The Leftovers “B.J. and the A.C.” Review (1×04)

21 Jul


Pictures are snapped every day with a rapidity that makes you wonder: “Will I ever really look at this?” The answer may be yes, but oftentimes, it’s the other way around; yet, that doesn’t prevent us from pulling out the phone at every chance we get and attempting to capture a fleeting moment in our lives. For, we’re a species that craves the feeling of a tangible object, a physical representation of the memories that perpetually accumulate over the years.

After an event like the Sudden Departure, the past is thrown into a whole new perspective; our memories become absolutely essential, and the lack of a reason for the loss of our loved ones serves to exacerbate our deepest fears, our deepest insecurities. That picture still remains, though, and what was once simply a nice reminder of those we love becomes a curtain between sanity and delusion. Now, the question becomes: how meaningful is it, really? Enter the Guilty Remnant, breaking into peoples’ homes–this is not a very well-guarded town–and essentially stealing memories, taking pictures and replacing them with blank slates. Some semblance of meaning becomes pure meaningless, but if you look at it the other way around, the meaningless of holding onto the past is transformed into a plane on which you can craft meaning.

“Everything That Matters About You Is Inside” reads the pamphlet handed to Tom at the bus stop, and inside, it’s simply an empty space. Again, the exploration of the concept of meaningless comes into play here: what if, instead of a photo of you and your happy family at a time in the past, at a time you’ll never get back, you could start anew? What if life now is meaningless because you’re still sticking your hand into a sewer, a lighter bearing the words “Don’t Forget Me” just out of your reach? It’s certainly a cynical view of the world, but it’s one perspective.

In essence, “B.J. and the A.C.” is about physical objects with profound, symbolic meaning. The divorce papers, signifying the official end of a marriage and a nihilistic way of life consuming one half of it. The lighter, signifying the dissolution of a family and an attempt to hold onto that family. The Loved Ones, signifying our desire to have something to bury, even if that something is not the someone we knew.

Finally, we get to the Baby Jesus. Last week, we delved into religion and the place it occupies in this society, and this week, we see that people don’t really care whether or not the stolen doll is returned to the manger. Garvey reluctantly takes it upon himself to find the doll after he’s pressured by both the Mayor and Jill, but at the holiday dance, he’s met with scattered applause. He ends up ditching it at the side of the road, and it all comes down to, yet again, meaningless. The opening of the episode, which is musically and visually perfect, by the way, utilizes an assembly line to emphasize manufactured tradition; it’s just an object, but certain people assign it a huge significance, and well, a Nativity scene just wouldn’t be right without Jesus. It’s fitting that Matt’s doll ends up being the one in the manger and Garvey’s doll ends up in the snow, as the latter’s connection to Jesus is not as much spiritual as it is due to the fact that he “needs a win”.

Kevin Garvey’s most significant moment, it would seem, is his confession to Nora about him cheating on his wife. His anger about Laurie and the divorce seems a bit ironic now in hindsight, but what matters is that in the hallway of the school, two broken people find common ground. However, as the community comes together at the dance and as Garvey and Durst get some things off their chests–create blank slates, if you will–the Guilty Remnant will remain out there, stealing memories and, when they’re done, standing at the edge of your lives.

And who crosses that edge? You do.



-I’m assuming the title stands for “Baby Jesus and the Antichrist”.

– “Their word against ours.” Ha.

-Jill sets the Baby Jesus adrift on the water, and whaddya know? She’s someone who’s adrift (so, by the way, is Tom, and lots of other people). Of course, her not going through with it emphasizes the fact that while she’s certainly acting out, she’s not as far gone as her mom. Also, teenager.

-It’s rare these days that we get full frontal male nudity in a show before a woman takes her top off. So, that’s a plus for you, show.

-Tom and Christine’s storyline gets a bit more interesting this week, and through them, we’re seeing a wider scope of this world; for example, we get to see religious groups like the Bullseye Barefooters (you’re welcome for that name, show). Plus, overturned truck full of dead people (well, technically not dead people, but you get what I mean) that I mentioned in the review.

-I’m sure the GR recognize that taking the pictures doesn’t mean it’s the end all be all (thousands and thousands of Instagram photos, anyone?). It’s more of a symbolic gesture than anything else.

-The symbolism is very overt throughout and the episode is certainly not as cohesive as last week’s, but it’s still enjoyable throughout. However, “Two Boats and a Helicopter” showed us the highs that this show could reach, and it’s pretty clear that as the show narrows its focus, it improves and the symbolism is more efficiently crafted. In this episode, the themes explored seem like retreads, and if you’re going to do that, give it to us in a more creative or focused manner. Bah, I guess I’m spoiled by last week.

Photo credit: HBO, The Leftovers


4 Responses to “The Leftovers “B.J. and the A.C.” Review (1×04)”

  1. JustMeMike July 21, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Well written review PB.. However I’m in the opposite camp.

    While the GR wants and does cut ties with the past – they establish a new present – a here and now that consists of silence, smoking, and sameness (the all white attire). And they find comfort in that. But they also want to force their motif onto every one else.

    If in fact memories are meaningless, then what is to be gained by letting go of memories – by ridding people of photos, and taking steps toward divorces, and committing intrusive acts? How does the GR view that as a positive.

    The reality of life is that, in the future we all face the slowing down of our bodies. As the aging process gains speed, we are much more likely to cling to the past. As our futures shorten, our pasts lengthen.

    I’m not sure what my other options will be on Sunday nights for the next five or six weeks, but The Leftovers won’t be a part of it.

    • polarbears16 July 21, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

      Well, I think according to the GR, by getting rid of memories, we have a blank slate on which to work. If you rid yourself of meaningless–i.e. the photos and the false images they represent–then you can live in the new present. Forcing their motif on everyone else is essentially what many people in this world do, and the GR is yet another group that believes it’s above all others. Just like Matt last week was trying to apply religion to everything and everyone, the GR is applying its views to everything and everyone.

      Thanks for the comment. I understand why you’re dropping the show; may I suggest checking out Masters of Sex?

      • JustMeMike July 21, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

        You may suggest it – but I resisted the idea of MoS last year, and have held to that thought this year as well.

        For your interest – since you were avid about the McConaughey/Harrelson= show True Detective, may I suggest The Divide.

  2. sarah9461 November 16, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    I know I am late to the party, but my husband had started this series last year and is re-watching the episodes with me now as I recover from cancer treatments (plus it’s too cold to be outside now). We are really enjoying it.
    Having cleaned out both of our grandparents’ houses and my husband’s mother’s house in the last few years as they passed on, it has made me really re-think taking so many pictures. Three generations from now, who is going to know or even care about all these pictures? Our families had boxes and boxes of black and white pictures that had no indication of who they were. A lot of the color pics from our childhood are all faded now. I remember Jerry Seinfeld doing a bit about how people didn’t get pictures printed out anymore, they just showed you tiny pictures on the back of their camera from that trip to Europe. Now it’s just on their phones. The only time I get pictures printed anymore is once a year to enclose a family pic with Christmas cards.
    (Of course, having watched a few more episodes, I now know why the GR took all those pics; it was to make the lifelike dolls they snuck into ppl’s houses.) I agree with you about security in this town, but I am such a light sleeper, I think I would hear someone setting up such a scene at my kitchen table.

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