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Thou Desirest Truth in the Inmost Parts
Image: HBO
Scott Glenn, Margaret Qualley, and Justin Theroux in 'The Leftovers'

Note: This is the seventh of ten commentary recaps on the first season of the HBO post-Rapture show The Leftovers. (The six previous are filed away here.)

As with all TV recaps, there are some mild 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. Note that there’s also nudity in a sexual context in this episode.

“I think I might be going crazy,” Kevin Garvey, Jr. tells Nora Durst.

Like my dad, we can hear him thinking. Like men in a story from an older time, Kevin Jr. bears his father’s name, lives in his father’s house, and has tried to fill his father’s shoes, becoming Mapleton’s police chief after Kevin Sr. set the library on fire and then voluntarily checked himself into psychiatric care.

Now, though, he’s worried there’s more than a vocational match between him and his father; his mental chemistry seems at stake, too. In this seventh episode, somewhat ironically titled “Solace for Tired Feet,” Jill and Kevin Sr.—who’s escaped from the institution to deliver his son a message—discover that Kevin is maintaining a “f—king pharmacy” in his bedroom, all kinds of drugs. “He’s under a lot of pressure, I guess,” Jill reasons.

Well, maybe. There are tranquilizers in the mix. But while Kevin has been questioning his sanity since day 1 of the show, the writers keep bringing him back from the brink. Things do keep disappearing on him (bagels, people, shirts), but they reappear, too. For a while the show let us believe he might be imagining Dean, the man who shoots dogs, but it turns out others see him, too.

In this episode, in what is mostly easily explained as a drug-erased haze, Kevin dreams that Dean has trapped a dog in the post office box across the street and, in the dream, has handed him the gun. What Kevin doesn’t realize is he’s actually unconsciously combining some experiences he has no idea his children are having. Just after the episode begins, Jill and her friends are out in the woods near a refrigerator in which a bullied teenager was locked on October 14—and then disappeared. It’s a kind of a dare, an attempt to pay ironic honor to the departed boy while also proving who can stay in there the longest, flirting with death by suffocation. But never that seriously, like anything these teenagers do: it’s juvenile danger, a way to feel alive without actually fearing death. Suicide by suggestion.

This time, it nearly claims Jill when she beats the record, but then is trapped by a broken door handle. In a panic, as she sweats and then nearly passes out, her friends try to rescue her. But her grandfather, who has just run out of the institution, saves her. Neither of them are trapped, for now.

Halfway across the country, in Gary, Indiana, son/grandson Tom is still safeguarding Christine, who is carrying a child, too—not Tom’s, Wayne’s, but she’s sure it’s a boy all the same. Like Joseph, in a sense, he’s acting like a surrogate father to a child he and the mother believe is holy.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the “Holy” in “Holy Wayne” is exactly opposite. This man is not holy, despite his still-mysterious ability to take others’ pain upon himself by hugging them. He is a man with a harem of underaged girls who has manipulated a number of grieving young men (at least two) into caring for the damage he’s wreaked. He’s hoping for a son himself, and he’s promised each girl that she is the one carrying “the bridge.” So Tom is trapped by Wayne (who appears to be trapped himself), caring for Christine, though he’s become convinced that Wayne doesn’t have a marvelous plan beyond saving his own skin.

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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Thou Desirest Truth in the Inmost Parts