This The Leftovers review contains spoilers.
The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 5
If there’s a God, he has to have a sense of humor. Well, at least I would hope, mainly because it would help smooth over some of my hellish behavior, but also it would explain the random injustices, accidents, and cruelty that take place in everyday life. It’s all better off as a joke and laughing at the absurdity of life is one way to stomach its unsavory aspects. The Leftovers has really picked up on this coping mechanism in its final season; whereas season one wallowed in the sadness and the confusion that the Sudden Departure created, season three finds the funny in the various beliefs our characters have formed to put themselves back together.
There are moments this season that feel like one of those broad “Bad to Worse” comedy movies, like Kevin Sr.’s journey through the outback and now Matt’s time on a boat. Actually, Matt Jamison’s life has always been filled with those kinds of defeating moments, like his childhood cancer, parent’s death, wife’s accident, last season’s accusations of sexual assault, and now his separation from his wife and child and the return of his presently fatal cancer. Throughout all of these trials and tribulations, Matt has remained steadfastly devout to God, believing certainly that there must be a purpose for his suffering, because otherwise God would have a sick sense of humor, right?
However, Matt fails to notice how his belief in himself as some sort of messenger of God really speaks more to his narcissism than his piety. By revering himself as God’s martyr, the writer of the Book of Kevin, as a way to explain the tragedies and bizarre events in his life, he’s made himself the focus of God’s all-seeing eye, making his faith seem solely self-interested. Also, the behavior has driven away friends and family alike. It’s this self-aggrandizement that leads Matt on a “rescue mission” to Australia to bring Kevin Garvey back to Miracle, but in the process, he actually gets to talk face to face with God, or at least a killer doing a great impression.
If you had to summarize the plot quickly, you could say the episode plays like a detective mystery, with Matt trying to reveal the identity of a murderer on a ferry. Now, the fact that this ferry is hosting a sex party in honor of Frasier the Lion and the murderer believes he is God are just some of those strange flourishes at which The Leftovers excels. After a nuclear missile is detonated by a rogue, naked, and oddly flexible French military man, Matt and his other “Wise Men” John and Michael, along with Laurie, are forced to ground their plane and travel 11 hours by boat to find Kevin. While on board, Matt notices a man throw another off board, but since he’s almost literally trapped in Sodom and Gomorrah, nobody witnesses the crime or the victim but him.
The culprit, we learn, is David Burton, a former decathlon bronze medalist who died in an accident but then came back “as God.” This isn’t the first time we’ve seen or heard about Burton. His resurrection story was reported on the news in “Off Ramp,” the actor that portrays Burton, the always fabulous Bill Camp, appeared to Kevin on the bridge in “International Assassin,” and the Pillar Man addressed a letter to a David Burton in season two. This raises a ton of questions about Burton’s claims; could Burton really be God since he appeared to Kevin in the afterlife, or did Kevin just hear the story about Burton and project his likeliness just like he did last week with Evie. It basically hinges on whether you think Kevin is insane or not, which Laurie definitely believes.
To Matt’s chagrin, Laurie comes on the trip out of concern for Kevin’s well-being. Matt is borderline aggressive in trying to keep Laurie away from their Kevin mission because of her non-belief, but she’s the only person viewing his situation through a mental health lens. Laurie knows Kevin better than anyone and she has a hard time believing that he’s some sort of Messiah and not an overwhelmed psychotic. She’s a great sparring partner for Matt and their one-on-one talk on the decks flips between warm and combative effortlessly. Laurie, much like the Murphy family, has been given short shrift this season, so it was nice seeing more of them this week.
This was an incredibly peculiar, devilishly funny episode that essentially ends with a crisis of faith for Matt. After capturing Burton, Matt tries to coax a confession out of him but instead falls for his aloof, uninterested God routine. Burton tells Matt that God isn’t interested in his or really any of the lives on Earth, only taking credit for the Sudden Departure on Matt’s long list of injustices. He iterates that life is the sick, random joke that it appears to be and opens Matt’s eyes to his own self-centered God complex. When Matt asks to be saved, he responds with a condescending ta-da. Then, in the series’ funniest, most shocking moment, he’s eaten by the lion that was being kept on the ship while Matt deadpans to the horrified others, “that’s the guy I was telling you about.” It seems as if Matt has finally ended his toxic relationship with God and religion, and I’m curious to see if he’ll still pursue Kevin as hard now that he’s had a moment of clarity.
Incredibly unusual, thought-provoking, emotional and now frequently hilarious, The Leftovers is making every last minute count. With only three episodes left, I cannot wait to see how the arcs for each character ends and which, if any, of the big questions will be answered. Even if the ending isn’t entirely satisfying, the ride has been something to behold.