems that his whole deal is pointing out that the departed couldn’t possibly be part of a biblical rapture because they are not good people. I guess time will tell if that is a correct assumption or not. Either way I’d like to see more of him soon.
I enjoyed the episode, and though I can see how some people might find it too slow, I enjoy a slow burn as long as there is a payoff in the end.
Some thoughts and questions on the show:
– I can also see how all the writing on pads by the Guilty Remnants could become tedious, but with great writers like Lindelof and Perotta at the helm I doubt they’ll let it come to that.
– I thought it was hilarious that the entire cast of Perfect Strangers were said to have all disappeared.
– I’m intrigued by the voices Kevin’s father hears, and excited to see how it correlates to the Mystery Man.
– Are Nora Durst’s questions she asks families of the departed a lot like the ones we are asking of the show? The more questions we ask, the more meaningless do they become?
– I have not read the book, nor do I want to, as I feel it would taint my experience of the show. I hope to read it after this show has finished.
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.
Read Liz Hannah’s review of “Penguin One, Us Zero” here.