The Leftovers: B.J. and the A.C. Review

New family secrets are revealed in this episode of The Leftovers. Here's Nick's review.

It seems like no one can talk about The Leftovers without talking about its creator, Damon Lindelof. It used to be rare that the conversation about a television show would come back to its creator. Sure, you’d talk shop about your favorite shows with friends, making predictions and discussing your favorite characters, but no one ever spent much time thinking about, let alone openly discussing, whoever made that program. Well, let’s say that mainstream press never spent much time curating material about a show’s creator, even though we geeks here at Den of Geek US and the whole comic-con culture at large have always wanted to pick the brains of the Joss Whedons and Gene Roddenberrys of the world. But mainly casual television fans couldn’t care less…that is, until Lost came around.

Once Lost premiered on ABC, bewitching audiences with its intriguing mysteries then holding them ransom by withholding information, it was all over.  Critics and fans alike spent previously unheard of amounts of time just turning over details of this crazy show, mostly written by this guy, Damon Lindelof. Television bloggers started gaining fame by just obsessing over and churning out content about it, like Entertainment Weekly writer and Lost fanboy Jeff “Doc” Jensen. Not only did Jensen gush and speculate endlessly about the program, he probed showrunners Lindelof and Carlton Cuse for insight, which in turn had the two enjoying the publicity and talking about their show with the public ad nauseam.

Many television critics credit Lost for creating the world we live in today, where people online can fixate and find tons of information on Breaking Bad, True Detective, Game of Thrones, hell pretty much anything, supplied by us. And who knows if names like Vince Gilligan and Matthew Weiner would hold the same amount of fame without what Lindelof created. Maybe we should all thank the guy.

Too bad the story didn’t end too well for Lindeolf. Maybe it was all the talking he did, all the promises to fans he made about answers that would be delivered, or perhaps the show just never had a chance to end in a way that would live up to everyone’s separate expectations, but Lost ended in a polarizing fashion, with the dissatisfied camp pointing their anger at Lindeolf. By creating so many questions and being so withholding, Lindeolf just couldn’t get to all the answers. The same problem plagued his next high profile feature, Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel, Prometheus. The film introduced tons of interesting concepts and ideas without really revealing what it all meant. It was a troubling trend; was Lindelof purposely being enigmatic to challenge audiences, or was he just a lazy writer who couldn’t come up with real explanations for things (like what the hell the smoke monster is) and just does them anyway?

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That conversation has followed us to The Leftovers, particularly because the show is based upon a big central mystery, and Lindelof is being his old withholding self with information, just dropping us in this world, with these people, and asking us to figure it all out for ourselves. It was a particularly worrisome trait until last week’s superb character study, “Two Boats and a Helicopter.” Sure, we started the episode off without information, but Lindelof trickled it all out confidently as the episode went on, while also setting up a little more mystery to keep us all intrigued. In another sign that maybe we should try and forget Lindelof’s past missteps, tonight’s episode, “B.J. and the A.C.,” follows suit.

I spent most of the episode fixated on the Garvey children. Sure, Tom made up what could be considered the B-plot, but I spent more of my time thinking about Jill. Sure, I understand anyone who lost their mother to a cult would be reasonably upset, but I wasn’t sure why the character was directing so much malice towards Kevin. I was hoping that it was more than just a teenage girl being difficult for difficulties sake, and thankfully that seems to be the case, now that we know that Kevin did in fact cheat on his wife. It’s not explicitly revealed that Jill knows this information, but it’s the first thing that makes sense as to why she’d be so standoffish towards him given how much he’s struggling with everything too.

The other major information about the Garvey family we get is that Tom is not Kevin’s biological son and that Laurie came to Kevin already damaged from a previous relationship. This new information adds tons of shades to the performances and the characters themselves, helping us to maybe explain some of their choices so far. I went into the episode really finding Tom’s storyline to be the dullest, well, at least when Wayne wasn’t on screen, but we got new helpful information there too.

First, Christine is pregnant with Wayne’s child, giving Tom’s mission of protection new significance and tying in nicely with all the talk about Christmas and Baby Jesus in the episode. Next, a man has visions of Christine and tries to attack her, shouting, “You walk over the dead, they’re all in white! I know what’s inside you!” Then, Christine and Tom come across an accident on the highway, where a truck has dumped several bodies all wrapped up in white, yet it almost looks like the people are dummies, and judged by the soldier’s, also named Tom, line about desperate people, it looks as if they are fake bodies of the Disappeared to be buried in their place. It’s both at once creepy and a cool addition to the world building. Tom’s plot isn’t without it’s problems – actor Chris Zylka is still clunky, especially when talking to himself out loud, and what’s up with Christine’s attacker being naked? – but at least it’s improving.

I still find myself drawn to Kevin Garvey, specifically because of actor Justin Theroux. Theroux perfectly plays Garvey as a man at the verge of a breakdown at any moment that is physically straining himself trying to do the right things. When he does lash out, like when Laurie delivers the divorce papers in the episode, you can really believe him as someone enraged and heartbroken. The little story about him trying “to get a win” with the Baby Jesus was sad too, in a smaller, more nuanced way that I greatly appreciated.

The Leftovers continues to improve as Lindelof continues to go against his instincts and just let us know things. The show also is utilizing its smaller moments to maximum benefit. Slowly but surely, The Leftovers is becoming appointment television. Let the internet thinkpieces flow.

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The Best of the Rest

  • Speaking of smaller moments, Kevin and Nora’s scene in the high school was another highlight for me. It doesn’t all have to be naked attackers screaming about prophetic visions to be compelling.
  • I wonder what the symbolism is of Kevin’s car breaking down, forcing him to ride around in the black truck given to him by the mysterious, gun-totting Dean?
  • Jill’s friends, the twins, add some great comic relief to the show. It was deeply needed.
  • Laurie seems pretty conflicted. Last week she was watching the Garvey house from outside, possibly longingly. This week she’s delivering divorce papers. Next, she gets a gift from Jill, a lighter saying “Don’t forget me,” and promptly throws it away. Later, she desperately tries to retrieve it.
  • Even Jill’s friend Aimee can see how big of a brat Jill is being towards her struggling father. Cut the guy some slack!
  • The Guilty Remnant break into everyone’s homes while Patti and a few other GR members distract the police. They steal family pictures, most likely of the Disappeared.
  • Speaking of Patti, actress Ann Dowd is doing a fantastic job playing the no nonsense cult leader.
  • Tom disguises himself as a member of a different cult to get back in the hospital. It’s another cool world building moment that shows that the GR and Wayne aren’t the only people out there doing this, the whole world has splintered into different beliefs.
  • Man, the worst I felt this whole episode is when Kevin announced that he found the baby, and no one cared. Then he had to smile and walk offstage. Ouch.
  • Matt appeared again after last week, but only to replace the baby in the manger himself. He seemed in pretty good spirits too, after losing his church. Didn’t expect that.

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4.5 out of 5