I had expected universal adoration for last night’s haunting episode of HBO’s The Leftovers, “Two Boats and a Helicopter.” To me, it was amazing, riveting television, and that episode provided us with exactly the kind of mindf*ck we’d been hoping for from this series. WE really delved into one of the show’s main characters, Christopher Eccleston’s town pastor, Matt Jamison, and due in part to his tremendous performance, we intimately felt his journey through the episode. A lot of critics — and viewers — agreed that last night’s episode was remarkable television (I saw more than a couple of favorable comparisons to The Twilight Zone) but it seems a very vocal minority also hated it. This group thought it was indicative of everything that’s wrong with The Leftovers, and recalled the worst sins of Damon Lindelof’s Lost past.
I think The Leftovers is suffering from unfortunate anti-Lindelof bias. Like Aaron Sorkin and The Newsroom or even Lena Dunham and Girls, a certain segment of the audience has an axe to grind, and nothing will satisfy them. They want The Leftovers to fail. That part of the audience made up their minds before The Leftovers even aired. And the truth is, if you watch any show with a certain perspective, you can find reasons to dislike it. Hell, you could even make the (very dumb) case that Breaking Bad was not a good show, or that it was the most overrated show ever.
I get it. It’s like getting back together with an ex; even if the relationship is wonderful, you’re still going to be wary, looking for signs of the same bad behaviors. Viewed in a certain light, The Leftovers might also be considered problematic, especially if you’re consumed by parallels between the HBO series, Lost, and Lindelof’s own battles.
But there was nothing slow or boring about last night’s episode of The Leftovers, and while you might be able to argue that some of the turns were tragically predictable — or even inevitable — it didn’t make the events any less devastating. In fact, my own wife bailed on the episode — and the series — when the guy from the roulette table mugged Matt and ran away with the money, noting that she just couldn’t deal with the predictably tragic outcome. It was too sad for her to watch. What she didn’t stick around to see, however, was that while the outcome itself may have been tragic, the events that led to it were decidedly not. The last ten minutes of last night’s episode were, in turns, revealing, hopeful, sad, exhilarating, and ultimately crushing.
Of course in the end, The Guilty Remnant bought the church. We all could’ve predicted that early on. At this point, Matt Jamison also has to seriously be considering joining GR, too. They got the best of him. They took everything away from him.
It was the story of Job: Life put Matt through the wringer, and tested his faith in God. In the end, like Job, he discovered through human suffering the meaninglessness of life! God totally f**ked him over.
What a great, heartbreaking lesson about the pointlessness of it all, right?
Here’s a guy whose wife’s was worse than being lost to the Rapture — she’s in a vegetative state (and my God, Donna from The West Wing looks creepy as a brain-dead woman). Here’s a guy who is regularly getting beat up for trying to prove that it’s the good who were left behind. Here’s a guy who lost his parents. He nearly succumbed to cancer. Here’s a guy that has only one thing left worth living for: A sparsely attended church that he can’t afford to keep.
Does God look out for him?
Nope. God says, “F**k you, Matt Jamison.”