The Leftovers: Two Boats and a Helicopter
July 13, 2014 9:23 PM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

In the face of dwindling church attendance and threats on his life, Reverend Matt Jamison continues to preach his gospel: that many who disappeared in the Departure were sinners and not saints. Matt’s campaign is detoured when he learns he may lose the church to foreclosure, forcing him to launch a desperate, last-minute plan to come up with the cash to keep it.
posted by killdevil (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, this show officially sucks, in my view.

1) Why are we supposed to care about this asshole clergyman in the first place? His mission to "tell the truth" barely makes sense, and he's obviously being extremely hurtful to his community. He further proves it by tell his own sister, who's lost more than anyone and has nothing left but his memories, something that could only hurt her deeply. Also, how is he discovering all this information, anyway? Violating the confidentiality of his parishioners?

Anyway, the writers think they can just drop in some new guy and make the readers care about him, but I was rooting for him to lose. He's an asshole.

2) Everything in this episode was utterly lame and predictable. I mean, as soon as you saw that there were calls from a bank, you knew exactly what was up. Then the whole "I haz no moneys." "Oh wait, I just remembered old police chief friend left me seekrit moneys!" "Hooray, I haz multiplied my moneys!" routine was just so cliched. And of course you knew the GR were the ones who took over that church. Zero surprises.

(Oh, and why not use some of the magic Jif money to at least pay his wife's nurse?)

3) Speaking of which, this review that ochedraco linked to last week is looking particularly prescient, especially the part oche quoted which I'll quote again:
But in giving [the "mystery man"] such inexplicable inside information about the Chief's hunt for him, and in tying him to the prophetic pronunciations of the voices in the head of his crazy dad Kevin Garvey Sr. (an unrecognizably grizzled Scott Glenn), The Leftovers has edged dangerously close to creating A Genuine Mystery, the kind that will have viewers demanding The Answers. It's exactly what co-creator and showrunner Damon Lindelof swore he wouldn't do, and it leaves you wondering if he can even help himself.
The crap with the mystery pigeons and the lucky roulette table was, again, part of this A Genuine Mystery crap. As oche said last week (and which I agreed with at the time), I want this show to be about people coping with this insane trauma, not solving weird-ass mysteries.

Anyhow, I think I'm done with this.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:30 PM on July 13, 2014

For some reason I find the violence on this show more affecting than usual, but that may be Peter Berg.
I didn't find it predictable so much as using expectation or the seemingly inevitable. I don't usually wholly focus on this show when I'm watching it, which might make the moments that draw my attention seem more momentous or they are for drawing my attention, but it's a grim show and this episode was pretty brutal, but there's always something going on to keep it worth watching.

The AVClub review was particularly clueless in some respects and pertinent in others. I was surprised to find it engaging after the first episode, and maybe having low expectations keep it surprising in a good way, whether that is appreciating the production value or laughing at Justin Theroux being called "the hot cop." It didn't seem like only the third episode, because they've really packed a lot of story into it. I haven't read the book but apparently they deviate quite a bit. There's a risk as my estimation of it grows, but at this point I'd be surprised if there was a serious drop in quality/of the ball.

Also, I want to add a bit for people with HBO/HBO Go: does anyone else miss the extras? That was one of my favorite things about their shows, the inside the episodes and added features, etc. Was it just me? Is that why they dropped them?
posted by provoliminal at 5:19 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have to admit that I'm really only watching this show for the Genuine Mystery stuff like the pigeons. Human drama can be great, but in this show it's not good enough to keep me watching. I want to see weird shit and try to figure out what's going on. It's why I kept watching Lost, and why I'll keep watching this show. And I'm just rocketing towards disappointment again, I know.

What I liked most about this episode is that it didn't have any dumb teen antics or glaringly bad police work. It focused on one person's drama, and I liked that focus. I started wishing that the rest of the season would follow this format - one person, one episode.

One last thing - the opening credits. For a show that says it doesn't want to explain the disappearance, it seems pretty shitty to introduce it with those terrible credits. Obviously a scene of religious rapture, but oh look, it's edgy!
posted by MsVader at 7:21 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is anyone else annoyed by the silent cult who have to write everything down and the crappy camera work that makes the notes hard to read?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 AM on July 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

For a show that says it doesn't want to explain the disappearance, it seems pretty shitty to introduce it with those terrible credits. Obviously a scene of religious rapture, but oh look, it's edgy!

Does the book ever answer the question of what actually happened? Because fiction that pulls this crap is getting annoying. There's enough mystery in real life, who needs it in their fiction.

I am curious whether the show will be mirror to humanities religious belief though. 'Cause if God is real, this is how it might look Large scale events that roll over your framework of reality as if it was nothing, with nary a look back.'

Also, the series keeps talking about "what comes next". You can't just throw that out there and not have doing anything with it story wise.

Finally, the priest arising three days later. Hello symbolism?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:01 AM on July 14, 2014

Oh yeah, those opening credits—with that oh-so-serious music—are really terrible and out of place.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:47 AM on July 14, 2014

This episode actually made me miss the stupid teenagers and their antics. I wanted to see what kind of shenanigans they are going to get up to.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 1:38 PM on July 14, 2014

All I could think when he woke up in the hospital and was all like, "OMG GOTTA GET TO THE BANK" was, "Man, your WIFE. Is at home, with possibly no one taking care of her. How is the bank and church more important than that?"

But I guess that's just a comment on his priorities, blah blah blah.
posted by komara at 9:42 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is anyone else annoyed by the silent cult who have to write everything down and the crappy camera work that makes the notes hard to read?

posted by homunculus at 10:29 PM on July 14, 2014

I actually really liked this episode. Great job by Christopher Eccleston, and all the action and motivations felt genuine to me. I felt like it was a powerful examination of faith and commitment and conviction. The way it juxtaposed his physical care for the church with his care for his wife (Donna!) was excellent.

For what it's worth, I don't think the pigeons were supposed to be supernatural, just a coincidence that he was lucky to take advantage of.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:13 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

LOST: The Leftovers
posted by Night_owl at 6:52 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

My current theory is, they think this will work with the same people who liked Twin Peaks. But of course it doesn't sustain itself that well from moment to moment. If you're going to claim surreal, you have to be more surreal than this. The book doesn't feel surreal to me at all though, not in the least. It's like very fine-grained realistic fiction. I was interested to learn that Perrotta is writing the show, too. So I don't know what's going on here. I have a cynical feeling it's about maintaining a sort of checklist of the stuff you need for prestige TV.

That said, I really enjoyed watching the gambling sequence, and I liked Nora's reaction to her brother's "revelation" about her husband.
posted by BibiRose at 7:36 AM on July 15, 2014

This is an unrelentingly grim show that's kind of all over the place narratively. Can it ever be more than the sum of its parts? I don't think I've ever been more on the fence about a series-- last week I said I was going to give it one more chance, but now I find myself thinking the same thing for next week. I can't seem to find info about ratings beyond the premier, but I wouldn't be surprised if HBO pulls the plug a la John from Cincinnati.
posted by gwint at 7:08 AM on July 16, 2014

I loved this episode. I started with a grim little laugh when they said the little girl woke up from her coma before the congregation ever prayed for her. Then it kept getting grimmer and grimmer. You start out knowing nothing can possibly go well for this guy. Then he starts following these signs from God, and it actually works. Until it doesn't. It's like Walter White's entire character arc compressed into an hour.
posted by twoporedomain at 8:33 AM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

I loved this episode as well. Good for them for using Eccels' strengths to keep us watching this show past the third episode. I agree he's harmful to his community, but as we saw he's just trying to cope with the fact that everyone (actually it's hard to tell if this is the assumption) believes these people were Chosen at the expense of his wife. I don't think the pigeons were supernatural. It was luck. The one bit of luck this VERY unlucky guy had, and he's so unlucky it didn't help.

It's hard to do Big Mystery AND Mystery-Doesn't-Matter-It's-The-Aftereffects at the same time. I'm reminded of Stephen King, who has a monster over here, but it's mostly about the (small New England) town's reaction to the monster and tearing itself apart. Even then it's tenuous, and helped along by a bonafide monster.

Anyway, kind of interesting how Laurie and the GR truly 'fucked him over' in the end after all....

Is anyone else annoyed by the silent cult who have to write everything down and the crappy camera work that makes the notes hard to read?

I thought they did such a good job of showing every note that I was getting pissed off they had to show them all, zipping back and forth. I'm like, ok, another note, ok show the note, oh god not another... oh thank god someone else is talking for a while.

Seekrit moneys... I was pissed off at that as well, but I guess just to go along assumed he was saving it for a rainy day? Ugh who knows. Maybe if you had used it to pay the mortgage the bank wouldn't have had to foreclose... But for god's sake lock your fucking door when you get in the car!
posted by Sayuri. at 5:43 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Didn't see this episode until last night, and I haven't actually seen the first two yet, which I hear are tonally very different from this, but as a self-contained examination of desperation, and chaos, and having no moral guideposts anymore, this was extremely compelling and stressful and disturbing and is going to stay with me. And Eccleston is amazing (even if I never want him to do an American accent again.)
posted by Navelgazer at 9:45 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, there's a lot of conversation over at TV CLub about the title of this episode, which seems to reference the old joke about the religious man and the hurricane, which would basically be saying, I guess, that Jamison's misguided zealotry is preventing him from accepting "God"'s actual help, which seems about right.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:37 PM on July 18, 2014

I should also mention, even though I'm guessing I'm posting to no one right now, that this episode put me firmly in mind of a book not that many people are familiar with, James Morrow's Blameless in Abbadon, the middle part of his Godhead trilogy. SPOILERS FOLLOW.

In the first, better-known book, Towing Jehovah God's massive body falls to earth, dead. In Blameless, the corpus is found to be inert, but still alive, and the protagonist, Martin, who was raised by a protestant minister in Pennsylvania, but in adulthood had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and lost his beloved wife in a car accident (she was an animal-lover and died swerving away from an animal in the road. Her dream had been to create a sort of Make-a-Wish camp for terminally ill pets, to give you an idea of what we're talking about.) With God physically present, he sues Him in the Hague for crimes against humanity, with a C.S. Lewis stand-in taking up the defense, and most of the book is about their fact-finding mission through God's brain.

The whole thing is narrated by Satan and fascinating from start to finish, as the true nature of God is discovered to be dualistic and truly ineffable. When God is found not guilty, however, Martin takes matters into his own hands and cuts God's life support himself, finally killing him.

What slays me, though, is the final paragraph. The narrator (now understood to be a dualistic Satan/God, but far more complicated than that, describes a collie with cancer, herding sheep for the first time in her life, finally living out her instincts, and how every sheep is doing exactly as she commands.

Basically, Father Matt's story affected me so much because I'm sure that Mary will wake up and want nothing to do with what he's done effectively in her name with his grief. As said above, when he wakes up he immediately runs for the bank to save his church, but doesn't check on his wife's care. He shows so many moments of being a genuinely good person in the episode -- mostly towards the GR, who he clearly isn't aligned with but feels a spiritual kinship with -- but his crusade (which I don't think we even feel he enjoys, but just sees as an awful thing he has to do) leads him to hurt and abandon those who could most benefit from his comfort and capacity for kindness.

I'm an atheist, but I found this against-all-odds sympathetic portrayal of a misguided person doing a lot of awful things (amongst good ones) in the name of a faith that is the only thing he's able to hold onto, and getting it so wrong, to be one of the best television episodes I've seen in a very very long time.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:42 PM on July 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Yeah. Finally, they have an episode that actually had some characterization, and it's just hideously depressing with apparently no point to it.
posted by koeselitz at 12:53 AM on July 20, 2014

Navelgazer: "I'm an atheist, but I found this against-all-odds sympathetic portrayal of a misguided person doing a lot of awful things (amongst good ones) in the name of a faith that is the only thing he's able to hold onto, and getting it so wrong, to be one of the best television episodes I've seen in a very very long time."

That's great, if you want a story about people holding on to faith in money. That appears to be what Eccleston's character is holding on to in this episode. He says nothing whatsoever about faith, he utters no words of faith, and in general he seems to believe in absolutely nothing beyond "this is a test" and "pigeons are lucky." He does not care about anything or anyone beyond his petty mission of vengeance.

And what annoys me most is that this episode reads like the way a terrible writer who actively loathes religion - not just disagrees with it, but loathes it and all religious people - would frame the empty life of a preacher. I find this almost offensive, to be honest. It's just disgusting to me. But then, all the characters on this show are either execrable or dull - and unfortunately they're not either of those things in an interesting way.

This episode was affecting to me, too. It was affecting in a way that will stay with me. But I don't think that's a good thing, and I can see that it's just emptiness and hideousness for the sake of emptiness and hideousness. It means absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing. Now, not only do I hate this show and the terrible people who made it, but I'm actually angry at it for being so dumb.
posted by koeselitz at 1:06 AM on July 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, this show sounds awful.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:06 PM on July 20, 2014

I didn't put it quite into these terms last week but my impression was: Preaching Bad. Oh look, this guy is a total dick. Oh look, he needs money. Oh look, some other dicky-er guy is trying to rob him. Oh look, he's killing that guy. Oh no, that guy's girlfriend is sad. Gotta do what you gotta do. Oh no, stupid risk. Oh no, money is still OK. Wevz.

I was moved by the part where he's asking his sister for money and his livelihood is just kind of "reduced down" into an easy "father's footsteps" sort of thing. Somebody had to do it? Or he's just lazy and does it? Doesn't seem like his heart is in it and this event is his big chance to just be a dick and be famous for it.

When he tells the guy the baptism is "on the house" I sort of cringed. Maybe I haven't been to a church in a while, but my first kid was baptized because his in-laws were Methodist and I didn't care either way. I don't remember cost coming into it, and it was a real ceremony and he just wanted to make sure we weren't going through the motions (sorry bro, but yeah).
posted by aydeejones at 1:01 AM on July 21, 2014

%n: "That's exactly what this episode was. He's even dealing with literal trauma in the case of his wife."

Except it had magical mystery pigeons. Not my cuppa.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 7:37 PM on July 21, 2014

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