This The Leftovers review contains spoilers.
The Leftovers Season 2 Episode 5
Religion is an arduous thing to explain. It’s hard to say why one believes or chooses to have faith in something, or why someone would reject those notions altogether. What does it say when those that are the least fortunate among us also become the most devout believers in a God or a higher power? How do they trust in a benevolent spirit when they only know pain and suffering?
I’ve occasionally had these thoughts in my day-to-day life, but I found myself dwelling on this idea heavily last year during The Leftovers’ “Two Boats and a Helicopter” and again tonight during “No Room at the Inn,” the episodes of The Leftovers that center on tragic pastor Matt Jamison. Both episodes are heavy and upsetting and find a man pushed to his absolute breaking point, and yet, Matt’s religious beliefs never waver once.
This episode was beautiful, but in a completely devastating, draining way, if that makes sense. Opening with Matt’s daily routine really put the audience in his shoes; we sit on the edge of our seats hoping just like Matt that something in Mary’s condition will change, and we’re just as disappointed when it doesn’t. But seeing Matt’s dedication and love for his wife even while performing thankless daily tasks is touching.
That’s why it’s so hard to see Matt beaten down and taken advantage of by the cruel community surrounding Miracle. After a doctor’s appointment out of town, a man and his son attack Matt for he and his wife’s wristbands. It’s no coincidence that Matt says the Book of Job is his favorite from the Bible, because venturing through the camp outside the park, trying to get back in, is like his journey through the whale. The camp is full of depraved characters and bizarre trials that push Matt almost into cruelty.
The reason Matt so desperately fights to get back into town is because he discovers that is wife is pregnant. The night that Mary came back into consciousness, they conceived a child, but since no one believes Mary’s condition changed, the whole thing is very problematic and reflects poorly on Matt. Matt has the opportunity to get back into town with the help of John, but John’s intimidation and steadfast refusal of any inexplicable miracles in the town complicates things. At first, Matt accepts John’s terms and denies anything inexplicable happened to him and his wife, but by the episodes end, Matt refuses to lie about what happened to him and his wife. “I will not hide,” he tells his sister Nora.
Matt wonders what made John so unable to accept mysticism, and clearly, the issue between the two men will not go away any time soon. Matt’s decision to stand up for himself and venture back into the chaos of the camp, taking the place of the man suffering in the headstock, is one of those symbolic Leftovers moments that compels me to the show and confounds in that brilliant way. Hopefully, this mean’s we’ll get to spend more time in the strange world outside of Miracle, a microcosm of every lost soul on the planet.
Once again, The Leftovers presents an hour focused on one member of their ensemble cast, and once again, the show is better for it. I think that says a lot about the characters that Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof have created, we can spend extended periods of time isolated away from other stories and not be bored or anxious for other characters to appear; we cherish the time spent with the characters that we are given.
The biggest thing to question in this episode, and what I am sure most critics will be discussing, is whether we can trust Matt when he says that Mary woke up. We see Mary awake in this episode, but it’s right after a head injury and seems dreamlike. If this instance seems less than real, how can we trust that Matt didn’t fantasize the other encounter, and if he did, that makes all of this pregnancy stuff very troubling.
Watching this episode was difficult, but like Matt, I believe this difficulty will lead to reward. I have faith. Why? I couldn’t tell you.