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.

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