Recaps

The Leftovers “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World”

Photo Credit: Ben King/HBO

“It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World” took a breather from Nora and Kevin’s drama to focus on our favorite preacher-man Matt Jamison.

We got our first Matt-centric episode way back in season one with the brilliant “Two Boats and a Helicopter” which gave us a glimpse into Matt’s pained life caring for his comatose wife while struggling to keep his failing church afloat. Of course, during all of this he was also putting up posters slandering the departed in hopes to dispel the notion that it was a true rapture. So he’s kind of a huge jerk.

And that’s the thing about Matt. He means well, but he’s frequently a righteous, obnoxious, ass. He’s full of kindness (helping Kevin with the whole Patti debacle for example), but he can be exceptionally cruel (case in point: every exchange he has with Laurie where he brings up the Guilty Remnant). His motivations are so narrow that it’s frustrating to watch him piss off everyone around him. Although stubbornness is clearly a Jamison gene, Matt’s deep belief in god is integral to his character in a way that is not repeated in anyone else on The Leftovers. His belief has driven his actions for the entirety of the series and “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World” shows an important breakdown in the fortress Matt built in reverence to a greater being.

In this episode, we see the pinnacle of Matt’s belief before it plummets to a very serious crisis of faith. What’s interesting is trying to find the exact trigger that makes Matt change so dramatically in just a few short hours. He switches from the man devout enough to illegally charter a plane to Australia to get Kevin (the messiah or something) back to Miracle before the seventh anniversary of The Sudden Departure, to the man who casually agrees to go to the police station to answer some questions since he doesn’t have anything else in Melbourne going on this morning.

It certainly seems like that tipping point occurs during his conversation with “God,” who is played by the same actor (The Night Of alum, Bill Camp) as the man who Kevin kept meeting in his trips to the “otherside.” I like that there’s still suggestion that there is something supernatural with this man, though it’s increasingly clear that there actually isn’t. Truthfully, I think The Leftovers will wait until it’s final moments to give us resolution, if at all.

At the beginning of his conversation with “God,” who we find out later is a man named David, Matt is defiant. He’s deeply offended by someone claiming to be god, that some random man could make a mockery of his beliefs. And Matt, ever righteous, thinks it’s his job to rectify the situation. Matt finds the idea of claiming to be god sacrilegious, blasphemous even, and although he’s attempting to put blame on the man for murder, he’s really just angry about everything that this person represented. It’s Matt’s righteous indignation that gets him to bludgeon a stranger and then berate him while he’s tied to a wheelchair next to a lion.

But it’s here where we see Matt’s crisis of faith. He comes in not believing this man, David, is god, but by the end of the conversation, he’s completely changed course. And as things usually are in The Leftovers, it doesn’t actually matter whether or not this is god. Matt is dying. He has driven away his family. He clings to religion, uses it to justify his actions and to justify the things that are happening around him. He claims Mary and baby Noah leaving was a test. He goes as far as to asks if his cancer returning is some kind of punishment.

But it’s all just a way to cope, and Matt knows this. Denial is again at the core of our character’s troubles. David never actually says anything specific to Matt’s life. He spouts off lines that could apply to anyone, like a horoscope from the weekend newspaper. But it resonates for Matt because he just needs someone to call him out. By the end of the conversation, he acts as though he is talking to god, because it’s what he needs. He’s sufficiently disillusioned. He realizes that all of his actions and beliefs are due to selfish motivations, and it breaks him.

Photo Credit: Ben King/HBO

On a storytelling note, “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World” was apt at getting us to exist only with Matt, as all of the actions happens only to him. Although John, Laurie, and Michael are on the ferry with him, they exist in the periphery, static, remaining in the same seats while Matt wanders around the boat. This episode also includes an unusual opening, as many episodes of the series do. I can only imagine what your reaction would be if you turned on the TV to immediately see a naked man outstretched, balancing on one foot, so he could turn two keys across there room from each other, all to blow up the submarine he was on (with jaunty French music playing in the background).

The use of the Frasier lion pride was delightfully bizarre, but it does feel like The Leftovers is so frequently weird that I no longer bat an eye at a group of people worshipping an especially virile dead lion. The Leftovers is also making sure to maintains some irreverence, and got a major laugh out of me at the line about Jesus having an identical twin brother.

The lion from the ferry does end up killing David at the end of this episode, symbolically killing the notion of god. The conversation Matt has with David is a great proxy for what’s happening overall in The Leftovers. It’s no use trying to figure out why The Sudden Departure happened because it doesn’t matter. No one is getting back to Miracle before the anniversary. The authors of “The Book of Kevin” don’t believe anymore. The only shred of hope, or denial if at this point it’s one in the same, is left with Grace and Kevin Sr., wandering the Outback with Kevin. But with only three episodes left, it seems that eventually, everyone will have to come to terms with what they’ve been avoiding.

The final season of The Leftovers airs on Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.

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