THE LEFTOVERS Season One Finale Recap: “The Prodigal Son Returns”

     September 8, 2014


For those who were ambivalent about The Leftovers, but decided to at least finish out the season, the finale was the make or break moment.  In a season with great highs and very, very deep lows, there was a hope that things might settle down into something decent at least.  Though creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta said they didn’t agree on whether the show was supernaturally-oriented or not, it seemed possible that the finale would help clear that up as it steered its story towards the future, and a second season.  But what we got was “The Prodigal Son Returns.”  Hit the jump; I’ll be dead in a minute.

the leftovers recap season 1 finale It was so disappointing, after the fun of “The Garveys at Their Best,” to return to the Garveys at their worst.  Kevin was sitting with Patti’s body after her suicide, and called on Matt for help burying her and getting him back into town safely and quietly.  Jill was still insisting on joining the Guilty Remnant, not so much because she believed in their ideology, it seems, but because she missed her mother, and life with her dad wasn’t all that great.  Tommy, entrusted with Christine and her new baby, ended up with just the latter, after Christine bolts away from them both.

As Kevin explained to Matt, his desire before the Departure was to leave his family, and now, of course, all he wanted was to get them back.  During a chance meeting with Holy Wayne in the diner bathroom where Wayne, apparently, had disemboweled himself, Kevin was granted a wish (even though Wayne called himself a fraud).  There was no mystery about what Kevin would have been thinking about or desiring — it’s been building all season, especially after that penultimate episode.

So, slowly, Kevin became reunited with his family thanks to a murderous and chaotic event, perpetrated by the Guilty Remnant.  Their sick plan to plant the replica bodies at the homes of those who were taken was disgusting, and caused Mapleton to riot in grief and horror.  The GR, of course, relished this and the opportunity for martyrdom.  (It also provided an easy out for Kevin’s whereabouts earlier in the day, as well as Patti’s disappearance.)  And, in the ensuing inferno, Kevin got the opportunity to rescue his daughter, while Laurie reconnected with Tommy.  As Nora held Christine and Wayne’s baby to close the season, there was a suggestion of hope.

But … does it matter?  As nice as it was to have some resolution(ish) for the Garveys, can it be believed?  And how will it be changed (and get fucked again) to sustain a second season?  As for the question of whether the show has a supernatural orientation or not, “The Prodigal Son Returns” offered nothing definitive, which isn’t at all surprising.  Wayne thinks he’s a fraud, but “grants” Kevin a wish.  Did things happen as they happened because of Wayne, or because it was bound to anyway?  Again, does it matter?

the leftovers recap season 1 finale The Leftovers was always built on a very shaky foundation, and capitalized on a totally unbelievable suggestion that there has been a worldwide funk for three years following the Departure.  Forget the World Wars, or the fact that the plague and Spanish Flu each wiped out about 1/5th of the world’s population (10 times more than the Departure did, conservatively), and the fact that in all of these cases and countless others, people moved on and handled shit because that’s what we do.  Somehow, this was supposed to be different.  But nothing about it ever resonated in any way to make us believe it was.

Taking The Leftovers as a whole for the first season is very simple.  There were two great episodes (“Guest” and “The Garveys At Their Best”), one good episode (“Two Boats and a Helicopter”), and the rest was a lot of filler and bullshit (for instance, in “The Prodigal Son Returns,” was there any reason for Kevin’s extended dream sequence?)  And while it was nice in some ways to see the Garveys make their way back to each other, it still felt totally unearned (particularly the dog, who is now a friendly Rover instead of a rabid terror).  If you were using this finale to judge whether or not to return for next season, don’t get distracted like Nora because there was a cute baby and a tiny bit of hope.  Take a lesson from Christine and all those before her: depart.

Episode Rating: C-

Season Rating: C

Musings and Miscellanea:

— Megan is so irritating, I don’t know why Laurie puts up with her and doesn’t slap her more.

— Wayne’s final scene was incredibly creepy.

— The directing was so overwrought.  Sorry, Mimi Leder.  You tried to improve that episode, but it couldn’t be done.

— Excellent acting from Justin Theroux in the diner when he was confessing his sins, more or less, to Matt.  But way too much telling and not showing.  (And is the show too lazy to read from any verses outside of the Apocrypha, or does it think it’s pulling one over on viewers?)

— So is Nora sticking around and adopting Christine’s baby?

— Goodbye Leftovers.  Not a moment too soon.