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The Leftovers: It’s Not Enough
Image: HBO
Justin Theroux and Amy Brenneman in 'The Leftovers'

Note: As with all TV recaps, there are spoilers below for those who did not watch the episode. If you’re only looking for a content advisory, I’ll tell you: this HBO show, were it a movie, would be rated R for language, violence, sexual content, and thematic material, but it changes from week to week. The first commentary carried a Caveat Spectator, so you can check that out. This episode does contain a scene of sexual content, including some brief nudity.

Episode 9: “The Garveys At Their Best”

With its penultimate episode, The Leftovers finally becomes a proper tale of apocalypse. Not so much because the end of the world occurs (though it does, after a fashion), but because it does what apocalyptic literature is meant to do.

And what is that? I can’t explain it better than James K.A. Smith does in his book Desiring the Kingdom:

Apocalyptic literature—the sort you find in the strange pages of Daniel and the book of Revelation—is a genre of Scripture that tries to get us to see (or see through) the empires that constitute our environment, in order to see them for what they really are . . . the point of apocalyptic literature is not prediction but unmasking—unveiling the realities around us for what they really are . . . the empire (whether Babylon or Rome) has something to hide and so tilts the louvers just slightly to cover what it wants to hide. But apocalyptic is revealing precisely because it gives us this new perspective, just to the left, which lets us see through the blinders.

In showing us the twenty-four hours just before the disappearances occur, The Leftovers pulls back the curtain just a fraction more on its characters subsequent grief. And this is the important part: nearly everything that happens in the “Rapture” was already happening before it. In fact, the events of October 14 just helped some characters make sense of things.

So we get Laurie—whom we get to hear talking—happy and self-possessed, but quietly in turmoil, knowing she is pregnant, not sure if she wants to be, and sensing that her husband is checking out. We get Nora coming to the end of her rope with her children and husband, who seems to be able to disappear even when he’s physically in the room. Tom has evidently been thrown into confusion by the discovery that Kevin isn’t his biological father, and is getting drunk and trying to fix that repeatedly. The Jamisons deal with chronic problems (though it’s Matt, for now); Patti anticipates the end of the world; the walls of the beautiful house are cracking.

And there is Kevin, who is, it turns out, already coming apart at the seams, before anyone disappears, while his father is still chief of police, before he loses Laurie to the Guilty Remnant and Tom to Holy Wayne and Jill to her own profound unhappiness. At a party for his father at his own beautiful house, surrounded by his beautiful family and happy neighbors, Kevin is miserable and goes out to smoke.

“Why isnt it enough?” he asks his father.

“Because every man rebels against the idea that this is f—ing it,” Kevin Sr. replies. “Fights windmills, saves f—ing damsels, all in search of greater purpose. You have no greater purpose, because it is enough. So cut the s—t, okay?”

The contrast couldn’t be stronger between this and what Kevin Sr. said in the diner two episodes ago, insisting to Kevin Jr. that this (gesturing at the National Geographic) was his purpose. So now I have a purpose, Kevin spits at his father, who says that it’s all about context.

Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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The Leftovers: It’s Not Enough