Will the good reverend ever learn? That was the question on everyone’s mind during this week’s spotlight episode of “The Leftovers,” as writers Damon Lindelof and Jacqueline Hoyt chose to give Matt Jamison (played by the incomparable Christopher Eccleston) an hour unto himself. It’s not the first time they’ve done so, and it felt like little had changed since our last extended visit with Nora’s brother. Yet, thanks to impeccably crafted character development leading to dramatic and meaningful conflict, “No Room at the Inn” proved to be one of the series’ best episodes to date, surpassing the Reverend’s last hour and coming close to Nora’s solo excursion from Season 1.
Matt quickly got himself into trouble after leaving Miracle for Mary’s doctor appointment; scheduled because he secretly wanted to know if she had signs of brain development since “waking up” on her first night in Jarden, TX. Yet his hidden motives were misinterpreted when the doctors discovered Mary was pregnant and suspected Matt of doing the deed without her consent. From there, the ecstatic papa-to-be pulled to the side of the road to help his fellow man, only to be betrayed for his good will.
From there, everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and Matt was at his wits’ end by the time Nora found he and Mary wandering through a creepy campsite outside of town in the rain. And for as much as we wanted to chastise Matt for repeating the same mistakes over and over, instead we saw a true saint emerge. Rejecting the easy road and putting his faith entirely in the Lord and his people, Reverend Jamison ended the episode in martyrdom, not only for himself but for the show as well. In a battle between believers and cynics, Matt illustrated how love can truly conquer all foes. Whether or not he’s rewarded for his efforts is unknown, but we can trust nothing will stop this patron saint of sacrifice.
1. Who says “The Leftovers” doesn’t have a sense of humor?
As an avid supporter of Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s challenging drama, I can attest to how often I read the words, “depressing,” “sad” and “dark.” It’s a lot, you guys. I’ve read those words a lot, and, frankly, I’m sick of it. While no one can deny “The Leftovers” is a thorough and unique examination of loss, which is inherently difficult, there’s simply no way it’s as dour as its reputation would lead you to believe. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I’d rather spend eternity with the human emotion chronicled in “The Leftovers” than a day in the joyless world of “Game of Thrones.” Because at least with “The Leftovers,” I get laugh-out-loud moments like this season’s opening credits, Evie’s killer knock-knock joke (from Episode 1) and the beautifully set-up musical cue of “Let Your Love Flow” when Matt and Mary are swept out of the sewer drain by a flood of water. To me, that’s right up there with Nora saying, “Fuck your daughter” on the yearly list of top comedic moments. You just wait. It’ll be on there. (Oh, and a shout-out to John Murphy for cracking a solid joke about Matt being a threat to baptize people. “Leftovers” Season 2: Laugh riot.)
2. Never say “You’ll be fine,” when talking to a pregnant woman.
First of all, you don’t know that. Second of all, don’t stop the car, Matt! We knew Matt was in trouble as soon as he pulled over to help the father/son wristband bandits because a) the runners on the bridge was pretty ominous foreshadowing; b) The same thing literally happened to Matt l in Season 1, when he stopped his car on the way to the bank to save his church and got whacked upside the head with a rock while helping an injured GR member; c) Matt’s fateful words — especially adding “and the baby” — sealed his fate.
3. Matt is too trusting.
Matt’s faith is what saves him, but it’s also what gets him in trouble from the start. While I won’t decry him too much (/again) for lending a helping hand to a lonely father on the side of the road, trusting a drugged up hippie named Almer to lead you into town for $1,000 is sheer lunacy. You can’t trust everyone, Matt. God gave us free will, and some choose to use it for their own gain.
Additional note: In the review for Episode 1, I noted how Matt was going to get himself into some trouble, because of how quickly he was shushed by the pastor when he tried to talk about Mary. Now it seems that was more for his safety than the town’s. With John in the audience — and his hatred of all things miraculous — it was best for Matt to fly under the radar as long as he could. Turns out this week was when he got spotted.
1. What did happen to John?
It may have been a stupid question for Matt to ask when he’s already gone along with the hardest part of John’s demands, but it is pressing and he was the right man to ask it. Last week, Erika gave us the slightest of insights into Kevin’s frustrations with Miracle’s reputation. It was enough to understand his position, if not why he was so adamantly entrenched in it. What happened to John? More specifically, why was he thrown in the clink for attempted murder? One doesn’t do something like that without reason, and it seems that reason is haunting Mr. Murphy.
Bonus question: Does it relate to Evie’s disappearance? When Matt mentioned handing out flyers, John thanked him without earnestness. It’s not that he’s just depressed, either. He knows something about what’s happened, even if his first instinct — to blame Isaac, the man whose house John burned down — was wrong. If we find out what happened to John — perhaps by John re-examining his own past — we might find Evie, too.
2. Did Mary wake up?
Honestly, I was pretty tempted to put this in the facts section because as soon as I heard she was pregnant, the answer to last week’s question switched from “maybe” to “yes, absolutely.” Last week, I expressed doubts in Matt’s story, but it was because it seemed possible for him to trust in a dream; to believe something he so desperately wanted had happened, even if he was sound asleep. Everything changes with a pregnancy. Unless Matt is like Kevin and sleepwalks as though he’s fully conscious (even when he’s not), there’s no way he would have had sex with his comatose wife. It’s simply not something he’s capable of doing. There’s always the chance of a divine pregnancy, or even that Matt shut off the computer’s camera for a more notorious reason than embarrassment, but those seem pretty far out of “The Leftovers” realm and this character’s capabilities. So we’re going with yes, she woke up. Now: Will she do it again?
3. Will we learn more about the “goddamn goats”?
“No Room at the Inn” was unique in the sense it wasn’t told from the perspective of the Garvey or Murphy family. So this begs the question, will we see their side of things in future episodes? There doesn’t appear to be many lingering mysteries, as we know why John Murphy owed Kevin a favor — for going with him to visit Isaac/covering for him when he got shot — and most of the other scenes were independent of everyone else. But Nora’s anonymous phone call to distract the cops while she smuggled her brother back into town may lead to some questions later on, especially if Kevin is implicated in Evie’s disappearance because of that thumbprint. The whole Garvey clan could look bad if she’s found out, but the biggest question remains: Where did those goats come from? Our only other experience with them came when a man walked into the diner where the Murphys were having lunch and slaughtered a goat right in front of them. No one cared or was even surprised by that, and Nora didn’t seem all that shocked by the accident. What does it mean? I haven’t the slightest, but if you Google “goat symbolism,” you’ll learn the animals can indicate fertility. Maybe that bodes well for Mary’s baby, or maybe there are just a lot of goats in Texas.
1. Mary will wake up.
Matt is so resolute in his service to God there’s simply no way he’s coming back to town unless it’s to “have a talk” with John Murphy, and he won’t be doing either until Mary wakes up. That was his promise, and no matter how worried Kevin and Nora are about him — assuming they find out about the stockade — he won’t break it. “The Leftovers” can obviously get by a few weeks without the good reverend, as the perspective shifts allow for some characters to take time off while others dominate the screen. But he’s too valuable a character to disappear entirely, and the questions he forces with his convictions often stir the pot in a way no one else can. Also, if Mary does wake up, it proves nothing. It didn’t prove she was awake when Matt slept with her (though we’ve already gone over why she probably was), and there’s no real evidence Miracle was the reason for her recovery.
2. Matt is a bit of a hypocrite.
One of the most important lessons God imparts in the Bible is not to worship false idols. Usually a person or object, I think Jarden, TX — a place — could qualify as well under these circumstances. Putting your faith in anything other than the Lord is pretty frowned upon by the big guy upstairs, and Matt is putting an awful lot of trust in a town he shouldn’t really believe holds any special relation to the Lord. Matt’s faith has never wavered. He spent last season trying to disprove the theory God called the departures to heaven, meaning he doesn’t believe October 14 was a spiritual event. To Matt, it’s a test, not a ruling.
So why does he believe that Jarden is special? Because his wife “woke up” during their first night in town. It’s easy to understand how he would form an attachment to it, given that and now a “miracle” pregnancy, but those are temptations of which men can succumb, not men of God. Yet Matt is struggling to separate uncommon events from divine intervention. The Reverand became most frustrated when his efforts to replicate Mary’s diet and activities in order to wake her up again proved fruitless. He yelled at her for not responding and then shut down the computer recording her sleep out of embarrassment. This, however, was not a sign. It’s only a sign to Matt when it’s something good. He sees just about everything positive as a sign, from Mary’s awakening to her pregnancy to a wooden cross towering above a campsite filled with crazies. He is absolutely filled with optimism he channels into faith, and that’s what gave him the strength to accept his plight on the outskirts of town; to accept punishment for his sins in the hope Mary gets God’s grace. Yet why she has to be within the city limits — a distinction made by man, by the way — is harder to justify. It’s all part of God’s plan, but Matt keeps reading the map like a treasure hunt.
3. We haven’t seen the last of that kid.
Matt’s help doesn’t just go unrewarded. He’s actively punished for helping just about anyone. He took his wife to the doctor, and he was nearly arrested. He stopped to help a man on the side of the road, and he was beaten unconscious. He frees a man from the stockade only to be held captive himself. And that’s just what happened this week! We didn’t even mention how stopping to care for a GR member cost him his church (oops). With that in mind, it wouldn’t surprise me if that child he took to John Murphy comes back to haunt him. You could argue he already did just by being at the scene of an accident responsible for stopping Nora’s car — a car that would have otherwise driven straight through to Miracle where Matt and Nora would be safe (for a while) — but methinks the little boy will be back again; for better or for worse.