7.21.2014

Television: The Leftovers, "Two Boats and a Helicopter" and "B.J. and the A.C."

So let's look at the past couple weeks of this show. There was the episode that focused on Christopher Eccleston's character, though I was mostly distracted by how he was talking like Jimmy Stewart. But never mind. Short story is: Reverend Jamison (Eccleston) is in danger of losing his church—the physical building—and gambles in order to get the money to save it. At the same time, he is the regular victim of attacks because he declaims those taken in the Sudden Departure as not heroes, not special . . . In fact, he actively seeks stories about how those taken were bad: abusers, drug dealers, etc. If I had to dig out my psychology texts, I'd say he's suffering from having been left behind in what to so many appear to be a "rapturous" event. He's driven to prove he's better than those taken because he's scared that he's not and he missed the boat.

Whatever. He kills a guy anyway. And gets beat up again and ends up not being in time to save his church after all, even though he won the money.

Oh, and he's the brother of the lady who lost her whole family in the Departure? (He even tells his sister that her husband was having an affair. Nice. Does he not understand that it's not about whether those people were better? It's only about the fact they're gone, and those who remain would prefer to remember the good. Speak no ill of the dead, they say. Or the Departed.)

"Two Boats and a Helicopter" suffered a bit under the weight of one big story line rather than having a few things to keep people entertained. "B.J. and the A.C." brought back the jumble of things: Tom and Christine waiting for Wayne to call and give them instructions; the baby Jesus being taken from an outdoor Nativity; the G.R. sneaking into houses and stealing photographs; and Laurie serving Kevin with divorce papers. None of it particularly compelling, but whatever. This episode did bring me to the conclusion that Christine is kind of awful for having been made into a bit of a diva (and she's pregnant with Wayne's baby, btw). And I also had the fleeting thought that a cult (like the G.R.) that doesn't have a good way to articulate what it stands for is kind of a crap organization. They can behave like Grinches or whatever, and maybe their actions are supposed to speak for them, and one joins only when one "feels" it, but . . . It's just dumb. Both in the original sense and the commonplace. Also, they should have a white van.

I suppose the interesting thing about the show is that it has this fantastical premise—the Departure—but focuses on the mundane fallout of that one event. Sort of like FlashForward did some years ago. Shows like these pose the "What if?" and then try to find interesting ways to answer the question in regards to the impact of such bizarre events, what singular individuals might do in response to them. It is, unfortunately, a genre without much of a track record. Because viewers begin to get impatient and want to see some actual plot kick in. They don't want to sit around people's houses and offices and listen to them talk or argue; they want some action. They want someone to be finding the answer to why the event occurred, and they want someone to do something about it. But I don't think The Leftovers is that kind of show. I think it's based at least partly on the idea that sometimes things happen and we don't know why and might never know why but we still have to deal with them. It borders on pretentiousness, and I don't like The Leftovers near as much as I did FlashForward, which did work toward answering "why" and "how." But I do still find it moderately interesting. I am still curious about which way things might go. But I can't see the show sustaining itself indefinitely, either. Coming from a finite source (a novel), it surely must work toward some end. The question will be whether any viewers are left before that happens.

Books: Persuasion by Jane Austen (Chapters XIX–XXIV)

When two people share a mutual attraction but neither will move to do anything about it, it is agony. Somewhat juvenile, perhaps, but I am not altogether immune to the romance of the situation. I've felt it often enough myself in the past.

In truth, what with the Asperger's, I usually ignore people. So when someone intrudes on my consciousness, one of two things occurs: anger at the interruption, or a sort of paralysis, as if someone were walking across my very heart.

But that's neither here nor there, except to say that the last bit of Persuasion is spent with Anne and Captain Wentworth locked in mute struggle of attraction. Like so many teens could sympathize: Is he looking at me? He is! He was looking at me! But what kind of look was it? Attempting forever to extrapolate hope from the smallest expression, gesture, or word. And fearing always that the next look or word will shatter that fragile hope.

Anne had been worried that Wentworth was attached to Louisa, but hearing that Louisa has become engaged to Benwick, and then Wentworth's subsequent appearance in Bath, gives Anne hope that he may yet harbor feelings for her. Warm ones, that is, beyond the resentment he would have every right to feel after she gave him up some eight years before. (Turns out love is the stronger emotion, however.)

And Wentworth spends his time hardly daring to speak to Anne and falling prey to the general gossip that Anne will most likely marry Mr. Elliot. Again, it is all the schoolboy theatrics: Does she like me? She's nice to me! But maybe she's dating that guy . . .

Oh, for God's sake, somebody say or do something!

Finally Wentworth does write Anne a hasty note that delineates his true feelings for her. It is a fabulous missive of the kind every girl would love to receive. I've had poems and songs written for me, and my artist friend was once moved to create a book of love quotes for me, but this kind of letter is something else entirely. Possibly because men can be so reticent. Letters like Wentworth's are rare, and so it becomes something precious.

In any case, one can move to the logical conclusion without my saying anything: Anne and Wentworth end up together, none the worse and possibly somewhat the better for having waited the eight years.

The title refers to Anne having been persuaded by family and friends not to accept Wentworth all those years ago. And the book then shows how it is better to follow one's good sense and heart rather than be pressed on by people more interested in rank and appearances. It doesn't much say what one should do if one has no sense or heart . . . I would venture you should then take the good advice of someone who does possess these attributes. Assuming you can find a person of such description. They tend not to go out in public much, so you may have to knock on some doors.

As for the remainder of characters: Mrs. Smith imparts to Anne the truth about Mr. Elliot—Elliot's unkind words about Sir Walter and Elizabeth behind their backs, even as he ingratiates himself to them, and also Elliot's own mistreatment of Mrs. Smith as executor of her husband's will—thus validating Anne's own misgivings of his character. Once Anne and Wentworth become engaged, Mr. Elliot quits the field and takes Mrs. Clay with him, setting her up in London as his mistress. (The idea being that Elliot's goal was to make sure Sir Walter did not remarry and have any heirs, thus taking Mr. Elliot out of line for the baronetcy.) And so his black mark gets darker, and the reader is thus assured Anne and the others are better off without him.

And Mrs. Smith, once Anne is married, has Captain Wentworth to thank for helping to untangle all the threads of her late husband's will, thus restoring her to some level of fortune.

Lady Russell does finally accept Captain Wentworth as the key to dear Anne's happiness and eventually becomes like a mother to him, just as she is like a mother to Anne.

Sir Walter and Elizabeth evidently remain silly and stupid and no one thinks of them in any high regard, so that they are reduced to following in the train of Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret with no one to follow them.

It is mentioned that Anne is only sorry she could not provide Wentworth with better relatives, but the fact he takes her in spite of her family shows the depth of his love, I think. That and the whole waiting around for eight years. Though I can relate, having grown up in a very traditional way and with very definite ideas about what was and wasn't proper . . . And these ideas only supported my natural shyness . . . It is an odd thing to be reluctant and impatient at the same time, a very frustrating feeling. Which is probably why I enjoyed this book and sympathized so greatly with the two principle characters.