The Leftovers, Ep. 1.04, “B.J. and the A.C.,” uses Christmas to try to right its wrongs

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The Leftovers, Season 1, Episode 4, “B.J. and the A.C.”
Written by Damon Lindelof & Elizabeth Peterson
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter & Carl Franklin
Airs Sundays at 10pm EST on HBO

Starting off positively—and it’s a big one—no new mysteries were introduced this episode! At least, nothing of the paranormal, never-going-to-be-answered-adequately nature. What we get instead is a couple of contained stories with our lead characters, some swallowed reveals that are appreciated nonetheless, and a whole lot of metaphor. It was still an extreme hodgepodge and smacking of the strained efforts of a show trying to figure out what it is and how to simply tell its story, but at least it’s not like last week’s complete non-sequitur. We are building (some) relationships. We are attempting to focus and head somewhere.

Where that place is is still a mystery and seems so out of reach, but the hints in this episode actually work to hook us in more, despite better judgment. For instance, Christine being pregnant. That adds the proper stakes to a storyline that seems to exist just for the sake of action and intensity. Having a fetus’ life in danger is the exact kind of pulpy ingredient needed if we must spend time with these people. Now, Tommy is a protector of life just as he took a life two installments ago. It brings us full circle and gives us a tone of extremes to hang on to.

Tommy is still majorly problematic, though. Another reveal we had this episode is that he is Laurie’s son from a previous relationship, which is vital information and explains Kevin’s more lax attitude to his whereabouts, yet also pushes him only further away from the center of the story. I wish there was a hint that Holy Wayne was an actual link to the Departures, what Tommy meant to Laurie, what he thinks about his mother, father, sister, anything. Did Tommy leave for a cult first, or Laurie? The order there is key, and seems unfair that we are deprived of such a basic fact four hours in. His run-in with the Guilty Remnant wasn’t enlightening.

The other important reveal long overdue was that Kevin cheated on Laurie. He’s not simply a put-upon man who wants his family back, he’s at least somewhat responsible for its fracturing. There’s the oh-so-important vulnerability his father was talking about. It not only lets us in to the nature of his attitude, but also gives a chance for Nora and Kevin to have an elegant connection, and something good to possibly root for in the coming weeks amid all the bleakness we have been experiencing with this clan.

Still, it’s strange the way this show doles out information. A big problem is that Laurie simply doesn’t speak, so exposition won’t often come from her end. Jill and her friend only have adventures together and not any serious talks, and Tommy and Kevin are just always running somewhere, because they are men of action, and must run. As such, the show seems out of control of its narrative, slipping things in only when it can.

Because of this, the best part of the episode, and of the series so far, is Laurie’s letter to Kevin, as read by Meg. This is the dump of information and emotion we needed, and the properly set scene for it. For the first time, this show felt in control, and everyone’s needs were clear, from Meg needing to read, to Kevin getting his wife to talk. Especially Jill, with her lighter present, let us know she has pretty much already given up on her mother, and accepts her choice to leave. Now she turned into a real girl, instead of a stereotypical angry teen.

So, time for a fresh start, and to hopefully proceed steadily and deliberately with our characters from here on out. With Tom Perrotta back writing next episode, and our situation and characters all for the most part finally laid out, there may be hope for a Christmas in July miracle after all.

 

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