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Then there is Tom, with Christine—a stand-in for Joseph and Mary if there ever was one. Holy Wayne asked Tom to protect and care for Christine; God sent an angel to tell Joseph to look after Mary. And the reasoning is the same: she is special, and the child she carries is the key to it all. So Tom(/Joseph) is stuck with, or privileged with, the presence of a woman he loves who is carrying a child whose father is not him.

In this episode, Christine is nearly attacked by a man who might be unhinged yelling about seeing her in his dream (a dream that later comes true, maybe). He winds up nearly the target of a domestic violence charge. Both he and Christine stare at the phone Wayne gave them with palpable hunger to hear from him, their god, who promised he'd call. He hasn't called in six weeks. He's been silent. "You have to let me know why," Tom pleads to the phone, with its smiley-face sticker. And when that silence is broken . . . it's not divine at all.

When the Baby Jesus turns up on Kevin's doorstep, he brings it to the dance, where he meets Nora and talks, briefly, about adultery, and then goes to return the Baby to its manger, even though it's now clear that nobody cares. But there is the good reverend—now churchless—tucking his spare nativity Christ into the manger lovingly.

And as if Laurie couldn't further abandon her family, she shows up, with Meg, to ask for a divorce. Or to have Meg read her request aloud. It is the threat of final abandonment and one that Kevin, who has been left by pretty much everyone, flat-out denies. But it remains, hovering. It's not the last we'll hear of this.

Oh, and the Guilty Remnant is participating in some mild breaking-and-entering.

That is where the episode leaves us. So who is the Antichrist here? Is it Wayne? Is it the fake Baby Jesus, whom we can buy at a store? Is it the GR's leader?

Well, the answer is all in what comes next. And it depends on how you read it, too. If you're inclined to believe there is meaning beyond these people in this town and the things they find important, then you might even go so far as to believe that they are entering the second half of the Tribulation—as Wayne suggested in the first episode—and that things are about to get really bad. In that case, the Antichrist might be Wayne himself, or someone who has yet to appear.

The Guilty Remnant in 'The Leftovers'

The Guilty Remnant in 'The Leftovers'

Or if, like the Guilty Remnant, you're sure that this is all meaningless, a series of events that may or may not be the vengeance of an angry cosmos for no apparent reason, then there's barely a reason to go on. All you can do is sit, and wallow, and grow angry at those who try to go on, and chain-smoke Camels. The "Antichrist" is the baby in the manger, a source of false hope that leads people astray.

Or, if you're inclined to believe that this is all, at core, a series of terrible happenings that nonetheless can or will be explained by science, then things are going to get worse, yes, but only the usual kind of worse: people's hearts get broken, people die, people do stupid things, people hurt one another, people's marriages implode. We are the Antichrist.

But while these characters wait around for what happens next, there's no doubt: they're waiting for something. Or someone. But they can't go on much longer like this. The dogs are still closing in.

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.
Previous Watch This Way Columns:
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