The Leftovers – “The Prodigal Son Returns”

Season One, Episode Ten

the-leftovers-prodigal-son4Grade: A

If you’re looking for answers then you’re watching the wrong show. It seemed clear from almost the very beginning that The Leftovers was never going to offer any type of explanation about how or why the people who disappeared did so. And for some people, that’s insanely frustrating. It brings back memories of how mysteries were left unanswered in that Lindelof and Cuse show from a few years back, but The Leftovers is a different breed of mystery. What the show is trying to say is that there are no answers to those unexplained phenomenons. What’s important is what happens next and how your feelings will drive you forward.

After the flashback episode we’re thrown back into the moments following Patti’s death. There are some brilliant shots here and without any words we feel what Kevin’s feeling. It’s a mixture of desperation and confusion on what to do next. He calls Matt and he arrives as soon as he can and helps Kevin dig himself out of that mess. Then comes our first great scene of the episode: Kevin reading from the book of Job before burying Patti’s body in the woods.

the-leftovers-prodigal-sonIf I haven’t said this enough, Justin Theroux pumps so much life into Kevin Jr., it’s a shame he’s not getting more recognition. Theroux reads the passage that Kevin obviously doesn’t believe in, but he’s incapable of holding back his tears as he’s slowly being broken down to that moment in the diner when he reveals to Matt why he truly thinks he wasn’t taken on Oct. 14 (which is another great scene from the finale). Why wasn’t he taken? Because he wanted to leave his family? Because he had sex with a woman he didn’t know? Because he’s not a good man? And he continues to remember back to that day and when he returned home, his family was there worrying about him and all he wanted to do right then and there was hold his family and keep them close. And that’s what he’s been trying to do ever since, but to little success. Tommy’s been gone, Laurie’s with the GR, and even though Jill lives in the same house she’s as distant as can be.

Meanwhile, Tommy goes through a crisis when Christine abandons her baby. Is that the last we’ll see of Christine? Probably, but it’s more a relief that the Tommy/Christine/Wayne story-line has come to an end. It has easily been the worst plot of the first season, but in the finale it all seems to come around full circle. That’s because after Kevin opens up to Matt, he sees Holy Wayne in the bathroom with an open wound and intestines popping out of his gut. I assume that Holy Wayne was one of the more frustrating points for people who dislike The Leftovers. Is he for real? Is he a phony? What’s his point? But when he asks for Kevin to make a wish, his face lights up as he tells Kevin that his wish is granted. And then a SWAT team busts through the diner and drags Wayne away.

All of this, the rebirth of Kevin from a man who knew he was bad, to a man who tried to hide the fact he was bad just to be good, to a man who now understands he craves to become a good man, it all leads up to the defining scene of the finale. At this point, Kevin and Matt just want to return home to something normal again, but what they confront is a Mapleton that has been thrown into chaos.

Without Patti, Laurie still agrees to carry through with the stunt of placing those Loved Ones bodies at all of the vanished homes. Though Carrie Coon didn’t have many scenes, she might’ve given the best performance with her mute screams of agony when she sees the replicas of her family sitting at the kitchen table. It’s surely a cruel thing to witness, having family members you’ve lost replaced by life-sized dolls wearing the same clothes. But it’s the whole purpose of the GR, to make sure no one forgets what happened. I’d say they achieved that.

the-leftovers-prodigal-son3While the town turns on the GR, shooting at them, tying them up and beating them, Kevin quickly turns on the cop-mode, throws on a vest, grabs a gun and tries to help out the GR. It’s clear that not even the police want to help out the GR at this point because everything that is happening to them they brought it onto themselves, but Laurie is still one of them so that forces Kevin in. And then after Kevin rescues Laurie from a man dragging her, she speaks her first words since joining the GR. “JILL!” She points inside the burning house and it doesn’t take Kevin too long to realize that his daughter is in great trouble.

These final minutes of the episode are shot perfectly. From the chaos in the streets to the burning wreckage of the GR community, and finally the after-math of it all. Kevin saves Jill and she hugs him back as they both glare at Laurie with disbelief she let that happen to Jill. The voiceover from Nora about to leave Kevin is incredibly heart-breaking, as those two seem to be the only two people who can save each other. But just as she’s about to drop off the letter, she picks up Christine’s baby that has been left on Kevin’s porch. And then something clicked inside of Nora. Holding that baby gave Nora a reason to smile and a reason to stay. Kevin, Jill, and the dog that bit Kevin in one of his blackouts are now united as Kevin’s wish is granted. Finally, he has a family.

Last but not least:

– The expression on Matt’s face when Kevin tells him that the woman he was having sex with disappeared was priceless.

– Tommy returns to town to drop off the baby, but he also sees his mom as she stared at the memorial. Will Tommy stay for good?

– What are we supposed to make of Kevin’s “dream”? Whatever the case, it was disturbing.

– What I love about this show is how it makes you feel. Not how many questions are answered, but how these characters try to keep living after such a tragedy. Whether it’s the “abandoned ruin of a dead civilization” like Nora penned, there is always something worth living for and everyone has to find that. Is it possible for Nora and Kevin to find that with each other? That’s what we have Season 2 for!

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