After taking a leap of faith and entering an unknown realm, episode 9 brings the viewer crashing back to reality. In doing so the real antagonists of the show resume their reign of terror. It means the full return of the Guilty Remnants.
We get a final bit of backstory about how Liv Tyler’s character, Meg, became disillusioned and then self-radicalised. This goes in unison with catching up with Tom Garvey. From the backstory we learn Meg has already been to Jarden with her husband, and with a desperate Tom in tow, she intends to return.
Finally, we get to see the plot the cult have been working to all along. They have become much harsher under Meg’s rule. At one point she orders a public stoning. The parallels to terrorism are deliberate and used to great effect.
After all the fantastical elements of Kevin’s journey, this is the harsh reality that awaits the characters.
The Guilty Remnants arrive in Jarden to end any sense of Eden and inflict their idea of hell. With it they bring answers about the missing girls.
So Kevin took the magic potion and fell down the rabbit hole. Watching Michael Murphy drag him away at the end of episode 7 looked like the ultimate betrayal. Virgil had then taken the “easy way out” and blew his own head off.
But wait…maybe he did it to ensure he was there on the other side to assist Kevin. We find him in a purgatory of sorts. Fans of Lost cringe. I never had a problem with that particular show and understood what happened on the island (many still don’t). Despite what naysayers spout, Lost was pretty simple and clearly laid out by the end.
The same can’t be said by this turn of events in The Leftovers. The eagle-eyed viewer will have been picking up on clues. Like the guy reported in Australia that can’t be killed. Where’s Kevin’s dad again? Oh, and he pops up in this episode through some mystic TV channelling.
Kevin dons a hitman outfit and plays this persona to assassinate a version of Patti that is the leader of a large political Guilty Remnants movement. To do so will free him. Her bodyguard is the spiritual leader Wayne, from season one.
He’s told to avoid drinking the water in the purgatory hotel they occupy. This leads to questions of metaphor. Will he pass over forever with his acceptance of thirst? Is this a flash dream before death really occurs?
The answers are being drip-fed as the questions stack up.
The end of this episode is shocking and further demonstrates Justin Theroux’s acting ability.
Some may not like this turn used by the writers, I have zero complaints. It has made a great season become a classic.
In a show where the main character is hanging by a thread, eventually things will become unhinged. After Kevin’s soul bearing admission to Nora that he can see Patti, he finds she has left him. Nora is, and as we’ve witnessed throughout the entire story, a survivor. He’s viewed as a danger, so she ups and leaves with the baby and her sister-in-law.
This leaves Kevin with an angry daughter and an unwelcome offer. The latter comes by way of Michael’s grandfather Virgil, the guy that has touched kids inappropriately. Not the first choice a man should go to for salvation. He refuses – storms away, in fact – when Virgil says he has to face Patti in death.
By chance, Kevin gets a call from the troopers that his wife Laurie is at the gate requesting his presence. Handy that a psychiatrist pops into his life when he needs it. For the second time in two episodes he tells a woman he’s going crazy. This one agrees, and says she’ll help nurse him back.
Then we get a turn of events and a twist (so stop reading before you hit spoilers).
Kevin has a heartfelt conversation over the phone with the estranged Nora. She agrees to return if he is 100% fixed. So a long path to recovery with the professional help on hand, right? Nope. A trip back to Virgil and a jug of poison.
What follows will have you reaffirming that you should never trust a paedophile.
The sixth episode of the season throws us back into the main plot. Everything that has been back-flashed and filled in, all the new arcs set in motion, begin their final ascent – or should that be descent?
After the appearance of the Guilty Remnants in previous instalments, we now get the researchers making a return. It was thanks to the scientific study Nora came away $3m. This time they bring her only aggravation.
Along with this they have a theory. That certain people act as a “lens.” These potential lenses cause people within close proximity to vanish. Not a great suggestion to a woman who lost her entire family. A scientific explanation would be something people would search for after a rapture with the same intensity that religious folks would look to God.
The oddness here, is Nora is later told the lenses over the phone, about the spiritual connection. It could be this group are separate from the main scientific movement. Clearly the script writers have given themselves room for manoeuvre regarding cause and consequence.
The peak of the episode, and potentially the season, is a conversation between Erika and Nora. It takes place in the Murphy household after Erika has an outburst at a town meeting, assembled for the missing girls. While there, Nora robs a new version of the questionnaire used to determine the validity of sudden departures.
Both actresses build tangible tension and its possibly the most charged scene ever witnessed in a television show.
This would have made for a perfect episode, but after this scene Kev drops his bombshell to Nora. His acceptance and admission he is going crazy (or is he?) should have been a season peak but it was overshadowed by the previous scene. Instead it felt flat.
Still, worthy of its rating.
The midway point of the season (kind of) and we catch up with Matt Jamison, the holy man played by the excellent Christopher Eccleston. Or the former Doctor Who. Like the famous time traveller, we find ourselves once again skipping in time. On the face of it, this should be welcomed. Matt’s story holds intrigue, and his appearance in Jarden prompted the arrival of his sister and the series’ lead male, Kevin.
As always with Matt, things haven’t been going well for him, but he’s guided by faith. This time it isn’t just blind faith to the man above, he has true belief good things can, and do, happen in Miracle Town.
He claims his wife, Mary, woke the first night in Jarden. This assertion becomes all the more important when he discovers she is pregnant during a routine check-up. Then in typical Matt fashion, he gets carjacked and beaten up, their passes to Jarden stolen in the process.
This episode displays the power of belief and the drive of desperation. Once again John Murphy fulfils his duty as potential bad guy.
Despite containing key players and new elements, it’s the first average outing of the season. It just becomes hard to care about the downtrodden when it feels mundane.
The saving grace comes in the climatic scenes. It enriches an otherwise unnecessary episode and provides Matt with a new story arc. One that should be important later in the season.