by Josie Kafka
(This is not a review.)
In the lead-up to the series premiere, critics with screeners all raved about “Two Boats and a Helicopter,” which focuses exclusively on Christopher Eccleston’s Father Matt Jamison. I had high hopes for this episode, particularly since its placement third in the first season evoked Lost’s “Walkabout,” which many people cite as the a-ha moment in their Lost-watching journey.
And “Two Boats and a Helicopter” was an excellent episode. Its emphasis on faith, the Abrahamic notion of the test and the sacrifice, the way we view luck as divine mercy or devilish irony, are all right up my alley. Eccleston aced it. Even the dream sequence wasn’t awful, and I have very little patience for dream sequences.
However, “Two Boats and a Helicopter” has me wondering if maybe this is a good time to bow out of The Leftovers. The pilot was a dreary portrait of Justin Theroux’s Kevin Garvey. The second episode, which focused on Liv Tyler’s Meg Abbott, was excellently constructed—but the construction (the tree is a symbol! Objective correlation!) felt by-the-numbers. “Two Boats…” may be the best of the batch, but it’s also the third character-centric episode in a row.
Is that what this show will do? Provide a little short-story narrative each week, giving us a Peyton Place-meets-the-Apocalypse person-by-person portrait of existential angst? That could be a thing, but I’m not sure it’s my thing.
“Walkabout,” although not my turning-point for Lost, is undeniably a great episode. What made it great was how the character stuff and the big reveal at the end intersected with the essential mystery of Lost as outlined in the pilot episode: Charlie Pace’s question “Guys, where are we?”
The Leftovers isn’t about that sort of mystery, and I’m cool with that. But I’m not sure what the essential question of this show is. Or, even worse, I’m starting to suspect that the essential question is “How do people feel after an inexplicable tragedy?” And that’s not a question I’m much interested in exploring, particularly since the answer seem to be “They feel awful and confused. Also, there’s lots of snow.”
What are your thoughts? In the comments on the pilot episode, a few people mentioned sticking around for this episode. Do you think you’ll stick with the show for the rest of the season?
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)