Reverend Matt Jamison wants nothing more than to save his church from foreclosure, but the departure has managed to rob him of his wife, his congregation and maybe even a piece of his soul….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Through the first two episodes of ‘The Leftovers’ if there was an easy way to describe this series it’s the fact that the show is draped in profound sadness. If you hope to watch this series and turn the television off with a smile on your face, well you’re in for a big dose of disappointment. When 140 million people go missing without so much as a trace as to where they’ve gone, the other billion folks left on Earth to deal with the fallout have a ton of questions, very little in the way of answers, and the easiest thing to do is make something up to feel better about how it all went down.
The great majority of people believe it was the rapture — a holy event that somehow precedes the end of the world as God has opted out of a raw deal and summoned his followers back to heaven before raining hell fire down on everyone left below. Science has no real answers because there’s no evidence of what happened. Reverend Matt Jamison has another idea all together.
He believes this is a sign from God, but not God’s mighty wrath at work. To dispel all of the notions that this was the rapture, Matt has taken it upon himself to expose some of those who departed as evil, wicked people who would have no place in God’s heaven. He hands out fliers on street corners with big bold letters above a picture, damning this person or that for misdeeds done on Earth before they disappeared like a puff of smoke on October 14. Of course outing people who are presumed dead doesn’t exactly curry any favors for Matt amongst the families of those he puts on the fliers. It lands him in the hospital on more than one occasion, and even Chief Kevin Garvey, who comes to investigate the reverend’s latest beating, knows the answer when he asks if he’ll be pressing charges against the culprit. Matt just wants to do his best to stop the notion that this was the rapture even if it costs him a few broken ribs, some cuts and bruises, and even his congregation, which is now microscopic by comparison since the big event happened a few years earlier.
Matt’s life was touched by the departure, but not in the way you might think. He lost somebody, but not because they disappeared without a trace. No, Matt lost his wife when a driver in another car vanished and the abandoned vehicle smashed into his as witnessed during the pilot episode when the mother is standing in the Laundromat parking lot screaming for her child after he goes missing. Matt’s wife suffered serious brain trauma in the accident and with emergency crews nowhere to be found, he was charged with carrying her to the hospital himself but by then it was already too late. She now sits in a catatonic state, unable to speak or stand and the nurse who takes care of her hasn’t been paid in three weeks and Matt is at his wit’s end with options running low.
With no congregation to tithe their weekly paychecks, Matt’s church is suffering. Not only can he not pay his wife’s nursing bills, but he can’t pay the mortgage anymore either. The constant vigil outside by members of the Guilty Remnant don’t exactly help his sanity either. The bank is about to foreclose on his church unless he can come up with $130,001 dollars to outbid another private investor who wants to purchase the property. The make matters worse, Matt’s been avoiding the bank’s calls and now he only has 24-hours to come up with the cash or his church is gone forever.
The next step in Matt’s depressingly downward spiral is a trip to visit his sister — Nora Durst, who we saw prominently in the last episode as the gun-toting insurance agent who lost her husband and children during the departure as she now goes around investigating claims for the families of those left behind from missing loved ones. It explains Matt and Nora’s embrace last episode, but their relationship appears to be an icy one given the demeanor of their latest conversation. Matt wants to borrow the $130,000 from his sister to save the church, and to drive the point home he even mentions that she surely has the money given the bereavement fund she was given after the sudden departure of her husband and two kids.
Despite his awful timing and rude comments, Nora agrees to help her brother on one condition — he has to stop printing his newsletter where he accuses those that have departed of being less than worthy to get into heaven. Matt lashes out because this is his great work, and then he drops another bombshell on his sister — her husband Doug was cheating on her with their kid’s pre-school teacher before he disappeared. He has all the proof and lays it out to her in graphic detail, but promises this is one story he’ll never print. Thanks big brother for that slight touch of comfort!
His spirits are slightly lifted when he meets a former parishioner who visits the church to give his baby a baptism despite his wife’s intentions of never stepping foot in the house of God again. The young man even tells him about another of the departed who he worked with before the disappearance. This man was a compulsive gambler, who spent all of his hard earned money at the casino before pilfering his children’s college fund to feed his habit. Matt decides to investigate so he can add another person to his list of those who would not be claimed by God.
In his travels to the casino, Matt sees something strange — a pair of pigeons appears on a roulette table out of nowhere before flying away in great haste. This happens after Matt shoos away a single pigeon from the doorstep of his church, and he’s again visited by the birds when three pigeons land on a red stop light while he’s driving through town.
These signs coupled by a thought Matt has late at night while sleeping on a tiny cot next to his wife’s bed wakes him up to a plan to save the church. Before he was committed to the looney bin, Kevin Garvey (the older Kevin Garvey) left him a peanut butter jar filled with $20,000 wrapped up in one of his fliers with words telling the good reverend that he deserved this money. In the middle of his rendezvous, Matt runs into Laurie — Kevin’s estranged wife who is now a member of the Guilty Remnant — and they both agree not to say why the other was there but it was clear she was curious about how her family is doing in the wake of her absence while he was there with a shovel so he had to be up to no good.
Matt digs up the cash and runs off to the casino to the very roulette table where the pigeons landed earlier that day. One pigeon led him to the door, the two pigeons led him to the table, and the three pigeons told him to bet on red. So he bet and he won. And he bet and he won again, and again and again until his $20,000 stack was turned into $160,000 — enough to buy back the church, pay off his wife’s nurse and return the $20,000 that was originally left for him by Chief Garvey.
Outside the casino, a man tries to rob Matt but the reverend has finally had enough. He’s been beaten on for years since the departure happened and he’s just absorbed all the blows without every really fighting back. If his lot in life was to expose the truth about the people who disappeared, then taking a few punches was worth the message that he was spreading. But it doesn’t mean each sock on the jaw didn’t hurt.
So in a moment of blind rage, Matt slams the thief to the ground before bashing his skull into the pavement. He grabs the cash and runs off to pay the bank and save his church.
Unfortunately on his trip back to town, Matt witnesses a drive by rocking where a member of the Guilty Remnant gets slammed in the head by a jeep full of teens tossing stones at the white clad cult members standing on the street. Matt goes back to help them, but in the middle of his 911 call, the jeep swings back and a second rock is implanted right in his forehead.
Matt drifts into a deep sleep and subsequent dream where he sees himself being diagnosed with cancer as a child — this comes after a story he told his tiny congregation at the beginning of the episode about a boy who gets a baby sister, but when she starts getting all of the attention, he wishes and prays for a way to get his parents to make him No. 1 son again. When he’s diagnosed with cancer he realizes his prayers were answered, but at what cost? Then in his dream we see Matt standing with a little girl (Nora as a child) as they want their childhood home burn to the ground with their parents inside. Flash from there to Matt in bed with his wife having sex, seconds before she is transformed into Laurie and he finally awakens in the hospital room with his head heavily bandaged from the rock bludgeoning him from earlier.
In a panic, Matt realizes he has no time to waste to get to the bank with his money to save the church. He rushes back to the car and finds the envelope full of hundreds is still there waiting for him. He races off to the bank and even though he’s there a few minutes late, they allow Matt to come in. He hands over the stack of cash and says this will be enough to save his church — the only problem is he had 24-hours and it’s been three days since that conversation happened. Turns out, Matt’s knock on the head left him unconscious for three whole days and in his absence the church was sold to the highest bidder.
When he arrives back at the church, Matt sees that the new owners are the Guilty Remnant — the same people who have been stalking him for weeks. The same people he helped to save before catching a rock in the face, which cost him his church. They are painting the church completely white to match the outfits they wear everyday.
Matt’s disheartening trip comes to an end with $140,000 in his pocket, a concussion and a church that is no longer his to call home.
‘The Leftovers’ has certainly been a downtrodden, depressing ride through three episodes but this single character expose was not only the best hour since the show started, but also a real exploratory narrative into the grief and destruction of one man caught in the wave of tragedy since the sudden departure. From one disparaging moment to the next, Matt couldn’t catch a break and there’s no way not to root for this poor guy to finally win one after years of suffering loss after loss after loss. Christopher Eccleston deserves huge praise for not only carrying this episode, but finding a way to express sadness, sorrow and rage in one perfectly encapsulated performance.
As for good reverend, in the end just like real life there’s no just cause and there’s no karma coming back to this man who at least on the surface seems like a genuinely good person. Bad things happen to good people all the time, and Matt Jamison knows that better than anyone else right now.