In an interview earlier this summer, Tom Perrotta, who wrote The Leftovers novel and is an executive producer on the show, said that there was a definite creative tension between himself and executive producer/showrunner Damon Lindelof over the question of whether the supernatural exists in the show. This first season is, supposedly, a battleground in which either option could be true. But by “Cairo,” that seems less and less likely. Hit the jump for a look at why things in Mapleton need to expand beyond the gloomy suffering of its inhabitants, and what it means if they don’t.
From my understanding, in the novel, there is not a question of supernatural events aside from the Departure itself. What makes The Leftovers TV show different though is that the question hasto be answered. Because it’s a series, and because Kevin’s visions are getting stronger and his “lost time” is becoming more frequent (and more violent), we’re either watching a man struggling with being a part of something bigger, or our de facto protagonist is losing his mind in front of us.
Hannibal did something similar in its first season, where Will Graham’s loss of time included, potentially, violent interludes. But it was also mostly clear that those interludes, as well as Will’s insanity (which had a physiological basis) were all under the careful control of Hannibal Lecter. If Kevin’s visions and penchant towards violence is under the control of anyone, it lends itself to a supernatural occurrence; there is not anyone who is controlling Kevin, or has a reason to, of Earthly means. His symptoms almost perfectly mirror his father’s, yes, but then what of the Mystery Man? He is not just a hallucination Kevin has — everyone else sees him, too. Patti suggests he’s a ghost, and he calls himself a guardian angel. Either way, though, she interacts with him (as do others in town, including Jill), proving he at least as a corporal body. He also talks into the air, saying he’s trying to get Kevin to do what he was meant to do, just like Kevin Senior does.
According to the Mystery Man as well as Patti, the “true path” is for Kevin to kill Patti. She tells him he wants to, MM tells him he wants to, but “waking” Kevin resists. Patti spends a lot of time mouthing off a lot of bullshit, and finally cuts her own throat to prove a point Kevin doesn’t understand at all (at least, not yet). Before that, Patti went a little farther in “Cairo” describing the aim of the Guilty Remnant, but it didn’t illuminate anything other than the fact that she killed Gladys, because the GR thrives on martyrdom.
There are a few ways to take The Leftovers as it is being currently presented. There’s the world of the Guilty Remnant: one of nihilism and chaos, that doesn’t believe in a point to anything except remembering an event no one understands. There’s the world of Pastor Matt and Holy Wayne, who believe that pain can be alleviated if it’s just embraced, and people move on. In between, there’s the potential third way of the Garveys and the Mystery Man, who serve a figure prone to violence, about whom almost nothing is known (regarding motivation).
None of these are presented in a very appealing light on the show, which is part of what makes The Leftovers such a dour slog. Nora had been something of a hero on the series because of how her life has moved forward since her encounter with Holy Wayne. But Jill’s obsession with her being “better” comes to a disappointing end when Jill found her gun. It suggests Nora isn’t ok, which means (as Aimee says) no one is. With that depressing, crushing understanding of reality on her, Jill finds her way to the only logical place — the Guilty Remnant.
Those looking for any major answers in the final two episodes of The Leftovers should be careful of their own disappointment. With the show having been picked up for a second season, there’s no rush to explain or reveal anything — and clearly, there hasn’t been, even from the start. The other side of it is, given Perrotta and Lindelof’s different visions for the story, there’s also no guarantee that there’s going to be anything to reveal. At that point, what is the point?
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Interestingly, this is the only episode of the season not to feature Lindelof in the head writing credits.
— Really not sad to see Patti go, but it’s quasi-interesting that Laurie so comfortably has taken her place.
— It didn’t take long for Megan to start running her mouth again, did it?
— Looks like the GR has something really messed up planned with, presumably, those Departed dummies that we learned about in “Guest.” Frankly, I would move.
— “Well now that I’ve been inspected for firearms, the worst is over” – Nora.
— “Do you really think Aimee was fucking Garvey’s dad?” “Probably, dude is ripped!” – The twins. I doubt it, though. And if they did, there’s no way she would have ever told him she thought it was wrong.
— So … are Aimee’s parents departed? What is her deal.
— “I’m not going to lose my mind listening to the fucking words coming out of your fucking mouth. No, I don’t understand you.” – Kevin, to Patti. Me, to this show.