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July 14, 2014 - 6:21pm

'The Leftovers' RECAP: A nuanced and complex episode



Chloe Gilke: Wow. What an episode. “Two Boats and a Helicopter” took a step away from the Garveys and elaborated upon Reverend Matt Jamison, whom we’d previously seen handing out fliers and denouncing the departed “heroes.” I was a little skeptical at first, since episodes that isolate one character tend to be my least favorites, and this one would be especially risky considering that we didn’t know enough about Matt to really want his full story in the first place. But this episode was just astounding. Matt is a compelling figure, and I’m grateful that a break in the action allowed his story to be told. Matt isn’t just a spiteful conspiracist, and this episode laid out his tragic philosophy and worldview. He looks for meaning in everything terrible that happens (which, for Matt personally, is a whole lot of dark shit). The people who disappeared weren’t taken at random, but he has the proof that God took the worst of them. But Matt is no saint himself, as he begged his grieving sister for money and used his connection with God to win big at the casino. (Speaking of, the first thing I do when I turn 21 is inviting Matt Jamison to Vegas with me. And maybe a bodyguard.)

Akshay Seth: This was by far my favorite episode of the series so far and just a great piece of television in general. Perrotta and Lindelof had done a good enough job in the previous installments to lay out just enough information about the reverend to make his story compelling and the deeper focus we got on him this week didn’t stray away from the show’s decidedly morose tone. I think that roulette sequence in the casino was coordinated perfectly but what really made it stick was the dreadful feeling of urgency we spent the entire episode creating.and blowing up until the final minutes. I think in our first recap, we said it’ll be important for this show to eventually step away from the central Garvey family to make sure the story doesn’t become too insular, and I’m glad that though both Kevin and Laurie both make an appearance, Rev. Jamison is the person who ties all these surrounding stories together.

Chloe Gilke: Another similarity between this episode and the wider story of Mapleton is the way that Lindelof and Perotta deliver exposition. Everything is held back until the moment it becomes directly relevant. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that Nora and Matt are siblings (or that she must be the little girl mentioned in his cancer kid sermon). Matt’s wife is catatonic after their October 14 car accident, but unclear details didn’t make the scene in which he puts her to bed any less gut-wrenching. With her caretaker unpaid and disgruntled, Matt was left to give her a bath and retire to the sad little cot next to her bed. Even after he came up with his plan to pay the caretaker and get back his church, Matt’s bad luck followed. He won at the casino, but a hoodlum took off with his money. He managed to fight off the guy, but also may have accidentally murdered him. He suffered some hallucinations, but arrived back at the bank just in time to pay for the church. Except, it’s already got a fresh coat of white paint from those sneaky G.R. buyers. I might feel sorry for Matt, but it’s tough karma for all the negativity he’d been spreading.

Akshay Seth: And the reason he’s unable to get to the church on time is directly related to him attempting to help the G.R. so it’s just a little bit of cruel irony when he sees them painting over his church and throwing away the bibles. The episode ends with him shooting a death stare at the mysterious head of the G.R. and I’m hoping that means we’ll get to see an epic showdown where Jamison points his snooping abilities at the cult. Whatever happens, I’m glad we finally got to have moments where it was clearly implied that these developments were part of a grander scheme. Matt’s arc is increasingly starting to become about his inability to let go of his idealism — which can be construed as his quest to expose the departed or more generally, the belief his church has the ability to change lives. I think his success at the casino and following misfortune at the hand of the G.R. will just feed into those beliefs. It’ll be interesting to see where he takes them.

Chloe Gilke: It was a pretty minor moment, but the baptism scene really stuck with me. A man brought his baby to Matt’s church while his wife was getting a manicure, and took the baby in secret so that his non-religious wife wouldn’t find out. Matt was gleeful at the chance to baptize the baby, and even though at this point we know about Matt’s money struggles, he only requested that the man try and convince his wife to come to church the following Sunday. Like you said, his flaw is his idealism. People get what’s coming to them. Matt had faith that his $20,000 would multiply to $160,000, and that his Monday night of casino-hopping would surely be enough to win him the church by Tuesday. “The Leftovers” has always been bleak, but there’s nothing more depressing than the notion of someone’s faith being for nothing. Matt saw little breaks in his suffering, but in the end, life just keeps on being terrible. On a lighter note: apparently, Kevin Garvey Sr. stowed an enormous amount of money for the Rev. in a peanut butter jar. (He even left a note accompanying the cash.) Brb, checking all the peanut butter in my house for money.

Akshay Seth: It’s revealed halfway through this episode how Matt believes the Disappearance was God’s way of testing the people left behind. That being said, it’s obvious by the end that his beliefs are visibly shaken when in his comatose vision his wife asks him “why do you persist?” Almost immediately after, he loses his church and discovers that everything he’s done in the past few days becomes pointless — all because he chose to help the people who ended up screwing him over. He’s trying his best to keep a hand on the thing he holds dearest in his world: his faith, but by the time the credits roll, it becomes apparent he’s been unable to deviate from the original plan which stated that he was going to end up losing the church. The only thing left is his suffering. In a way, it’s an interesting metaphor for all the information he’s been collecting on the disappeared: He puts himself through all this pain to accumulate it, but at the end of the day, there’s no point trying to convince anyone because they’re not coming back. And the only reminder is that faith and that suffering.

Chloe Gilke: Matt’s hallucinations are also quite telling. He might think this is all a test, but underneath his faith is a lot of self-doubt. The church appears as a recurring motif. As for literal churches, a young Matt and Nora watch an old building burn, and Matt has a vision of his own congregation full of worshippers. But he also has some frightening visions of sin. Matt hallucinates sex with his wife, but suddenly her face becomes Laurie’s. He was so eager to condemn Nora’s husband for cheating, but this proves that thoughts of infidelity have at least crossed his mind. He relives the car crash that incapacitated his wife (I remember hearing the sound of the crash in the pilot episode, but it was so much more meaningful the second time around). His last vision is of his own hands aflame, those same hands that blessed the baby earlier in the episode burning with hellfire. I know Christopher Eccleston is listed toward the beginning of the opening credits, but I seriously thought Matt might be dead after all that. Of course, I’m glad he’s not, since he’s proven in this one episode that he’s endlessly fascinating character, perhaps my new favorite on the show (second only to Kevin’s abs). And with the hallucination revealing his ungodly feelings toward Laurie, it should be interesting to see how he handles the aftermath of losing the church to the G.R.

Akshay Seth: I kept thinking this episode was going to end with Matt dead in a ditch or incapacitated for the next few weeks, and though I’m happy he gets to stick around, I’m even more excited to explore the weird relationship he has with the G.R. It makes sense that the two ideologies, both in a way asking people not to forget what happened in the Disappearance, support each other, but I saw the G.R.’s buyout of the church as an indirect way of telling Matt that it’s time to leave this unending misery behind. But the sad part is realizing Matt still hadn’t given up faith in his quest, so his likely response to the turn of events will be anger — glimmers of which we saw in this episode. I’m looking forward to finding out exactly why the G.R. wanted to purchase the church and where exactly they got the money to do so.

Chloe Gilke: Apparently, the G.R. has been buying up entire cul-de-sacs of houses. If they can afford all those cigarettes, they probably have a few peanut butter jars of money hidden somewhere, too. The G.R. have been built up to be some sort of villains, but I’m interested to see more of their side of the story. If we were granted such an unfiltered view of Matt’s ideology, then I’m sure we’ll get some insight into the G.R. And, although this episode had a refined focus, there are plenty of big consequences to explore in the weeks to come. Matt burned his last bridges with Nora, who refused him money and now knows of her husband’s infidelity. The betrayal of the G.R. taking the church is even more poignant considering that Matt sees them as good people like himself (or, at least, good enough to be left behind). The reason for his near-fatal head injury was that he tried to help a G.R. member who had been struck. Now that we know the extent of Matt’s rich history, I’m excited to catch up with the rest of Mapleton in the next episode.