For every action, a reaction. For every belief, a dissent. For every death, a new life. There is a sort of yin and yang to the world: a balance that is found — somehow — one way or another, even if we can’t really explain what it is or how it happens. Though people will often search for answers, particularly in the wake of the events on The Leftovers. And we’ve seen that with the myriad religious cults, sects, and obsessives that have hailed themselves illuminated to the ways of the world in the wake of October 14th. Everyone, that is, except for Reverend Matt Jamison. For him, this is a test for something to come. But is he holy or a halfwit for thinking like that?
Is it crazy or wise to believe in something bigger than one’s self?
Sunday night’s episode, “Two Boats and a Helicopter” focused almost entirely on Reverend Matt and his role in Mapleton, who has been, thus far, only peripherally seen in the previous two episodes. Here is a man who’s trying, despite everything, to be a “good” man. An enlightened man.
One unafraid of the hard truths that may be behind the Departure. He — just like the Guilty Remnant, just like Wayne — believes he knows the truth. Or, in the very least, that we should not deify those who were brought up versus those who were left behind. Even if that means taking literal and metaphorical gambles …and maybe cracking a guy’s skull open in the process. Because every bad thing Reverend Matt does is in the name of his personal choice of a Greater Good, the Episcopal church he runs in town. Well, ran, past tense, now that the GR have managed yet again to take something as their own. (Poor Matt.)
Religion, let’s face it, is a very easy cover for which to mask selfishness as selflessness. If you’re that type of person, of course. Reverend Matt Jamison is not one of those people, though his self-published paper about those that have departed may lead some to believe otherwise — he’s clearly spent his life making mistakes, trying to do right, and fielding a hell of a lot of shit, while still remaining faithful to some idea that there is, whatever the case may be and however ugly the answer, a truth out there. A reason for things. And I mean, would you blame him?
Look at his life: his wife Mary (Hey, guys, look! It’s Donna from The West Wing) has a traumatic brain injury rendering her essentially a trapped vegetable. Was it the head-on collision? Was she half-departed? Who knows, but the life Matt must now lead because of it is a sorry and stressful one. One where he doesn’t have enough money to really take care of her — though he is gentle and patient as could be — let alone the church he loves and that saved him all those years ago. His heart breaks and his desperation is palpable. He’s not just a bird on a wire, he is the wire — alive, shockingly so, and vital all at once.
Now that church — despite his best efforts and literal gambles — belongs to the Guilty Remnant (who had recently begun following him around ala Megan Abbott) and he’s left with nothing. Well nothing save $160,000 he earned at a Connecticut casino.
Matt may be the most fascinating character in the series thus far, because to me he reads as the most human and Everyman character of the bunch. He believes the departure was “a test” for “what comes now,” and of course he does. Because Matt, for all the good he does — stopping to help a GR member who was hurt, for instance, only to be knocked out himself and miss his chance at saving the church — frequently vacillates between two sides of himself. He dreams of fire and his past. He feels tremendous guilt over wanting, as a child, the attention his baby sister “stole” from him by simply being born. He takes his own childhood cancer diagnosis as a sign of that, as he does, no doubt, of all the other no-good, very-bad things that happen to him almost immediately after he does a bit of good.
By now we’ve learned that many of the people taken up in the departure were not all wholly good. For every reverend there’s a clown, and they’re both going to the same place. Still, in spite of all of that, Matt refuses to believe that all suffering is meaningless. How else could he survive such a life as his, though, if you think about it that way, eh? We humans will do and think and put stock in a lot of things in order to stay sane in the face of life’s utter silence about “what it all means.” Because we’re brilliantly optimistic creatures, we hold out hope despite all evidence to the contrary. Just as we saw when Matt baptized that baby.
Could all of this running around and trying to do good be too little too late? Are those that have departed the heroes or the villains? Is life a punishment or a reward? Is this all a test? And if so, who are the ones that have failed? It really even that easy or simple? And does anyone deserve any of it?
And what, pray tell, do all these damn pigeons have to do with any of it?
What’d you think of this week’s episode of The Leftovers? And also how GREAT is it to see Christopher Eccleston back on TV on the regular, eh? Let us know in the comments.