You know how, with most shows, you’re lucky to get a 3-4 great episode streak before a dud inevitably comes along? Yeah, not with The Leftovers. Six episodes into the season and it’s not just getting better and better, it’s actually upping the ante in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Given how much I loved Season 2, The Leftovers may just be the best freaking show on TV right now, as far as I’m concerned – at least until the much anticipated GoT Season 7.
My only minor gripes, perhaps, are: a) the fact that we get increasigly more callbacks to details from previous seasons that aren’t always the most memorable plot points, so it’s hard to instantly make the connection. And b), as much as I love these characters, they’re very hard to relate to, not because they’re badly written or not sympathetic – quite the contrary – but because they’re so far removed from any semblance of reality as we know it. But I guess that’s what makes this show special, so screw it, let’s get on with the recap.
(And by the way, I know this is a day late — I wouldn’t dream of slacking off when it comes to The Leftovers, but last night by neighbors and I had to stage a rescue mission for a doggie who wandered into our yard after narrowly avoiding getting hit by passing cars. The poor thing probably got scared of Sunday night’s thunderstorm and ran off and it took hours before we could get her to calm down enough to let us near her so we could transport her to the shelter. Obviously animals trump TV every time.)
We open with a flashback to Laurie’s days as a therapist right before she joined the Guilty Remnant. A woman is sitting on her couch, recounting her story of failed IVF attempts, until, a few years later, she finally managed to get pregnant, only to have her precious little boy disappear on the day of the Departure. It’s heartbreaking, and I’m inclined to believe this is the same woman from the first scene of the pilot episode.
The story doesn’t even seem to be registering with Laurie, who’s probably thinking of her own pregnancy gone awry on 10/14 (yet another detail I had almost forgotten from the first season) and reaching the end of her rope by now, as is evident in what follows: Laurie swallows a handful of pills, writes a suicide note and tapes it to her door before changing her mind and laying on the couch clutching the envelope. Then, something clicks and she regrets her decision. She makes herself vomit, picks out whatever white garments she can find in her closet (I especially liked the dirty laundry search for white socks) and promptly joins the GR.
At this point in the episode, although I appreciated the fact that we’re finally given some back story as to what pushed her to join the cult, it still didn’t really explain her motivations. Was it her inability to help the grieving people left behind by those who departed? If so, how would tormenting them in the various ways we saw in Season 1 actually be helpful? Was it her way of dealing with her own grief? Not really, as she explains later in this episode.
However, with her story arc completed by the time the credits roll, it does make perfect sense. It’s also a powerful scene, and Apocalyptica’s rendition of Wherever I May Roam, playing throughout and spilling into the title sequence, is strangely fitting.
We cut to the here and now, with Laurie driving a beat-up old VW van and arriving at Grace’s home to meet Kevin Sr. She’s sporting a black eye and carrying Kevin’s torched copy of the Book, which was somehow salvaged from the hotel fire. Kevin isn’t there, he’s off “having himself a think”. Laurie decides to stay. Whatever is happening here, she wants to be a part of it. That’s a far cry from the sceptic we’ve seen throughout the trip to Australia, so what caused her to change her attitude?
We won’t find out until later in the episode. For now, we cut to a couple of days earlier, with Laurie up in a tree, spying on a couple of women in a house, until a dog attack forces her to retreat back to the beat-up van. Matt and Nora are there, and apparently they’ve discovered the two lady docs in charge of the suicide device.
Back in present time, Kevin Sr tells his story of how he ended up at Grace’s, witnessed the murder of the other Kevin, and decided that his son is the key to the success of his mission to save the world. Laurie matter-of-factly summarizes the rest: he wants to drown Kevin so he can go to the place where all the dead people are, find Christopher Sunday and learn the song that will stop the biblical flood Sr is convinced is coming. What’s even more surreal is that Kevin is actually considering it! John is also behind the idea, because he’s hoping that Evie will be there too.
Laurie’s delivery is awesome, and, as she puts it, “it sounds crazy, but these are crazy times”. Yes, the theory is insane, but it also, somehow, makes perfect sense, because this is The Leftovers we’re talking about. Or is it the Wizard of Oz? Everybody wants something out of it, after all, and Kevin is the one who will give them what they need.
Back in the van, Laurie takes a look at the tapes of the people who went through the device giving their consent, and she and Nora discuss suicide. Apparently Nora’s ideal way of ending her life would be scuba diving: a lot can happen underwater; oxygens tanks and pumps can malfunction, a person can just switch off the air supply and there you go. A bit odd, if you ask me, coming from a woman who liked to hire hookers to shoot her, but hey, it’s better than Matt’s way of killing himself: his cancer is back, he didn’t tell anyone and refused treatment.
They talk about Laurie and John’s scam and Nora wants to know what her own reading would be like. Laurie refuses to indulge her, because they don’t do departures, which we’ve already established. Laurie explains the difference between helping someone get over their grief when a death occurs, as opposed to those left behind by the Departure: these people want answers, not closure. Nora begs to differ.
We get a more few callbacks to Season 1: Laurie and the GR terrorizing Nora by setting replicas of her family around the dinner table; the running theme of smoking and the Laurie’s lighter, which Nora stubbornly refuses to give back as Laurie freaks out and the two get in a physical altercation that ends with Nora accidentally elbowing Laurie in the eye.
Back at Grace’s, the doorbell rings and it’s a police officer making enquiries (presumably about the missing Chief). He takes a look around the propery and Kevin Sr quickly solves the problem by knocking the poor cop unconscious and driving him to whatever remote location he might end up in – the end is near, after all, so if he has to account for assaulting a cop when this is over, it means he will have saved the world. Small price to pay.
Grace is making dinner (her husband’s stew recipe, which she can’t get quite right, apparently) and asks about Kevin. He was a great husband, Laurie says; “But you divorced him”, says Grace. “I joined a cult, you know? It’s one of those things they make you do”. Once again, Laurie’s deadpan delivery is gold. She tells Grace she’s sorry about her children, and Grace relates a story about how they had no shoes on when they found their bodies, but her low voice and accent made the next bit indecipherable
Laurie has a conversation with John, that seems quite final in retrospect. They reminisce about their first coffee date and he confesses that he felt he could tell her anything except the fact that he couldn’t accept that Evie was dead. He just wants Kevin to find Evie and tell her she was loved.
At the dinner table, Kevin Sr note the Last Supper similarities – although it’s not quite the same without their own personal Jesus there. They’re also missing a few apostles, and it brings us right back to the parallels we all drew between John, Matt and Michael back when the idea of Kevinism was first introduced. Laurie isn’t Mary Magdalene, says Kevin; she’s Doubting Thomas. Maybe that was true up until last week, but our favorite psyhiatrist seems to have turned out now. She’s Judas, she says, and true enough, she has “betrayed” them by dropping some extra-strength doggy medicine into the stew to sedate them. She had been conspicuously eyeing the small drug container as she was stirring the pot in the previous scene, so that’s not a big surprise.
In yet another flashback to Laurie, Matt and Nora’s quest to track the suicide device, we arrive at a beach location where huge containers are being loaded onto a truck. It looks legit, and Nora is visibly upset and emotional. She tells a story from her childhood: after their parents died, the community tried to take care of Matt and Nora and keep them occupied. They took them to a baseball game, but Nora was too young to understand the game so she focused on the giant baseball bounced around by the spectators instead. It was the first time in a long time that she saw Matt smile, but their joy was quickly cut short when an usher confiscated and deflated the ball. Why would anyone want that job, she asks. Because otherwise it would be chaos, Laurie says.
Matt decides to stay with Nora and they say their goodbyes to Laurie, Matt gives Laurie the book to give to Kevin Sr and Laurie takes the van and leaves. So Nora is going through with this after all. Is Matt going to join her, or is he just there for moral support?
At Grace’s ranch, Kevin finaly returns to find Laurie waiting for him. She offers a cigarette, and we get a reminder for the lighter’s significance: it was given to her by Jill and inscribed with the words “Don’t forget me”. Thenk god for these brief flashbacks because, like I said before, my memory of Season 1 is a big hazy.
Kevin and Laurie discuss what’s about to happen: Kevin is willing to die once again, because what he experienced in that place (the Hotel) felt so real. He felt SO ALIVE. In lieu of goodbyes, they start sharing a few secrets; mostly inconsequential at first, quite significant as they go on.
These last confessions are interesting not only because of the information relayed – we knew about Laurie’s pregnancy and the departed fetus, for instance, but Kevin didn’t, and now we realize she didn’t really want the baby to begin with – but because they’re not only Kevin’s way of saying goodbye, but Laurie’s as well. Kevin’s not the only one who will be dying soon.
We see Laurie on a boat in scuba gear. She’s ready to take the plunge when her phone rings: it’s Jill, trying to remember a detail of her childhood and settle an argument with Tommy. It’s an emotional conversation for Laurie, but Jill has no idea her mother is also in Australia, nor, of course, that this is probably the last conversation they’ll share. Laurie tells her children she loves them and off she goes. The titles roll as we listen to the ocean.
Holy crap. Did any of us expect most of the main characters heading to their apparent deaths with two episodes to go? I, for one, didn’t, and yet the way it played out didn’t feel out of place. Nora is finally going to get some ‘closure’, one way or another; Matt’s previously unshakable faith seems to have shifted since last week, and he’s content to let Kevin Sr take over; Laurie tried to help her loved ones as best she knew how, and now there’s nothing left for her to do.
And Kevin… he just wants to go back to the Hotel. I’m excited about the possibility of revisiting the International Assassin location, but the show could always decide to throw us a curveball, so I’m keeping my expectations low at this point. Whatever #Thappens, however, I have no reason to doubt it’s going to be a spectacular ending!