I watch a lot of television. I’ve seen a lot of movies. I’ve seen untold horrors in the big and small screen over the years. Hell, I’ve seen at least four Faces of Death movies, and still, I didn’t think anything could top seeing a character burned alive in Sons of Anarchy in terms of the intimacy and immediacy of the violence. As in: Brutality that felt horribly, painfully real. With something like Game of Thrones or an Eli Roth movie, it’s easier to remove yourself from the violence. It’s easier to remember that it is fiction. That what’s going on isn’t reality.
However, it turns out, seeing a woman (poor Kathy Geiss) stoned to death is even harder to watch than the scene from Sons of Anarchy. I am not a person who looks away from my television, but hell if I didn’t have to avert my eyes a few times during what felt like a much longer sequence than it actually was. It didn’t matter, though, because the sound of stone meeting face, and stone breaking face — *thudCRUNCH* — is as hard to hear as it is to see.
That may be a death worse than fire. It’s also the last thing I expected on The Leftovers, and that’s precisely why it felt so shocking, or as Dean the Dog Shooter put it, so “f**king horrific.” (Here’s a screenshot, although I wouldn’t click it if I were you).
Speaking of Dean, we can officially (I think) put to rest any notion that he’s not real, although his place in The Leftovers universe is strange. He was with the Guilty Remnant in the woods when they were tracking Kathy Geiss and didn’t seem to flinch at the prospect of shooting another one of the feral dogs, even with scores of GR walking around him. And despite seeing firsthand the danger the anti-GR contingent poses to Mapleton, Dean’s speech during the curfew meeting was the turning point in preventing it the counsel from enacting said curfew.
But then, does it really matter if the GR are stoned to death one by one? That’s what much of last night’s episode turned on: Do the GR still feel? In the episode’s most poignant scene — a conversation about doubt between Reverend Matt Jamison and Officer Garvey — Reverend Jamison posited that “killing these people is pointless” because they are already dead inside. “What I want is to bring them back to life.”
That’s a particularly profound statement from Jameson, who lost his church to the GR because he was trying to save it, and whose very religious beliefs were cast in doubt after the Departure. But, like Job, no amount of suffering will dissuade Reverend Matt from his beliefs.