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Another episode down, and another bar raised on the standard we can expect from The Leftovers. "Two Boats and a Helicopter" tosses aside nearly all of the ensemble cast we've come to know the first two weeks. No Meg, No Wayne, No Jill or Tom, and only brief appearances from Kevin and Laurie. This week was all about a character we only saw for little of in the premiere, Reverend Matthew Jamison (Christopher Eccleston).
If you don't remember, Reverend Jamison was at Heroes day with his congregation handing out flyers revealing sordid details about those who vanished.
We open with Matt addressing his flock of only a half dozen or so with a story about himself as a young boy who, jealous of the attention his younger sister is getting, prays for that attention back. As a result, he explains, he was diagnosed a month later with lung cancer. He says he felt grateful for the disease, as it taught him a lesson. Suffering is a sign that God loves you, and all those who were left after the Departure were left to suffer out of God's love. Those who departed were being punished for their sins.
Matt's mass is interrupted by a man. He is clearly not a member of his church, and presumably someone close to one of the vanished that Matt defamed while spreading his word. The man assaults him and stuffs one of his own fliers in his mouth.
As part of his work, Matt keeps a compendium of information on those who vanished, as well as the sins they committed. As he puts it, "If we can no longer separate the innocent from the guilty, everything that happened to us-all of our suffering-is meaningless."
After learning of a departed man whose sin was that he had gambled his children's college money away, he visits the local casino to verify details on the man for his literature. While at the casino, Matt becomes perplexed by a pair of pigeon that have landed on a roulette table, disrupting some gamblers.
The next day, It is revealed that Matt's church was foreclosed upon several weeks ago, and he was allowed to occupy it until a bid was made on the building. A bid had finally come through, and unless he can come up with $135,000 by the next day he will lose it.
The reverend's first move is to visit Nora Durst, who turns out to be his sister, and asks her for money. After turning him down, Nora refers to an accident that lead to Matt finding his calling. We don't know what that accident was quite yet. She obviously doesn't share his views, because that would mean her vanished husband and children would have been "guilty" ones getting their due punishment from God. Matt drops the bomb on her that her husband Doug had been cheating on her before his departure. We also find out that Matt has a wife at home who is in a vegetative state.
Apparently Kevin Garvey's father buried $20,000 in his backyard for the Reverend. We're not exactly sure why yet, but it seems to have something to do with a corrupt judge that Matt helped expose. He goes and unearths it in the middle of the night, but not before finding Laurie sitting on a swing in her family's backyard. With help from Laurie's pen and pad, the two agree not to mention to anyone they saw each other there and go their separate ways.
Still $115,000 short of what he needs to save the church, Reverend Jamison races over to the casino, driving past the same two pigeons perched on a traffic light. He puts all his money on red three consecutive times, and doubles his money each time until he has $160,000 in winnings.
His goal reached, Matt heads out to his car. He's approached by the guy from the couple, who asks if he could spare some money. Matt obliges, but then is predictably assaulted and has the rest of the money taken from him. The scene is set up in a way that you see this coming a mile away. What you don't see coming, however, is that Matt gets up off the ground and returns the beating to his assailant and takes his money back. He's not willing to accept this bit of suffering that God has sent is way.
The next morning, Matt comes across a pair of Guilty Remnant, one of whom has been struck by a rock thrown in a drive-by. When he goes to assist them, the car comes back around and another rock is hurled, this one hitting Matt in the head and knocking him unconscious.
He enters a flashback dream sequence where we see the doctor informing him and his parents that his cancer is spreading, followed by him standing with his sister watching their house burn with their parents in it. Then we see a car accident which Matt is the passenger in, exits the car to reveal the opening scene from the premiere. This is the accident that Dora referred to that lead to Matt's calling, this is the accident that left Matt's wife in her current state. We also learn in the dream Matt either had an affair with Laurie Garvey or at least had impure thoughts about her.
For a moment it seemed like maybe Reverend Jamison would be put out of his misery, which would feel merciful, but then we wouldn't get to see Eccleston's brilliant work as the series' new most intriguing character.
Matt wakes up in the hospital and races to the bank with the money. Thinking he's just gotten there in time, he learns that he's been incapacitated for three days, and his deadline has passed. He also discovers that it is the Guilty Remnant that has bought his church.
Ensemble casts are not hard to come by in today's television landscape, and it's become something of an art to effectively juggle characters and story lines. However, even in a show in its infancy like The Leftovers, it can be refreshing to set the crosshairs on one target for the full hour. We don't see much of the faces we spent most of our time following thus far, but we know enough to know that Reverend Jamison's story is not irrelevant to theirs. From the outset it seemed that a rapture-like event would be worth exploring as a show. After learning a little more about the people of Mapleton, it's now clear that the Sudden Departure is only half the story.
image courtesy of: Kristin Callahan/ACE/INFphoto.com