THE LEFTOVERS Recap: “The Garveys At Their Best”

     August 25, 2014


In the penultimate episode of its inaugural season, The Leftovers finally gave viewers a reason to care about the Garveys.  It took nine hours to get here — was it worth it?  Like so much about The Leftovers, the placement of “The Garveys At Their Best” is a question of pacing.  It would have been a harrowing season opener, or another early episode.  Was Damon Lindelof afraid that a flashback episode would feel too much like Lost?  (That the present only matters because of the revelations of the past?)  Or was there a feeling that waiting this long would make the character reveals more interesting?  In any case, it arrived — hit the jump for why “I smoked.  And I don’t want a dog.”

the-leftovers-poster-1Seriously consider for a moment just how different the viewing experience of The Leftovers would have been if the series had opened with “The Garveys at Their Best” (or had it as the second episode).  This hour provided groundwork for the guilt and disillusion that permeated the rest of the season.  Nora was in the midst of resenting her family, and desiring time and space for herself.  She got it.  Laurie seems ambivalent about keeping her baby, and then the baby is taken away.  Jill and Tommy witness a disappearance, just after discussing the problems between Laurie and Kevin.  Then Laurie, presumably, leaves without an explanation, which causes them to resent Kevin for it.

The Garveys, Nora, Matt and his wife, Kevin Senior, and almost every character make so much more sense in this context.  Even Kevin Junior’s hallucinations (or visions) have more power now, with the deer as a recurring theme, the idea of a dog he doesn’t want, etc.  Like Nora, Kevin resented his family, too.  He admits to his father that it’s not enough — he has an unfulfilled hero complex, essentially.  The reason why he and Nora connect so quickly and so easily is that they are both harboring the same guilt about themselves: “I wanted them to disappear, and they did.”

The little touches like Patti being someone Laurie counseled, or Gladys being the dog breeder where Laurie goes to get the puppy, were all fine little twists.  But they weren’t so full of impact that it necessitated viewers to watch eight episodes in order to get the joke; it would have worked just as well the other way (seeing Patti, for instance, go from a confused and abused woman to becoming the harsh leader of a cult).

The miscalculation that The Leftovers has made this season is one of purpose.  What is the show supposed to be about?  And almost regardless of the answer (be it about guilt, pain, grief, loss, or something supernatural), “The Garveys at Their Best” set the stage for it.  It created a baseline for all of the major characters that not only would have given their individual stories more emotional connection in prior episodes, but it also would have tied in the supernatural (or at least, the fact of the Departure) much more closely to those individual stories, making it all matter more.

the-leftovers-the-garveys-at-their-best-justin-therouxNon-linear storytelling can be a powerful and beautiful narrative device, but ”The Garveys at Their Best” proved that The Leftovers would have worked better with a more traditional timeline.  Granted, there is still one more episode left in the season to see how things will resolve (or more likely not) at the the end of this run.  But for now, this hour was one that was almost a reward for sticking around with the show for so long.  Is it too little too late, though?  Especially since we now know it didn’t have to be that way.

Episode Rating: A-

Musings and Miscellanea:

– I would have felt favorably towards this episode no matter what though, if only because of Justin Theroux jogging, and then hanging around in soft pants.  Blessed are those …

– Hearing Laurie finally speaking was almost jarring.

Margaret Qualley did such a great job portraying 13-year-old Jill.  Hilariously accurate, not only in her dress (and braces) and Nyan cat sensibilities, but her goofy laugh and slumped shoulders.  Great work.

– The foreshadowing of The Departure was a little too heavy-handed in Nora’s story, but it still worked.  Her love but also annoyance with her children was also beautifully and realistically acted.  Her guilt complex also makes so much more sense.

– “I’d rather us be afraid together” – Mary Jamison.  That also explains Matt’s horror that he got drunk and let his wife drive, and she was paralyzed in the accident following.

– This episode tried to give Tommy a little more context, but still failed.

– Kevin having a psychologist wife and not bothering to tell her about his visions and hallucinations seems like a missed opportunity.

– Laurie seemed to really take Gladys’ comments about puppies needing to be free of their mother a bit too seriously, when she abandoned Jill and Tommy for the GR.  Her leaving Kevin I kind of understand, but the rest …

– “So cut the shit, ok?” – Kevin Senior.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1 Episode 9

  • TedSallis

    Call me crazy but I’m totally okay with rewarding those that hung around. Kind of tired of shows that cater to the “quick fix give it to me now” crowd. Draw it out, draw me in, then give me a little taste and lead me on some more. It’s delicious.

    People yelled and screamed about Agents of Shield last year and the impatient ones went away in disgust at having to wait so long. Then the end of the season rocked and those of us who had stuck with it were rewarded for our patience.

    Leftovers is doing the same on a MUCH slower burn. It was neat to see what looked like so many loose and scattered pieces snap into place.

    • LEM

      That would be great if most shows weren’t cancelled immediately when the ratings aren’t there in the first few weeks. Those two shows luckily had the production teams or clout behind them to soldier on without that worry but most shows don’t have that luxury.

      I do feel this episode would have been a much better series opener than the one we were given. There was no reason to give a shit about those characters and the most interesting episodes have been ones without the Garveys. I was fine with us filling in the blanks as to what happened before since we’ve been given enough clues but for them to wait all these episodes to then spoon feed exactly what happened seems ill conceived.

  • TheDarkNut

    I struggle with The Leftovers every week but I come back and give it another try. Its a very good show except for the big hole that is.. what actually happened to the departed? This episode really brought that to the forefront. There is really no way to stay invested if they are just going to refuse to explain it in some way. Kevin being intimate with someone and Jill and Tommy standing in a circle holding hands with others at the very moment of departure and we still don’t know what happened is just bad writing. They didn’t turn their heads and they were gone, they were right there with them. We haven’t even been given a description of what they saw..I will watch the finale but if they don’t at least give us something to go on, I won’t be back next season.

    • Lee Harvey Cobblepot

      I disagree that “it’s just bad writing” that we aren’t told what happened. It’s not. It’s a mystery that hasn’t been solved yet. In fact, it may never be solved on the show. But it’s not, in and of itself, bad writing.

  • ervin

    i wasn’t so sure about this one after first two episodes, but i stuck around and i watched as the leftovers got stronger and stronger after each episode. i’m addicted now. this and the knick are my favourite new shows.

  • Lee Harvey Cobblepot

    I disagree with the entire thesis of this review, the idea that the show has somehow been underwhelming and that is because it hasn’t contextualized the feelings of grief and loss that have permeated the show. I have, throughout the season, very much enjoyed what has been there, and it has been continually interesting to see the thing unfold. I have been engaged throughout, and each individual part has been so strong that I think the call for more “context” or “explanations” have been premature.

    That said, I’m glad you (Allison) kept the reviews up, and that we finally got a positive review for what I consider the best show on TV right now. Even if the reasons for you liking it are different than mine.

  • Georce Johnson

    I still can’t get over the 2% thing. Everyone would assume alien abduction far more than this mystical stuff. They should’ve done over 30%.

  • Georce Johnson

    I still can’t get over the 2% thing. Everyone would assume alien abduction far more than this mystical stuff. They should’ve done over 30%.

  • Jessica Patton

    I think the writer of the
    article is a damn idiot and has no brain…..why not ‘make it like
    every other show and tell everything up front so no one has to
    think’. People say the writers suck because they aren’t being up
    front about what the departure really was, but that is why we keep
    watching….everyone wants to know! duh.

    Oh…and the sweat pants this week were a nice touch. We want more sweat pants! haha

  • Chris Jacobs

    I agree with you mostly except I think the impact of 14 year old Jill is lost if this episode comes before she joins the GR

  • Chris Jacobs

    I agree with you mostly except I think the impact of 14 year old Jill is lost if this episode comes before she joins the GR