By Jared Jones
I’m start to get that feeling again, you guys.
You Lost fans know the one — it’s equal parts excitement, nerves, and plain confusion, and it usually occurs when Damon Lindelof starts hinting at the kinds of existential and pseudo-religious questions he cannot possibly answer in a satisfying manner.
It’s not that I have a problem with Lindelof’s storytelling style (which I can only describe as masochistic ambiguity), as I actually found last night’s episode of The Leftovers, “Solace for Tired Feet”, to be one of the better of the season. It’s just that someone eventually needs to be held accountable when all the pieces of the puzzle don’t add up, and it sure as hell ain’t going to be me this time. To quote George W., “Fool me once, shame on you. You fool me-I can’t get fooled again.”
I know I might be jumping to conclusions in my criticism of The Leftovers, but that’s at least partially because last night’s episode of The Leftovers seemed to be hinting at the greater purpose it has been quietly building throughout its first six episodes: A reason behind The Departure, aka something Lindelof specifically said the show would never reveal.
A quick recap: Kevin’s crazy Dad escapes from the mental institution, returns to a library he previously burned down and trashes it, and attempts to lure Kevin to the dark (crazy) side with prophetic talks of “accepting it.” Kevin, on the other hand, has been seeing Nora regularly while battling his own hallucinations via a series of dream sequences that are growing increasingly tiresome. Kevin’s stepson, Tommy, on the other other hand, is still on the run with a very pregnant Christine and beginning to lose faith in Holy Wayne, who he has not heard from in months.
That we are some 7 episodes into The Leftovers and still know nothing about Tommy, how he got involved with Wayne, or why he believes Wayne is the prophet he claims to be, remains one of the show’s biggest oversights. Then again, so is Meg’s storyline, Paddies lack of a storyline, and the backstory of damn near every character in this show. The Leftovers insists on wearing so many hats at once that it never seems to keep track of the ones it is already wearing — in addition to the litany of mysteries surrounding the Departure, the GR, Kevin, and Tommy, “Solace for Tired Feet” also gave us:
-A dog in a mailbox and a bite mark on Kevin’s hand that looked very human
-The dead dogs in Dean’s truck turning into GR members mid-dream sequence
-The May 1972 edition of National Geographic
-Kevin and Tommy incurring similar injuries (on their left hands) and experiences (smashing a phone, the mailboxes, etc.)
While all these are compelling little vignettes in their own right, given what we know about Lindelof, it’s hard not to look at Kevin Sr.’s pleas to his son, or the National Geographic magazine, or Holy Wayne and his army of pregnant Asian women as red herrings being pretentiously painted over as plot developments. At a certain point, throwing as many Biblical references and ambiguous symbolism at the audience as you can without resolution is not clever, it’s incompetent storytelling. Think of all the countless hours many of us spent trying to piece together all the symbols in True Detective, only to find out that, fuck you, none of those things were supposed to mean anything. I loved True Detective, but that doesn’t excuse it (or shows like it) from introducing a gun in the first act only to tell me that I never actually saw the gun in the third.
Then again, The Leftovers, like True Detective before it, seems to focus more on how the members of Mapleton (and specifically, the Garveys) react to the inexplicable than anything else. Which is interesting in theory, but doesn’t exactly make for compelling television if its wrapped in a mystery more compelling than the characters within it. Still, I will watch The Leftovers till season’s end to see what, if any, storylines it chooses to resolve and how it chooses to resolve them. Based on the general reaction to the show thus far, I’m guessing that’s why we’re all sticking with it.
Are Holy Wayne’s children a bridge between the Departed and those left behind? Between the living and the dead? Are Kevin’s hallucinations directly related to the higher sense of purpose his father (and Reverend Jameson) seems to think is destined for? Is Holy Wayne a sham? Does Jill’s friend Aimee know more about the cause of Kevin’s hallucinations than she is letting on? Does Carrie Coon look absolutely incredible naked? I can only answer that last question with a resounding SCHWING, but I’ll stick with The Leftovers for now to see how it answers the rest of them.