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Review: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 1 Episode 10 ‘The Prodigal Son Returns’ Keeps the Surprises Coming

Review: 'The Leftovers' Season 1 Episode 10 'The Prodigal Son Returns' Keeps the Surprises Coming

Does everyone remember the finale of “True Detective”? If not, you can get a refresher here, but it’s hard not to see parallels in the first season finales of HBO’s most recent freshman dramas. Both provided stark insights into the ultimate musings of man. Both were deemed dark and dreary, though the recent Emmy-winner offered many more moments of levity than Damon Lindelof’s latest. And both have ended their first seasons with seemingly impossible optimism. The light has bested the dark, even in the blackest of night that is “The Leftovers.”

READ MORE: ‘The Leftovers’: 9 Big Questions Damon Lindelof Needs to Answer in the Season 1 Finale

Sure, not everything was sunshine and roses, but after setting up the deaths of several main characters, Lindelof and Tom Perrotta pulled back, instead giving these individuals a new lease on life. Nora chose a newborn over her own death. Jill finally connected with her father. Laurie somehow survived the GR massacre and is now reunited with her first-born. It was an overwhelming hour of television, leaving much to discuss before Season 2. Let’s get started.

Facts: 

1) The Garvey Family remains split, but is still closer to whole. 
By the end of the hour, each member of the Garvey family had found a lifeline in one another — just not as a group. Kevin and Jill bonded over Laurie’s failures as a mother (yes, even more so than Kevin’s heroics as a father), while Laurie and Tom found refuge in one another, two damaged souls looking for a way out. It’s fitting, really. Both Laurie and Tom were the two Garvey family members most drastically affected by October 14, so why the two didn’t seek answers together already is slightly odd. Both found new saviors (Tom with Holy Wayne, and Laurie with Patti), and now both have been betrayed by those false idols. It will be fascinating to see how their mental anguish develops into action during Season 2.

2) R.I.P. Holy “Hugging” Wayne. 
The self-fulfilling prophecy is complete. Though we’re not sure exactly how Holy “Hugging” Wayne met his end (thought it appears he was shot, most likely by the FBI agents who eventually burst into the diner bathroom), he did predict as much not so long ago. More importantly, he had a moment of earnest humanity formerly absent from the magnetic con artist. In his dying moments, he admitted to being worried he was a fraud and asked Kevin to make a wish. While we can’t be certain what Jr. wished for, only moments ago he was crying/confessing to the Reverend how badly he wanted his family back. By the end of “The Prodigal Son Returns,” he has it — they’re not the family he had before, but the new family seems to be the one better suited for the new Kevin (though I’m sure he’d like Tom back, too, even though he’s not his biological father).

And at the end, Kevin gets Wayne’s child, a “magic” gift from a dying man and (hopefully) all the proof he needs to believe again. Does this mean Holy Wayne was the real deal? Not at all. Nora admitted in her letter she’d been faking progress post-hugging, and even though Wayne’s baby saved her, too, that doesn’t mean Wayne should’ve been sleeping around with underage Asians. At least the Holy Hugger got to die happy, adding another moment of light into the surprisingly hopeful finale. 

3) The GR got what was coming to them…
As horrific as it was to watch suburban houses burning amidst a riot in upstate New York, it was also gutturally satisfying for anyone whose put up with the GR’s emotionless tactics for nine episodes. It’s hard to take satisfaction in them getting the reaction they wanted — Meg’s face post-beating will haunt my dreams until Season 2 starts — but the action taken by Mapletonians was long-awaited and arguably justifiable. Starting the riot with the mother who lost her baby shooting down GR members in the street properly put things in perspective, and it didn’t slow down from there.

Questions:

1) …but will the people in white only grow stronger?
Was it worth it? Their headquarters have been destroyed. Some of their members are dead, while others may have been spooked into quitting the meaningless cult. Yet this obviously isn’t the end of the GR. Not with Meg’s aforementioned grin and not with an unnamed benefactor who seems to have bottomless pockets. The Guilty Remnant could return stronger than ever — more conviction, protection from a reluctant police force (though certainly not Kevin, not anymore), and possibly richer than ever if the homes and their members’ lives were insured. Plus, the press from the incident will draw more attention to them than they could have gotten otherwise. Perhaps the FBI had it right. Kevin should have put these people out of commission long ago. Now, there may be no stopping them.

2) Did Holy Wayne pass some of his magic onto his baby?
Nora being saved by the daughter of a man who failed to cure her (but she faked it anyway) is just steeped in irony. It’s also going to be an interesting angle, depending on how far ahead we jump in the lives of the new Garvey family for Season 2. If she’s about to be walking and talking by the time we get back, what else can she do? How will they justify keeping her? What will they tell her about her origins? How will Tom react to the baby being raised by Nora, and how will Nora react to the baby’s daddy if Tom tells her (or Christine returns and does the same)? That kid is going to be one to keep a close eye on, no doubt.

3) Is the Chief still the Chief?
Kevin Jr. is now on the same playing field as his papa, as both Garveys have a town-wide catastrophe under their police belts, even if Jr.’s wasn’t directly his fault. Still, Lil’ Kevin is probably bonkers (unless conspiracy theories about the GR pulling a psychological prank on the police chief prove true), but more dire to his immediate situation is his absence during the GR debacle. He wasn’t on scene or even available when shit hit the fan, and while no one was pointing fingers during Episode 10, you better believe he’ll have some explaining to do in time. One thing on his side: He told the Mayor this would happen, and she gave him credit at the scene. He’d likely have a job for life if the whole Patti problem hadn’t kept him out of town when its citizens needed him most.

Theories:

1) Laurie will leave the GR, making Meg the new Patti. 
Laurie has seen the results first hand of what happens when she follows the GR. People die. Her daughter almost died. Her fellow GR members died, who she ordered into battle (knowing all too well it wasn’t safe). Nothing productive came out of it other than her ex-husband and daughter formed a new bond built on hating Laurie. Now she’s got Tom, another lost soul looking for a new leader. Sure, he could fall in line with his mom and be dressed in white when Season 2 begins, but I think those two will go rogue, leaving the GR to Meg, a psychotic of Patti’s proportions. 

2) Jill has a new mommy, and that’s just fine with her.
Jill memorably gave Nora quite the hard time when she first found out the mourning mother was dating her dad. Technically, she’s been bothering Nora since Episode 1 when she stalked her and stole her kids’ gummy bears. Now, though, it seems the two might have found the right moment to get along. After almost dying due to the neglect of her actual mother, Jill arrived home to find Nora smiling and caring for what was obviously a stranger’s baby — and she couldn’t have looked happier to be doing it. Jill needs that in her life, and so does her dad (who Jill now likes). I think this rivalry is over, and come Season 2 it will be Laurie who has to seek out her daughter.

3) Kevin Jr. will be seeing much more of Patti, whether he wants to or not.
So let’s talk about that dream sequence. “The Leftovers” has a rich history with dreams and alternate realities, and that’s just from Kevin’s many late-night excursions (if that’s really what happened). This one felt different — there was no eerie mailbox or randomly appearing kids to make you think, “Oh, this must be a dream.” From the second Kevin “woke up” and the Reverend had him committed, it seemed like this was actually happening. So was it? Did it happen? Perhaps in an alternate reality, aka a dream, where people like Kevin Sr. and Patti can communicate as and how they need to? The notion seems pretty far-fetched, but the triggers were all too telling to be a standalone carpet pulling from Lindelof. The National Geographic. Patti yelling “wake up.” Even Kevin Sr. sans goatee indicates a reality otherwise unknown to Kevin, where his imagination, instead of changing things, would create the impossible to tell him what he doesn’t want to know. Patti will be back, and she may be the one villain Kevin can’t bury.

Grade: A-

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