After an interesting diversion last week with Matt’s linear and focused story, The Leftovers returned to its scattered, dour ways in “The B.J. and the A.C.” Christmas is a difficult time of year for many, often bringing up complicated emotions related to family, faith and brokenness. It’s a time that is prescribed to be merry, leaving those who aren’t all the more alienated. Of course, in the world of The Leftovers, there’s not even a pretense of merriment, and no one could possibly be more alienated, so the show’s Christmas-focused episode was naturally a cold one. Hit the jump if you want something to drink — water? Coffee? Drano?
When HBO sent out advanced screeners for the first five episodes of The Leftovers, they omitted episode four. They did the same thing with True Detective, which proved to be significant because of that episode’s reveals and that incredible tracking shot to close out the hour. This left a suspicion for me that despite the fact that the first three episodes of The Leftovers (most especially the first two) were a slog, perhaps the fourth episode would be an important turning point. At the very least, something interesting on the supernatural side of things would take place.
No such luck. I have no idea why the episode was omitted from the press packs, and even less sense of what “The B.J. and the A.C.” wanted to provide as a takeaway. Yes, it clearly had moments that are pointing and building to something down to the road, but you have to want to go down that road. Even in this era of chapter-like storytelling on TV, every week should still be compelling on its own while also feeding into the larger story.
The focus this week was back on the Garveys, more or less, with the long-suffering Kevin admitting that he isn’t perfect. He cheated on Laurie at some point in their marriage, and she (through a letter Meg wrote) revealed for the audience that Tommy is not Kevin’s biological son. The show has challenged the idea of family and about connections in a post-Departed world, but “The B.J. and the A.C.” didn’t seem to come to any real conclusions about it.
Mythology-wise, the more interesting trajectory was with Tommy and his crusade to save and protect Christine. After a pants-less madman attacks her, saying he dreamt of her stepping over the dead, all in white, and that “he knows what’s inside her,” it’s revealed that she’s pregnant with Holy Wayne’s baby. The hostility between her and Tommy causes him to be picked out as her assailant, and after a minor faith crisis of his own, he returns to Christine and springs her from the maternity ward by pretending they are both part of another cult, one that paints targets on their foreheads in a way reminiscent to the Mark of the Beast (since this episode got a little Biblical). Ultimately, the pants-less man’s vision was true, and Christine stepped over a lot of very fresh looking bodies in very poorly stored bags.
But the lasting impressing of this arc as well as the Garveys is: so? The Leftovers portrays plenty of emotion without really getting to the heart of it. There are a lot of characters, but none of them are fleshed out with real drive or motivations (or even world-view — Matt maybe a little more so now, but he only appeared in this episode for a brief moment at the end). The Remnant’s sarcastic literature suggests that those who are left are just empty vessels. The show has done very little to disprove that.
Episode Rating: C
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I may go one more week with this, because I keep getting the (false) sense that as soon as I quit, the next episode will probably be when things finally come together. Then again…
— I just can’t give any time to Jill or her story. For once, I’d really like to see a TV-daughter whose personality was something more than being sullen and eye-rolling (Homeland and Tyrant are two other recent offenders).
— Laurie going back to get the lighter showed her as conflicted but … ok? Who isn’t?
— The smoking on this show is so unnatural. It’s clear most of these people have never smoked, it looks so forced.
— Not interested in the photography stealing except that apparently no one in that town has an alarm.
— The twins are the only characters who provided any relief from the doldrums of this episode, particularly at the end when they dropped the baby off and botched the getaway so completely.
— I think Amy’s attempts at getting with Kevin are unlikely, but he and Nora might have a thing down the road. If anyone sticks around that long.
— “You want something to drink? Water? Coffee? Drano?” – Kevin.