UK VOD TV review: The Leftovers Episode 4
James R | On 09, Oct 2014
If you can say one thing for The Leftovers, it’s that it doesn’t shy away from symbolism. It may not like answers to its questions, but it loves to fill its screen with as much meaning as possible. So it’s no accident that we start Episode 4 in a doll factory, where heads, bodies, arms and feet are eerily assembled by machines and shipped out by the crate. A quick glance at the calendar should leave you in no doubt over where one of these plastic incarnations is headed: yes, it’s Christmas and this is our baby Jesus. A mass-produced Christ child, which, inevitably, disappears.
A miracle? No. Just some teenagers up to no good – including, it’s soon suggested, Kevin Garvey’s daughter, Jill. While the mayor assigns chief of police Kev to find the baby, we get to see where it ends up. A Viking-like burial, fuelled by booze and matches, starts off intriguing, until our lead kidnapper suddenly loses interest; despite the drunken hordes gathered around her and a Nerf gun, this is a ritual that has no significance.
Garvey, meanwhile, tackles the growing problem of the Guilty Remnant cult. Squaring off against Patti – the always intimidating Ann Dowd, fresh from her fantastic turn in Compliance – he begs them to cease their actions for the holidays so that people can heal, enjoy the upcoming town dance, and spend time with their family.
Patti gets out her pen and writes down the crucial blow of the week: “There is no family.”
It’s almost a shame to return to the Garvey household following last week’s superb story about Reverend Matthew. A string of standalone chapters within this universe would give each minor character more room to breathe – and stop the overall lack of progression from slumping into a malaise. But while this week’s episode is a clear shift down in gear, Lindelof and Elizabeth Peterson’s script finds enough nuggets of interest to keep the stagnating society engaging.
Thanks to Patti’s souring influence, exchanges between Kevin and ex-wife Laurie (now under Patti’s wing) have a complexity that makes up for the far less gripping scenes involving what turns out to be Kevin’s step-son, Tom. As repeated cut-aways show us, he’s still running with the pregnant Christine, trying to protect her from crazy men, under the orders of Holy Wayne – whose name, incidentally, contains the word “yawn”.
At home, even the grumpy Jill is given a spark of intrigue thanks to the reveal of her Christmas present to Laurie (the always sorrowful Amy Brenneman): a token saying “Don’t forget us”.
Back with Patti, a photo of Laurie rams home the meaning of the already-plain note she gives to Kevin. Oh yes, The Leftovers likes its symbolism. And it wants everyone watching to know. But Episode 4 of Damon Lindelof’s series shows us just how little they now matter to the local community.
The baby Jesus might be found, but his discovery is received with little more than bored groans at the town dance. For Kevin, it’s a gesture to restore his own symbol as a figure of law and order, nothing more. Only Reverend Matthew seems to care, providing his own surrogate (a marked improvement upon the shop-bought babe). Meanwhile, we catch a glimpse of a truck load of Loved Ones – the replicas of missing people for burial introduced last week – spilled all over the road; hollow shells, not unlike the nativity’s centrepiece, that represent closure for those left behind. Or do they?
As gifts are tossed aside in the gutter, and the Guilty Remnant sneak into people’s homes to steal loved ones’ photos, we reflect on the episode’s title: B.J. and the A.C.. If “BJ” is the baby Jesus, is “AC” anti-Christ, a nod to the baby Christine is carrying inside her? You wouldn’t put it past The Leftovers. After all, it does like its symbolism. But for all its unsubtle signs, parallels and metaphors, the vanishing Jesus confirms Mapletown as a place where where bodies are as artificial as belief and where there is no family. Whether the departure was an act of God or not, miracles don’t happen much any more. Which begs the question: is it really Christmas at all?
Season 1 and 2 of The Leftovers available on Sky Box Sets. Not got Sky? You can watch The Leftovers online on with NOW, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription that includes live and on-demand access to Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, FOX UK and more.
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