The Leftovers, Season 1, Episode 7, “Solace for Tired Feet”
Written by Damon Lindelof & Jacqueline Hoyt
Directed by Mimi Leder
Airs Sundays at 10pm EST on HBO
There’s finally a flow happening with this show. In previous reviews, I have discussed the many problems of The Leftovers I won’t delineate now. Slowly, however, they have course-corrected. Episode by episode they have been addressing their problems and deciding on what to focus on; closing the doors to the dead-ends, opening up the ones more promising. We have been seeing different sides of characters that were too opaque, and seeing tighter, more controlled scripts. In other words, it’s getting good. And even though this episode isn’t as amazing as last week’s, it’s the first non-character-centric one that doesn’t feel mostly stalled or scrambled.
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Right off the bat, it’s a great decision to at least temporarily give answers to the Holy Wayne mess. It has been a strange storyline, way too wide open, so it is wise move for it to be identified as charlatanism affecting a character, rather than a magic phenomenon affecting the world. A lot of eerie grandstanding in Lindelof’s world (if we go by Lost) turns out to be a hoax, or at least not what it seems. The pregnancy reveal was fine, if poorly executed, but it was just a ticking clock until the letdown. Now, we have the slow but steady unfurling of a great, big lie. And that is well-executed. Plus, the sooner we can get to Tommy as a person instead of a puppet, get him out of this one-cult-plot-too-many, and integrate him with the rest of the Garveys, the better.
Because the Garveys have become compelling. Both Kevin and Jill are navigating their own loneliness in a chaotic situation, and the more their stories connect and intersect, the more interesting they become. Yes, Jill’s rebellious teen note has become a little tiresome to listen to, but as long as it’s used cleverly and ties into the rapture premise, like the refrigerator in this episode, it is tolerable. Then, when we see Jill as a human, like with her grandpa, or her mother at Christmas, we have something even better to hold on to. The smarter and more aware she is, the more potential for drama and nuance with Kevin. Parent-child relationships are fascinating to watch when you’re not sure whose side to be on.
Bringing us to the great diner scene with Kevin and his father—a successful climax that focuses the series by leaps and bounds. When the two argue, we can see both of their points of view. By now, we know all the pressure Kevin is under, and this episode even doubled down on that by having him completely black out a night. (It was a good move, since mostly what we’ve seen before is him freaking out about missing items like shirts and toast.) Still, we know something supernatural does exist in this world, just by its premise, let alone all of the weird coincidences and happenings. So, Kevin’s father shouldn’t be completely ignored, either, despite the stress he contributes. It’s a well-earned conflict heightened further by their familial relationship and effective acting. This isn’t a show trying to buy an audience over anymore, this is a show busy telling a story.
This is further proven with the relationship of Kevin and Nora, which is smartly fast-forwarded time-wise, but not necessarily emotion-wise. These are two real people taking their time with each other, and the writers are paying respect to the knowledge we already have of them, and how messed up they are, instead of just throwing them together. Their sex scene is especially poignant, not being too schmaltzy, but not being too rough. They are not exactly using each other to exorcise their demons, but they aren’t exactly not doing that, either. It’s a strange balancing act that’s exciting to watch.
Sure, I can nit-pick certain things, that keep this episode from being a knock-out like last week. Why does Jill not know what her grandpa did if he supposedly burned down the library? Why did Kevin say he told Jill about Nora, but then the rest of the episode played out like he didn’t? Also, scene buttons are still rough around the edges. Jill closing out the teaser saying that’s her grandpa is redundant information, as well as the episode closer with Wayne’s baby being a girl. Still, this is positively the right direction, and with Kevin refusing his mission, the Hero’s Journey is now something concrete to watch out for. Hopefully so is a second season.