Film and TV

The Leftovers: Crisis of Faith

I'm very upfront about the fact that I only started watching The Leftovers because Christopher Eccleston is in it. That's not to say I haven't enjoyed it of course. Point in fact, it's the sort of show that I can easily point out to the "I don't watch television" crowd as proof that they simply don't know what they're missing.

This episode, though? It's honestly one of the most gripping hours I have ever spent watching television. I barely survived Eccleston's regeneration on Doctor Who, but it was nothing, nothing at all, compared to watching him go through the ultimate, Jobian trials that he saw in this hour of drama.

Unlike the first two episodes, this one focused entirely on one character, Eccleston's Father Matt. Matt is an amazingly complex man because the Departure took everything from him, but only indirectly. His wife wasn't taken, but in the massive traffic debacle that followed the sudden disappearances she suffered a traumatic brain injury that left her a vegetable. His sister's family were Departed en masse, and what's left behind was an intensely broken man trying hard to make spiritual sense out of it.

His quest, in life, has become to try and tell people truth. The people who left the Earth three years before weren't all God's chosen. Not any reasonable god's at any rate. No, they included child molesters, drug dealers, irresponsible gamblers, and the like.

That's become his hard, almost pointless mission, and you come to identify with it's hopeless but vital importance. The world of The Leftovers is a world that is trying to move on from a tragedy beyond comprehension by canonizing those that they have lost. They aren't victims; they are heroes.

The fact that it takes a man of God to dare to point out the logical fallacy of the nation's complete fantasy regarding what happened is a black humorous irony. He's a Christian pointing out that there is no crucifix.

Father Matt is a man truly spending time in the desert.

What would a modern American prophet look like? What form would he take, and what would the Devil tempt him with? I think it would a lot like Father Matt's ill-fated path to saving his church, and his terrible dedication to a mission that nearly everyone, even his sole surviving relative, abhors.

Watching that come to life on HBO was a near-religious experience. The Leftovers remains one of the best shows on television that it seems no one is watching.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner