After last week’s episode of The Leftovers seemed poised to rocket the show forward, tonight’s decided to take a step backwards. I expected to see a flashback episode at some point, but when the episode comes in as the ninth installment of a ten-episode season, it can feel like a bit of a momentum killer. This flashback episode, “The Garveys At Their Best,” pretty much shows us exactly that, along with some of the other characters in their pre-disappearance lives, and though it can be interesting to compare just how far some of these characters have strayed from who they were, a lot of the information feels like things that have already been hinted at or able to guess.
“The Garveys At Their Best” almost solely relies on dramatic irony, the audience knowing something that the characters don’t. When we see Patti talking about premonitions and Nora saying lines like, “for the next four weeks I don’t have a family,” it seems all the episode is aiming to do is show us how little these people understand what’s about to happen in their lives.
The biggest issue of this episode is Kevin, who usually can be reliable in a lead role. It’s too bad though that this episode finds him hunting down a deer who keeps getting himself trapped in buildings. The deer is supposed to be a metaphor for Kevin, a man trapped in a domestic life with his wife being the major breadwinner and his father keeping him from advancing in his own employment. The writing doesn’t handle this metaphor subtly, almost spelling it out for you in big, flaming letters.
It was pretty nice to hear Laurie’s voice in this episode. You find out that Laurie has a successful job as a therapist, a bit of surprising information considering how she and Patti (who is a patient of Laurie’s), find their roles reversed after the disappearance. Another shocking bit of information is to learn that Laurie is pregnant before the disappearance, but the baby is lost just like 2 percent of the population before it is even born.
The episode also centers on a surprise birthday party for Kevin Sr., who was recently crowned Man of the Year. They show characters singing Kevin Sr.’s praises only to make the audience say, “just wait till they see what happens to him!” There’s more weak symbolism, like a coffee cup belonging to Kevin Sr. that says “My Hero” that begins leaking due to a crack.
Like I said, the episode’s only move is presenting dramatic irony, waiting for the inevitable other shoe to drop. The only pleasures it offers is a few “a-ha” moments and a couple of brief frames where we see some of these characters genuinely happy, like Jill. Other than that, this is just a teaser to add even more anticipation to next week’s episode, another complimentary, but non-essential outing.
I have no idea where The Leftovers will leave viewers before departing (get it?) for the year. With season two already a lock, the show will need to hook us hard to get us to want to come back, and right now, I don’t know what big revelations could make that happen. Once again, I feel myself saying that this episode wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t exactly useful storytelling. Don’t bore me with where we’ve already been, boldly take me somewhere new.
The Best of the Rest
- Kevin hides his cigarettes under a mailbox just like where Tom stashed his money for Wayne.
- The Garveys used to live in a beautiful, modern home, that they could seemingly afford because of Laurie’s job. I guess cults don’t pay the bills.
- We see Nora in normal domestic life that she isnt enjoying as much as she should. She seeks a job trying to help future Mayor Lucy on her campaign, hoping to escape her family more. See what I’m saying about the irony?
- The bag of shit left for “Neil,” we learn was a suggestion from Laurie to Patti in a therapy session. Neil is Patti’s ex who kicks her out. Patti says she believes something terrible will happen, but Laurie insists its just a feeling stemming from her break-up.
- Gladys is a dog breeder. Maybe she lost all her pups and then joined the GL.
- Tom is arrested trying to confront his biological father, who wants nothing to do with Tom.
- Matt dances with his wife at Kevin Sr.’s party. Sigh.
- Jill is extremely likable as a giggly, braces wearing dork. What happened? Oh yeah…
- Kevin cheats because he’s wondering “is this it?”