Sunday, May 14, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Leftovers' - Matt's Faith is Questioned on the Trip to Melbourne in 'It's a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World'

HBO's The Leftovers - Episode 3.05 "It's a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World"

Convinced it is Kevin's destiny to be in Miracle for the coming seventh anniversary of the Departure, Matt Jamison impulsively heads to Australia in an effort to bring Kevin home. Unfortunately, God gets in the way.

Matt Jamison has always been a devout man. When his parents died, he believed they didn't suffer and were already in Heaven. When he was sick as a child, he prayed to be cured and it happened. When the Sudden Departure happened, it seemingly took everything away from him. And yet, he maintained his faith. He believed it all had to have happened for a reason. He needs there to be some grand spiritual explanation to all of this. The show has proven time and time again that the Sudden Departure is an unexplainable phenomenon. People can choose to believe it happened for any number of reasons. But no one really knows the truth. It's the acceptance of not knowing that gives this story its power. Matt has suffered so much on this show. His first spotlight episode gave the show the format that it would use for every episode in its second and third seasons. He's suffered every time he takes the focus for the week. And yet, it hasn't gotten repetitive. It's still interesting to watch. Matt truly believes he's on the righteous path. He believes he's at the center of a conspiracy that will expose what truly happened on October 14. People believe in what he has to say. His words have power because he has endured so much. Him accepting that it is all random seems impossible. He's too devout of a man. He needs answers and clarity even though he's a man of faith. He needs something more. That's what he works for. He may find it in the most unusual of places though.

Of course, this hour doesn't start with Matt or anyone else in Miracle, Texas. It instead opens on the disaster that comes to define the Pacific Northwest as it grounds all flights leading up to the anniversary of the Sudden Departure. It sets the tone for the rest of the hour as well. It's really quite unusual and disorienting as well. It's a wordless sequence that centers on a character the audience has never seen before. A man in a submarine takes off all of his clothes and starts blaring French music. He then attacks his commanding officer just to get the second key that will allow the ship to fire its deadly missile. All of this is in pursuit of that. This man is a trained soldier. It's just completely random to see him naked throughout all of this. He is running around the ship. He's able to get to the control room and launch the missile. It takes an extreme amount of effort. He pushes his body to its limits. But he succeeds because it's a mission that he believes in. Of course, there's no grand explanation for why this Frenchman did this. It's just important for the audience's understanding of why these characters are now trapped in Australia. It makes it quite the journey for Matt, Laurie, John and Michael to enter the country.

It's also fascinating to see Matt and Laurie clash because of their different philosophies regarding Kevin. They really haven't spent a lot of time together as a man of faith and a woman of science. Matt believes that Kevin has been touched by God and has divine purpose in the post-Departure world. Meanwhile, Laurie sees Kevin as someone suffering a psychotic break who desperately needs the help and support of his friends. It's the grand debate of the show. How much of the events of the narrative can be explained away with some rational thought? The creative team is very careful not to make anything too unreasonable to tip their hat to one particular point-of-view. Yes, Kevin may have traveled to Heaven and became an International Assassin. Or it could have just been a dangerous combination of his paranoid hallucinations and poison. It may be miraculous intervention that Kevin survived a close-ranged gun shot. Or it could have been a one-in-a-million shot that did no real damage. Matt and Laurie both believe that they are right in regards to Kevin. They see the other as a hindrance to what they are trying to do. They both seemingly have evidence to back up their claims. Arguing about it isn't going to help anyone though. They are on this journey together and just need to find a way to work towards the same goal of getting Kevin back to Jarden.

But it's also delightful and fun to see the show get lost in a strange environment as well. Getting to Melbourne isn't easy for Matt, Laurie, John and Michael. They are being diverted away from the city. Instead, the only way in is by ferry. That's a journey that will take eleven hours. In order to realistically get back in time for the anniversary, they need to get on the first available ferry which was bought for a private event. That event is one massive orgy celebrating the fertility of an old lion. It's completely random but hilarious to see Matt in a world like this. He isn't comfortable in this place. He sees it all as sinful and abhorrent. To him, it's all crazy and pointless. He doesn't see any reason to celebrate this lion who at an old age fathered over 35 cubs in one zoo. He sees it as an excuse for these people to embrace these horrible impulses. Seeing him get caught up in all of it is weird but effective as well. Laurie, John and Michael have no problem just being on the sidelines avoiding all of the drama and sex happening on the ship. It seems easy for them. Instead, Matt is wandering in and out of it. He's being pulled into this world. First by a need to talk to his friends and second by seeing a man commit murder right in front of him. It's his self-righteous attitude that makes him incapable of simply sitting idly by and do nothing. He needs to be a man of action because he sees it as his divine purpose in this crazy story.

That's what makes Matt's conversation with a man claiming to be God so powerful. When he first heard the story of who this man is and why people believe in his story, Matt sees it as another false prophet taking advantage of the world. He doesn't believe that this man is a human embodiment of God. A secretive man who rides the ferry just to interact with people once in awhile. A man who would rather read his book than engage in any of the sexual activities onboard. And yet, the episode is aware that this story may actually be true because the man is played by Bill Camp who showed up in both of Kevin's trips to the international assassin hotel. He may be a speaker for the other-worldly. Of course, his actions and words are infuriating to Matt. He sees murder as wrong and deserving to be punished. He goes a little overboard with his reaction in trying to seek retaliation. He kidnaps the man and questions him just to disprove his lies and make him punish for what he did. He may just be a man with a Savior complex who believes consequences no longer apply to him because he's a celebrity God. But he may have a divine connection as well. Matt goes from being a skeptic to a believer very quickly. It's such a beautiful scene that truly conveys the pain that Matt is always carrying around with him.

It's difficult for Matt to wrap his head around the God he believes in so much ultimately being so indifferent to humanity. He believes in everything that is written down in scripture. And now, all of that is seemingly being exposed as a lie. Jesus didn't really rise from the dead. He had a twin brother. Neither of whom are God's sons. God does things just to see what would happened. That's the grand explanation that he gives Matt about the Sudden Departure. He did it just because he could. There's no more insight into it than that. That statement forces Matt to question everything he has believed in for his entire life. God may be exposing the hypocrisy to Matt. Or it could simply be this guy saying whatever he wants in order to get this crazy kidnapper to let him go free. Matt's mind immediately goes to the spiritual and there being a grand purpose in all of this. He sees everything as a test. It's God seeing just how devout his loyal followers really are. It's very unlikely that this is all a test. It's Matt building something up in his head to have meaning when it doesn't have any. He needs to believe in all of this - God taking the departed for a reason and Kevin being in Miracle during the seventh anniversary to find out why. If he doesn't have those explanations, then he has been a selfish and horrible person to the people he loves. He saw it as a miracle that Mary woke up and had a son. His belief in the power of Miracle ultimately pushed both of them away because he couldn't see anything beyond that. That may be happening with him once more. He finds clarity in the end. He no longer feels the pressure to bring Kevin back to Miracle because of religious importance. But will this new mentality actually stick around for a long time? He was writing a book about Kevin. It's now been destroyed. Will he be okay with that? Will he allow Laurie to do her thing to bring Kevin home? These are questions for the future. Matt may be better right now. But his journey could still be one filled with peril.

Some more thoughts:
  • "It's a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World" was written by Lila Byock & Damon Lindelof and directed by Nicole Kassell.
  • At first, John and Laurie's marriage seemed like a weird character pairing to show that time had passed on the show. But it also makes sense too. Laurie has the tools to help John address all of the pent up anger he had in Season 2. Meanwhile, John continues Laurie's trend of getting too close to her patients. They both seem happy now though and understand the actions the other takes.
  • All of Laurie's hard work with John is seen immediately when Matt comes to him asking him for support in hurting the man claiming to be God. There was a time when John would have jumped at the opportunity to hurt someone for conning the world. But now, he no longer feels that way and sees no point in lashing out.
  • It's also interesting to see Laurie understand Matt's perspective as well. She thinks it could be valuable in making the approach to Kevin when they arrive in Melbourne. She sees Matt's book as the reason for Kevin's new psychotic break and figures it could be used to bring him back to sanity as well. If the conflicting agendas don't get in the way first.
  • One of the most chilling but minor moments of this adventure is the fact that Matt didn't even think to call Nora to know what's going on with Kevin. He's so obsessed with Kevin and his spiritual importance that he's willing to forget his own sister and her role in all of this. That's cold - even though Laurie notes that Nora isn't answering her phone either.
  • This will be all that we get from the man claiming to be God as well. When he leaves the ferry, he is immediately attacked by the lion instead of being arrested for murder. That's an extravagant ending for a very important story. It's a vicious attack that horrifies Laurie but it really doesn't unsettle Matt at all. He truly doesn't have a care in the world by the end of this hour.