Kevin faces the harsh reality of what he’s up against as the Guilty Remnant unleash their Memorial Day plan on the town with hellacious results in the end….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
It’s been three long weeks since Patti — the de facto leader of the Guilty Remnant — shoved a shard of glass into her neck, ending her life in front of Kevin Garvey, who just wasn’t man enough to do it himself. It was clear Patti wanted to die. All of the members of her white-clad cult clearly want to die. When Kevin wouldn’t do it, Patti took it upon herself to get the job done. The subsequent episode two weeks ago focused on Mapleton, New York and the Garvey family just 24-hours away from the sudden departure. The back story gave us a glimpse into what was once a seemingly normal, happy family. Of course, they were far from normal or happy, but on the surface they were the picture of upper middle class America.
So as the season finale approached, there were a ton of possibilities going into this episode titled ‘The Prodigal Son Returns’. Seeing as this is a Damon Lindelof show, those that expected a grand amount of answers for many of the oddities that took place this season were setting themselves up for a downfall. Part of the charm of series like ‘The Leftovers’ or Lindelof’s other famous creation, ‘Lost’, isn’t the end of the story but how you get there. We were warned on the first day this show started that there would probably never been an explanation for why or how the sudden departure happened. What we would know is how the world reacted when two-percent of the population just up and disappeared.
For the Garvey family — our central characters in the show — it rocked them to the core. Kevin was cheating on his wife with a woman who disappeared in the middle of his extra marital fling. His wife Laurie lost the baby she was pregnant with and had to live with that pain because she never told anybody about being with child in the first place. Her children Tommy and Jill were thrown into upheaval thanks to the unrest at home. And here we are today.
Kevin is stuck in a cabin smoking a cigarette while Patti’s lifeless corpse once dressed all in white is now stained with blood after she took her own life to spite her captor’s willingness to let her go. As Nina Simone’s cover of the tune “Ne Me Quitte Pas” plays in the background, Kevin makes a call to someone to please come help him out of this rather sizable jam. The track translated to English means ‘Don’t Leave Me’ — you can check out the English translation to the lyrics here and the full track is below:
In his greatest moment of need, Kevin calls Reverend Matt Jamison, as it appears all Garvey men tend to do when life has reached a crisis point. His father Kevin Sr. did the same when he was in a really dark place three years ago after the sudden departure happened and the voices started talking to him on a regular basis. He trusted the reverend so much he left him a jar full of cash tucked away in the Garvey family backyard.
When Matt arrives, there’s no judgment or shock on his face really. It seems he knows what the Guilty Remnant are about already, which is why he’s probably trying so desperately to save them all. He knows they are on a mission to die, so if he can pull back any one of them from the ledge he’s done his job. Matt believes Kevin didn’t have anything to do with Patti’s death and when he reaches down to close her eyes to give her a final goodbye, he’s warned by Mapleton’s chief of police that once he touches her, they are in this together.
“Well let’s get in it,” Matt responds.
Matt helps Kevin to bury Patti in a shallow grave in the woods outside Cairo, New York. Before they can pile the dirt overtop, however, Matt requests that Kevin reads a passage from the bible. When Kevin tells him he doesn’t believe, Matt responds that Patti probably didn’t either. The passage he reads is from the book of Job, chapter 23. Here’s the full verse below for those interested:
But if I go to the east, he is not there;
If I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
When he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
But he knows the way that I take;
When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.
“But he stands alone, and who can oppose him?
He does whatever he pleases.
He carries out his decree against me,
And many such plans he still has in store.
That is why I am terrified before him;
When I think of all this, I fear him.
God has made my heart faint;
The Almighty has terrified me.
Yet I am not silenced by the darkness,
By the thick darkness that covers my face.
Matt helps Kevin clean up from all the blood covering his body and gives him fresh clothes as they begin their journey back to Mapleton. Along the way, Kevin is awoken by a jarring sound as his car door is ripped open and he’s torn from his seat. Matt is apologizing profusely as two orderlies take Kevin into custody and place him in the same asylum where his father currently resides. Inside, Kevin receives a copy of the same National Geographic issue from the 70’s he got a few episodes back with a note inside tagged to the page marked for the Cairo story and a message from his dad telling him to stop talking to himself so they’ll allow him to go watch television.
When he makes it to the community room, Kevin sees his father and Kevin Sr. proceeds to tell him that everyone knows why they were left behind on Earth three years ago when two-percent of the world’s population was snatched away without a trace. Kevin Sr. is a bad man — there’s no fooling anybody, deep down he’s just not good and the powers that be saw that in him. Kevin Sr. then begins to talk to one of his voices, but this time his son hears it as well. Is this Kevin slipping into the same psychosis that plagued his father?
Well it turns out that it’s Patti, back from the dead to haunt Kevin. She actually gives him a lap dance of sorts and kisses Kevin while telling him that she’ll be with him now and forever. At that moment, he awakens and it’s the real world once again. He’s sitting beside Matt in the car as they drive back to town, except the good reverend has decided to stop at a local diner to grab a burger. I can’t be for certain but this appears to be the same diner where Kevin met up with his father after he escaped the hospital and he received the National Geographic for the first time.
Back in Mapleton, it’s Memorial Day and people will be forced to remember whether they want to or not. At the Guilty Remnant house, Laurie is dealing with her daughter showing up on the cult’s front doorstep demanding to become part of the team. She strips off her clothes and dons white garbs to join her mother in silence and Meg writes out a note saying ‘at least you’ll be together’, which sets the ominous tone for what’s about to happen perfectly.
A few episodes back we saw Patti at the church the Guilty Remnant bought out from under Reverend Matt as she laid out clothes and pictures and trinkets based on a book full of information the group had been gathering for months. We then saw Laurie pay off a driver for a truck load of what I guessed back then were ‘Loved Ones’ dolls — the realistic looking dolls that people had been buying to replace their dearly departed so they could still have something to bury and actually say goodbye to after the sudden departure robbed them of that.
Sure enough, the Guilty Remnant’s plan unfolds with startling precision.
The pictures they stole were used as models to make the Loved Ones dolls look so realistic. The clothes matched and the research the group took painstaking efforts to gain, helped them stage each of the departed back into their individual homes in the exact same way they were when the event happened that blinked them from the Earth.
The most disturbing scene was on the bright sunny morning when Nora awoke from her slumber like she’s done everyday for the past three years. She brushed her teeth and washed her face before heading downstairs for some breakfast. When she got to the kitchen, however, she was greeted by a ghostly image of her husband and two children sitting in the seats where they were just seconds before they disappeared. The only thing missing was a knocked over glass and spilled orange juice.
Nora is stunned. She’s shocked. She’s in a catatonic state of sorts before finally sitting down at the table and clutching the hands of her children sitting beside her. It seems her Holy Wayne hug wore off in an instant when she laid eyes on a plastic version of her family, and she’s thrown right back into the darkest corner of depression.
In another place somewhere nearby, Tommy and Christine are caring for the baby girl she gave birth to a few episodes back. Christine is convinced that Wayne is never coming back and she was lied to from the very beginning. So Tommy mans up and says that he’ll take care of her and the baby. He’ll get a job, help pay for a house and provide for them like a family just like Kevin did for his family all those years ago after his father abandoned them. Unfortunately, Christine has other ideas because she bolts from the rest stop bathroom, leaving the baby behind with only Tommy there to care for her. In the midst of this insanity, Tommy meets a local church pastor (played by Elvin from ‘The Cosby Show’) who asks if he needs any help. When Tommy replies no he asks the pastor if he does this often and if anyone ever takes him up on the offer. ‘All the time’ the pastor replies. This was a clear sign that Tommy needed help and the person responsible for helping has left him to fend for himself and an innocent child.
At the diner where Kevin and Matt sit and converse over cheeseburgers, the chief finally breaks down and tells the reverend all of his sins. He explains how he’s the reason why his family was obliterated on that fateful day in October three years ago. He slept with another woman and then she disappeared in the middle of it and Kevin believes he’s the reason his wife is gone, his son ran away and his daughter is completely despondent.
Following a good cry and Matt reassuring him that none of this was his fault, Kevin retreats to the bathroom to clean up when he notices a bloody trail leading to one of the stalls. When he pops open the door to check on whoever is inside, Kevin comes face to face with Holy Wayne. It’s clear the prophet of hugs has been shot because his insides are literally falling through his hands and Wayne knows he’s not going to make it. Before allowing Kevin to go anywhere, Wayne begs him to make one request — just one wish so he can grant it and know if he was truly a prophet or just another hack. Kevin thinks about it and as Wayne smiles he says ‘granted’ before nodding off and falling over dead.
At that moment the police storm through the door because they’ve been after Wayne for months now. Outside, a cop questions Kevin about Wayne’s death while asking if he mentioned Russia or touched him in any way. So that begs the question — what’s in Russia and why shouldn’t Kevin touch him? Matt vouches for Kevin while revealing that he’s the chief of police in Mapleton so the cop lets him go and they remove Wayne in a body bag after their nationwide manhunt finally comes to an end.
Back in Mapleton when Kevin and Matt arrive in town, all hell has broken loose as people from all over start to discover the Memorial Day plot unfolded by the Guilty Remnant. People who worked for three hard years to put this terrible tragedy behind them were reminded in the harshest way possible of the family and loved ones gone, who will never return. The immediate reaction is to lash out at the Guilty Remnant so members from the cult are being found all over town, beaten and bloodied with some of them already dead. When Kevin happens upon Meg, tied to a street sign, covered in blood she writes a note to explain herself.
“We made them remember”
Across town, Kevin races to the houses where the Guilty Remnant members live and they are all engulfed in flames. The townspeople are burning this group an effigy as they melt the bodies ‘gifted’ to them as Loved Ones while doing everything short of carrying torches and throwing pitchforks. Kevin arrives just in time to see Laurie stumble out of the house as she’s dragged by a very pissed off citizen of Mapleton. Kevin rescues her, but in her anguish Laurie finally speaks to her husband saying only one word — ‘Jill!’
Kevin races inside and rescues Jill, who was passed out and waiting for death on the floor. Laurie sees her husband and daughter exit together and as she smiles ever so briefly, it seems her desire to watch the whole world burn (figuratively and literally) while inviting death, she’s still not so sure she wants everyone to die right now anyways. If Laurie bought into the same cookbook of bullshit that Gladys and Patty were eating out of, she would have allowed her daughter to die because that’s what is supposed to happen. Instead, she actually spoke so she could save Jill. Laurie isn’t back to her old ways, but there’s still some piece of her former self tucked away inside.
On the way home, Kevin and Jill clasp hands before being greeted by the rabid dog he tried to ‘rehabilitate’ a few weeks back. The only thing is the dog is as friendly as could be and wants nothing more than to be his friend. Was Kevin’s wish to get his family back? Was he specific enough to say which family?
Laurie heads out to the ocean after the events of Memorial Day unfold and it seems as if she’s contemplating just jumping in to end it all. She did follow instructions perfectly and rattle the town to the point where they turned into a 12th Century mob, but if her job is done, isn’t her time on Earth as well? Just then a cab pulls up and out pops Tommy. He needed help and this is the one place that will take him in with no judgments whatsoever.
Nora’s journey is taking her in the other direction. Realizing that she was never over the passing of her husband and children, she pens a note to Kevin telling him that she has to leave. While it sounds an awful lot like a suicide note, as it turns out Nora is just saying goodbye. She never forgot what happened to her family and she’ll never really move past it while living in the same house and the same town where they shared a life together for so long. She’s ready to put Mapleton, New York deep in her rear view.
But just as she steps onto Kevin’s front porch to deliver her ‘Dear John’ letter, she spots a little baby laying on the ground, wrapped in blankets in his car seat. It’s Wayne and Christine’s little girl and it seems Tommy left her with the only family he’s ever really known. When Kevin and Jill arrive, Nora holds the baby up and says ‘look what I found’. Kevin has a family again, but maybe not the family he intended originally He has a daughter who seems at peace with herself after nearly getting turned into kindling while there’s a woman at his house who loves him holding another child in her arms.
Was Kevin’s wish granted or was Wayne truly a fraud? And who was the prodigal son? Was that Tommy coming home to Mapleton? Or was it Kevin returning to town after a trip to Cairo while armed with the haunting images of becoming is father still burned into his head while wondering if Patti really was going to be there with him forever?
The first season of ‘The Leftovers’ came to an end with just as many questions as we started with, but that doesn’t mean the show wasn’t a rousing success. In many ways, the series became one of my favorite for 2014 because it mixed science fiction (in very small doses) with an intense puzzle of a story, interesting characters and a plot so mad with intricate details that will have me mulling over episodes for the rest of 2014. The sign of a great show isn’t one that you sit down and enjoy. A great series to me is one that doesn’t stop and start when that hour begins or ends. A truly outstanding series haunts you days later and keeps you on the tip of your toes until the next episode arrives. ‘Game of Thrones’ does that in 10 taut, crisply written and acted episodes per season. ‘Lost’ did that week in and week out and it was truly one of the first real ‘binge’ watching shows because there was no way you could watch just one.
‘The Leftovers’ may have started slow with enough grief interlaced in every episode to drive anybody to drink. In the end, this Lovecraft-ian drama captured my attention for an entire season and nothing will make me happier than the moment I hear about the season two debut in 2015.
One other note — the song playing as the Guilty Remnant are heading out to enact their planned ‘Memorial Day’ was the Apocalyptica track ‘Nothing Else Matters’, originally written and performed by Metallica. Listen below and come back next year for more Leftovers coverage.