UK VOD review: The Leftovers Episode 7 (Solace for Tired Feet)
Ivan Radford | On 28, Oct 2014
After two stand-out standalone chapters, The Leftovers returns to the old multi-stranded drudgery this week, but the show remains an engaging watch.
We return to – yes – the Garvey family in Episode 7, with all the problems that implies. But it’s testament to the programme’s rich depth that even the blandest of characters have become interesting; they may be as bland or dull as a rice cake wrapped in a dishcloth, but they’ve spent so much time percolating and infusing with each other now that they finally add to the brew rather than muddy the taste.
This week, for example, we get the satisfying pay-off of Nora and Kevin finally getting it on – an adorable date of awkward conversation and nervous smiles. It’s strange to describe something as “adorable” in Damon Lindelof’s sci-fi: ever since the first person went missing (a baby in the back seat of a car), it hasn’t exactly been all smiles and rainbows.
The moment of genuine happiness feels almost like a dream – which only adds to the uncertainty woven throughout the episode. Kevin is the focal point of the chapter and, after a few hints in Episode 2, we start to think that he might actually be going crazy. More importantly, he starts to suspect he might be too.
Justin Theroux’s twitchy, stern performance feeds that doubt, a detached father, who, every now and then, flies off the handle – not unlike his own father (Scott Glenn), a former police chief himself… until he tried to burn down the library.
Glenn gets equal billing here, ramping up the mystery as well as the family drama. Gramps makes his appearance in the opening scene, as eternally grouchy daughter Jill decides to lock herself in an old fridge to beat the record for the longest time spent inside. As her friends count down the target, though, she becomes woozy. It’s only when her granddad’s face appears in the doorway, otherworldly and bathed in hazy sunlight, that the episode can begin.
We’ve spent long enough with the Garveys to know that they’re dysfunctional, but there remains fresh intrigue in seeing these three generations interact, as Kevin tries to work out what exactly Kevin, Sr. is doing outside of his care home. Does it have something to do with Matt? Is he a danger to anyone? And, given that he went off the rails before The Event, does he know the answer to the disappearance?
Mimi Leder shoots the unravelling strands with the lopsided nature of a someone unsure of their own sanity. Dogs and guns are cut together in an enjoyably unnerving montage that brings a hint of science fiction to what is normally a very down-to-earth drama. So when the National Geographic magazine is presented with the words “This is your purpose”, you genuinely believe it could mean something more than a wildlife periodical.
The Leftovers also finds time to check in with Tom, aka. The Most Boring Person in the Show. But it’s telling just how far the series has come that now, he can hold our attention. Why? Because we finally get a direction to his journey that adds a curious new question to the mix – what exactly is “Holy” Wayne up to? And when he tells Tom “She means everything”, whom does he mean? The potential arrival of AC from Episode 3 sends the supernatural counter all the way up to 11.
But while Tom benefits from an actual story to make up for his bland character, he is the exception to the rule. The series’ strength comes from people rather than plot. That’s why its standalone episodes work so much better than these hours in between. If we had one episode dedicated to Kevin, one to Jill, one to Kevin Sr. and even one to Tom, the Garvey family dynamic would be far more interesting, without us feeling the need for their narrative to take a step forward in the slice of screentime they get. But The Leftovers is a melting pot of characters in an intriguing situation, rather than a puzzle to piece together. Once you accept that, even the less involving mosaic episodes become a welcome addition to this layered world. And every moment of story refracted through character is solace for your tired feet.
“I think I might be going crazy,” Kevin tells Nora at one point. She smiles. “You’ve come to the right place.”
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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