If you’ve paid even the most minimal attention to my write-ups week after week, you know that I just wholeheartedly buy into The Leftovers with both feet in, or whatever mixed metaphors Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta would prefer. I can’t say it’s perfect, but I can say it’s perfect for me, or at least the gremlin-looking thing inside of me that feeds upon shards of hate-bile and insectile fragments of depression. I can’t imagine anyone expected “The Prodigal Son Returns” to be a marathon of joyful surface conversations, and it was indeed yet another exercise in uncharacteristically enjoyable drama eked out through surreality, violence and questionable coincidences. Just like your grandmother used to make.
”Stop fucking talking to yourself and they’ll let you watch TV.”
Knowing that Season 2 of The Leftovers is another 42 weeks or so away, it wasn’t surprising that no one opened up a yellow envelope with a sheet inside that definitively answered how crazy Kevin actually is. For most of the episode, he’s kind of a rugged badass. Burying mean bitches (Patti’s throat-gouged corpse) and saving whiny unsympathetic bitches (soot-faced Jill) from dying in fires.
But then we get another positively superb dream sequence, where Kevin is thrown into the same institution where his father is usually hanging around, watching old TGIF and shit. The mysterious National Geographic and its Cairo story make an appearance, as does a walking, talking and smoking Patti, who straddles Kevin and seductively works the phrase “Not deep enough,” into the conversation. Kevin then calls Kevin Sr. “Daddy,” and we’re thankfully soon taken out of this creepster dream with Matt talking about cheeseburgers.
Matt saves the day and helps Kevin n burying Patti, making Kevin read about Job over her grave as payment. (There are a lot of things I could ponder about Matt doing this, but his shadowed glee over Patti’s death is all the answer I need.) Ever the kind soul, Matt tries to make Kevin understand that he is a good man, and that’s certainly tested once they make it back to Mapleton, where all of the shit has hit all of the fans.
It’s Memorial Day, guys!
And with Memorial Day comes the Guilty Remnant’s Big Plan in the Big Binder, and it’s as bad as we expected. The Remnant not only dressed the Loved Ones dolls in the same clothes that they disappeared in, but also posed them in all of the same settings they were in when they departed. It’s hard to imagine how the Remnant knew where everyone was, but I’m guessing maybe they tapped into the government’s files to read what people’s interviews said. It was incredibly heinous, however they achieved it, and the bullets and beatings that marked the episode’s climax were completely expected.
It says something about this show’s approach to darkness that viewers stay mostly with Kevin during the destruction of the Guilty Remnant’s cul-de-sac. These are people who sanctimoniously denounce anyone who hasn’t obsessively committed themselves to remembering the Departed, and there are all kinds of morals being tested during this sequence. If someone broke into your home – and isn’t it something that no Mapleton residents who lost people are ever awake to catch these morbid Santas? – and put your missing family at the same breakfast table where they disappeared from, would you consider it a crime punishable by a lethal and impulsive gunshot? Had too much time been spent on this rampant retribution, my brain might have imploded over what Twitter would look like if this really happened. #Mapleton.
But we do get into the moral underpinnings of Kevin, as he immediately loses the bigger picture and saves Laurie as soon as he arrives at the cul-de-sac. When she finally speaks, after all this time, it’s to say Jill’s name, pointing Kevin to one of the burning houses. He leaves her behind and hauls ass inside, passing up one unconscious person after the other until he finds Jill, whom he then carries outside and holds hands with for the rest of the episode. Perhaps Kevin was pushed forward by the mayor telling him he was right about “them,” but he takes nary a second look at any other Remnant in his quest, leaving them all to burn. Good for Kevin, probably.
So let’s get into the more happenstance incidents. First, the makeshift family of Tom, Christine and Wayne’s wedlocked baby soon becomes just Tom and Wayne’s wedlocked baby when Christine leaves him behind in a public restroom. This happens right after a Grace Church minister asks him if he needs any help, as that’s what Grace Church people do. I’m assuming this also took place in Gift Horse’s Mouth, Pennsylvania. (Did anyone else think the bus’ color was just the right shade of “mailbox blue” to fit in with that recurring theme?)
When we catch up with Tom again, he’s driving past Laurie, who is looking mighty suicidal while standing in a big body of water. But then there’s Tom and his hat and his hat hair, and it looks like they might have a reconnection. But where’s the baby? He’s on Kevin’s doorstep, where I’m guessing Tom left him, because Tom don’t want none of that “not my baby” shit. So who has him now?
As you can imagine, the Mapleton character who takes Memorial Day the hardest is Nora, whose breakfast table family is a horrifying reminder that happiness and acceptance are only ever temporary states of mind. She begins writing what sounds like a suicide letter, but it’s soon revealed to just be a “I’m sick of this fucking town and I need to leave” letter, which she addresses to Kevin because they might have loved each other and she didn’t have anyone else she wanted to write to. The fact that Coon’s voice breaks during the voiceover letter-reading is one of those weird cinematic things that I usually don’t like, but was okay with here.
As she’s going to leave her letter at his door, Nora sees Lil Wayne all abandoned and shit on Kevin’s porch, and she immediately embraces this kid without even looking to see if anyone else is up there and just not standing right by him. And when Kevin and Jill walk up, all dirty and tired, Nora’s just on his porch, laughing and once again joyful. Nobody said, “What the fuck is happening?” and it was almost peaceful. Almost.
”But it led me right back home.”
It’s hard to believe that The Leftovers is over for a while. It’s hard to believe that Holy Wayne storyline ended with him as a fugitive in a police shootout who dies in a public bathroom with Kevin’s unspoken wish possibly fulfilled. It’s especially hard to believe Lil Wayne wasn’t getting more snuggle time.
This was as proper a season finale as I could have hoped for. With Nina Simone’s classic cover of “Ne Me Quitte Pas” and an orchestral rendition of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” (among other songs), this was a win in the soundtrack department. Because I’m on board with this show, I don’t care that we’re still left with a thousand questions, because that just means Season 2 won’t be starting from scratch with plot development. The editing and direction in “The Prodigal Son Returns” were on par with the most effective that this season has given us, and I’m left surprisingly complacent with how everything turned out. How can I be so happy with something that provoked so little happiness?
Anyway, It’s time to take all my white clothing out of the dryer now, so maybe I’ll see you next year, when the legal age to drink in Mapleton will be lowered to 12, because who the hell wants to be a sober 12-year-old in Mapleton?
It was good, I guess, to see that Laurie was initially thinking Jill shouldn’t be a Remnant, taking her cigarette away and telling her to go home. To be fair, it’s possible Laurie would have allowed it at some point earlier in the month, or after all that Memorial Day business was said and done. (If it ever will be.)
So, fuck Meg for being a piece of shit character all season. I don’t really understand what she was good for, other than showing viewers someone who converted. No fault on Liv Tyler, who was perfectly UGH as Meg. I hope she gets bamboozled by stones next season.
Kevin Sr. talks to Patti before we see her, but I’m not sure what that means as far as who Kevin Sr. is actually having his supernatural conversations with. It was all in Kevin’s head anyway, but I wonder if we’re supposed to take something from it.
Tom and Christine totally would have had the “Wayne isn’t really coming, is he?” conversation about a thousand times by that point. Should we congratulate her for sticking around as long as she did? Plus, what the fuck, Tom?
It’s an easy choice to think that Kevin’s wish to the dying Wayne was to get his family back. But I happen to think he really wished to have the dog come back and be nice to him. And that happened, not like the family thing.
Also, I wonder if Nora’s revitalized sadness was a sign that Holy Wayne’s hug wasn’t a “real” thing.
Will Holy Wayne’s background come up again in Season 2? I want to know why mentioning Russia and having physical contact with Kevin were the questions the federal agent asked. It seems like the physical contact part would be tied into his healings. Or maybe he just likes to also touch dudes in restrooms.
When Kevin was worried about Matt touching Patti’s eyelids, why didn’t someone just mention he could use a thing other than his fingerprint-laden fingertips?
“You were…with her, at the moment of Departure?” Reverend Matt should have a Pete Holmes-style podcast.