Insanity is the state of being mentally ill or being extremely foolish, according to a definition that I looked up on Google. According to Albert Einstein and faux-philosophical Tumblr posts across the internet, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well then, I suppose that I meet ol’ Al’s criteria, because I’ve been watching The Leftovers week after week hoping to get some answers about what’s actually happening on this show, and I keep getting nothing.
Occasionally, The Leftovers will present a digestible, if moderately depressing, episode of television, like last week’s “Guest.” That was another character study that still didn’t deliver revelations, but at least told a compelling story about one woman’s coping mechanisms and push to move forward. Then The Leftovers will deliver an hour of television, like tonight’s episode, that I can’t really make heads or tails of. Is it supposed to be a story about father and son? Is Kevin Sr. asking Kevin to search for answers in an old National Geographic and Wayne ordering Tom around supposed to be a parable about blind faith? Does the dog represent the malevolence growing in Kevin? Who knows? Judging by the show, I’m not even sure I’m supposed to know yet.
But here we are at episode seven of a ten-episode season, and I’m still scratching my head. If I were a casual viewer, I’d have probably checked out by now. I don’t need a television show to baby me or spell things out, usually I’d say I’m quite perceptive at finding clues that foreshadow where things are headed, but after watching this episode, I haven’t a clue what to make of it. It could be that I’m just tired and not as sharp as I’d normally be, or it could be that this is just another example of Damon Lindelof’s crazy withholding information strategy of TV writing, who knows?
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy aspects of this episode. I really like the way Kevin and Nora’s relationship is unfolding. They have crackling chemistry, even if they do admit that they’re not quite sure how to talk to each other about their Departure-related issues. It’s just nice to see two characters on this show enjoying each other’s company. Have we seen that before? Two characters who genuinely look happy to be in the presence of the other? It’s such a small thing, but it lights up the whole episode, even if Nora and Kevin’s scenes only make up about 5 minutes of the hour.
Scott Glen does some excellent work in this episode too. As the “insane” Kevin Garvey Sr., Glen gives Kevin Sr. a stern, ruggedness that at the same time feels fragile. The scenes where Kevin Sr. talks to his “voices” could come off as hokey, but Glen plays it with right sense of indignation and weariness to make it believable. The scene between the two Kevin’s at the diner is a series highlight for me, with Kevin Sr. leaving his son with the chilling, “they’re not going to let you off that easy, son,” though we’re still not sure what he means.
The episode seems meant to show Kevin’s slip into insanity himself. We’re back to scary dream sequences and mysterious animals, Lindelof’s favorite plot devices. But we already are aware that Kevin is losing his grip, tonight just seemed to tease it out even further without giving us a clue as to why this is all happening, like the show is just saving a big reveal for the end. Justin Theroux is still doing solid work, but he can only make that just awoken befuddled face a few more times before I start rolling my eyes.
We spend the rest of the episode catching up with Tom, where he at least unearths a little new information about the mysterious Wayne. After Wayne rudely orders Tom to leave some money at a drop point, Tom follows the retriever of the cash back to a hotel room where he discovers another young man like himself caring for another pregnant Asian girl. We knew Wayne was a creep based on other observations and dialogue about him, but this proves it, and it maybe also proves that Christine isn’t all that special after all. Tom’s faith in Wayne slips even further, and when Wayne tries to contact him again, he smashes his phone and returns to his place to find that Christine has given birth to the baby. It’s nice to see that Tom isn’t drinking the Kool-Aid anymore, I just wish, for his character’s sake, that it had come earlier.
Christine had her baby and Kevin’s got a May 1972 National Geographic and a new dog. But so what? By no means was this a bad piece of television, it just feels inconsequential, like I could have skipped it and tuned in next week to find everything largely the same, and then figured the rest out on my own. I want to like this show, but they make it so hard.
Like Kevin, I think I’m going insane.
The Best of the Rest
- Matt’s church address the Gladys’ murder by hanging pictures of the deceased woman with the words “Save Them” written across. The GR responds by adding a “Don’t” in front. Typical Patti move.
- So the one dumb friend of Jill’s this week decides it’s fun to see how long you can last in an old refrigerator before you need to breathe. Someone sure likes oxygen deprevation. Anyway, Jill gives it a try because she’s just so gosh darn edgy and reckless, and she gets locked in. Luckily, crazy Grandpa is trekking through the woods and rescues her. I know it’s horrible, but did anyone else wish she would have stayed locked in there ?
- The show enjoys jumping ahead a few weeks between episodes. Nora and Kevin say that they’re on date number four.
- When Tom discovers the other pregnant girl and alerts her that she’s not the only one carrying Wayne’s child, she attempts to shoot Tom, shooting him in the hand. His bandage matches the bandage that his father has on his hand after being bitten by a dog he brought home while he was blacked out having one of his crazy dreams.
- Amy attends to Kevin’s hand while he’s blacked out and talks to him, but Kevin doesn’t want to know about. It kind of seems like something happened between the two of them. It’s been brewing all season, but this episode had the most explicit references to Amy being interested in Mr. Garvey. How stereotypical.
- Kevin Sr. and the Mayor’s relationship seems to be over. I liked the weird dynamic that added to her and Kevin’s working relationship, but oh well.
- Kevin discovers the money from “Two Boats and a Helicopter,” but we still don’t know what it’s for and why it was put there or what Matt has to do with it all.
- Christine’s baby is a girl, which I guess is a bit unexpected.
- Meg tells Laurie that Kevin is sleeping with Nora, in which Laurie responds with a “So?”