The Leftovers “The Prodigal Son Returns” Review (1×10)

8 Sep

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“We made them remember.”

The Leftovers paints a picture of a broken world. It’s broken because its people are broken, and its people are broken because of their search for concrete answers in a post-Departure world. As humans, we tend to want to think in terms of black and white, of good and bad, of us and them, and it simply winds up being detrimental to the people who lost their loved ones on October 14th.  “There’s a reason for everything,” we think, and we crumble when we can’t pinpoint that reason in the sea of darkness.

This is what goes through Kevin Garvey’s mind after the Departure. It’s what goes through Laurie’s, as well, and Nora’s. What they all have in common is, as we found out in the flashback episode, that they all had preexisting problems with their families prior to the fateful day. So, when Kevin’s cheating on his wife and when Laurie’s getting an ultrasound right after a nasty argument and when Nora’s getting pissed off at her family, poof. “Of course,” they later believe. “It’s me who caused this. It’s my fault. That’s the answer.” And, because humans have innate desires to know the answers, these characters throw themselves into self-doubt and self-pity; they wallow in misery because they look at themselves as the instigators. This idea of fault is always in the backs of their minds.

Take Garvey’s dream, for example. It’s one of a man who’s questioning his role in the world, who’s questioning why he’s here, who’s attempting to distance himself from his father because he knows he’s staring himself in the face. It’s like his Greatest Hits: Fears Edition, with Patti, his father, and the GR all showing up. It’s a messy sequence in a messy first twenty minutes, but what we get afterwards crystallizes what exactly the show’s trying to convey.

“But He stands alone, and who can oppose Him? He does whatever He pleases. He carries out His decree against me, and many such plans He still has in store. That is why I am terrified before Him; when I think of all this, I fear Him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me. Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.”

Kevin recites the following from Job 23, and he begins to break down as he reads. There’s more to the story than “good” or “evil”. Throughout, the episode emphasizes that the reason people can’t move on is because they’re thinking too much in terms of black and white, in terms of  “good” and “bad”, of concrete answers. The good left and the bad remained, they think; they believe that their prior troubles somehow caused the Departure, and they were left over to wallow in misery. When the GR constantly attempts to force them to confront this guilt lingering in the backs of their minds, this time by having them confront replicas of their loved ones, they explode.

The town is destroyed. It’s ultimately an episode about closure: for Kevin/Nora, for the people who throw the Loved Ones into the fire, for the GR and someone like Meg, content with the beatings she takes because “We made them remember”. As for Laurie, she essentially switches roles with Meg at the end; she breaks her vow of silence to scream a tortured “JILLLLLLL!”, and that’s pretty much the end of her ties with Kevin. The burning look he gives her afterward says all that needs to be said.

In addition, there’s a fitting poetry to that final sequence of scenes. Kevin’s wish is most likely to have his family back, and that’s what happens, albeit with a few tweaks here and there: he ends up with a woman he loves, his daughter back, a son who isn’t his, and even a dog. Rather than becoming preoccupied with answers for the rest of his life, rather than dwelling on a past that he’ll never be able to change, he’s going to move forward with a new family. As Nora says in that final monologue, they’re too cowardly to die.

However, at least they can live.




-The music choices make it all the more haunting; in particular, I love the usage of “Ne Me Quitte Pas” and the violin version of “Nothing Else Matters”. On the music in general: people say it’s intrusive, but I love it. It’s absolutely essential to the show.

-Tom finds Wayne’s baby in a bathroom, and Kevin finds Wayne. One accepts help from a preacher, and the other doesn’t. 

-The conversation in which the church guy responds to Tommy’s “Do people even accept your help?” with “All the time” is reminiscent of “Two Boats and a Helicopter”. Do you foolishly wait, or do you take what you’re given?

-There are several ties to Moses surrounding Wayne’s baby. First off, he’s abandoned and found by someone else, and second, Egypt references. Cairo, anyone?

-Patti wants to make flowers on Kevin. If you don’t get this reference, please watch True Detective. It’s worth your time.

-More on the Job verse above: it seems to me that they’re setting up Job as a direct contrast to the GR, all of whom were pretty much Job if he decided to lose faith in God rather than keep going.

-I was afraid Nora would kill herself. I’m happy she didn’t, mostly because Carrie Coon is brilliant and deserves all the awards (especially with her silent screams in reaction to the Loved Ones, or just sitting at that table with her family). Seriously. She’s amazing.

-Speaking of suicide, I also got that sense during the scene in which Laurie’s standing by the river, alone. However, Tom later shows up, and connection that was broken is now reformed.

– “You crazy, fried up, fucking turd.” “Oh, fuck you, you fucking tobacco-stained twat.” Oh, the dialogue!

-It’s been a wonderful season. It’s one of the most flawed television shows on air, but that just makes it endlessly compelling to me. The directing and the score have been impeccable, the acting sublime, and the writing fascinating. Here’s to a great season two; I hope you’ll join me next season.

Photo credit: HBO, The Leftovers



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