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THE LEFTOVERS Recap: The Deer, The Dogs, and The Ol’ Switcheroo

Where were you when everything changed? What were you doing on October 14th? Finally, we have those answers thanks to context, which is everything. On Sunday night’s penultimate episode of The Leftovers, we were finally given a real glimpse at who these people were in the days leading up to the great Departure. And perhaps more tragic than anything, it proves that by-and-large, many people were happy. They were living fine and normal lives. Sure, many people had problems (who doesn’t?) and some where wholly unsatisfied (a shocking thought? Hardly), but oh, what a different world it was for everyone involved — to say nothing of what sort of people they were.

The happy were made sad, the non-believers turned devout, and those trying to play it nice and cool? Well their nuttery has gone all-out. Yes, we’re talking to you Kevin Garvey (Jr. AND Sr. as it were). And the rest of the clan, for that matter. Each person of Mapleton affected by the Departure has lost a part of themselves in addition to those around them; and oh, what a shadow of their former selves they are.

Jill Garvey, the bouncy-haired, giggling pile of tween braces transformed into a morose, detached, disaffected youth when faced with the reality that everything in life may be pointless. Tommy, a family-obsessed happy camper hiding some serious daddy issues went in search of a replacement father figure with all the answers (only to come up woefully short with Holy Wayne). Laurie, a pregnant skeptic therapist with a desire to keep her family unit in check ends up the chain-smoking devotee with an empty womb.

And the patriarchs of the Garvey family — Kevin Jr. and Sr. both? Well they’re just grappling with different sides of the same coin. Both of which have driven their respective obsessives mad. Kevin Jr., like so many, was dissatisfied with the idea that there wasn’t any meaning in life now has to face the reality that maybe there actually is something more. And his father? Well he’s also, clearly, gone and changed his tune: the idea that life is all there is now very possibly a lie has turned him into a vessel for voices from another side, ushering more substantiated meaning into the world than anyone else.

There’s a duality here — a duality of everyone involved that is both sensical and yet hypocritical. But isn’t that the nature of life?

To us, that’s exactly what The Leftovers has been all about. It will drive you mad trying to figure out if it’s a show with a mystery to be solved at the end, or merely a portrait of the world in the wake of the unknown. The series teeters on the edge of telling you whether or not you’ll get answers to these questions on purpose; it’s an inexplicable thing that’s at times fulfilling, mostly satisfying, often aggravating, and wholly confounding. But could that not also be said of life? That, in my opinion, is the meaning of this show. Is life a game we’re all playing in anticipation of finding out the meaning at the end, or is it simply a work of scientific magic and happenstance that has to be enough because it’s all there is? And could we be both right and wrong about that all at once?

Could our curiosity be both our greatest gift and biggest detriment? Are we trapped in a neverending maze of questions, frothing up all the frantic, animalistic feelings inside? Are the people of Mapleton regressing — beyond our human ways but to an instinct far more feral? Can the world move on and survive without ever getting its desired answers?

It’s all sort of like the deer. Terrified, continually trapping itself in a search for a way out, the destructive beast could be shot because it’s lost its way (or its mind) at this point: but would that be the best answer? Kevin Jr. has proven himself time and time again to want to “save” these lost animals (the deer, the dogs) despite the fact that their behaviors frequently prove more dangerous than anything else. His is a hope that terrifies him to the point of denial when he’s awake and drives him to the brink while he sleeps. We’re all trapped, but survival is all about resilience, even in the face of the inexplicable.

Some Thoughts:
- Cigarettes, at this point, have to be a metaphor for something, right?
- Same with mailboxes. There’s just too much of that to be coincidental.
- I did not peg Gladys as a dog breeder but I also didn’t expect Laurie to be a therapist, so!

Next week’s the finale: do you think we’ll go in one direction versus another? Let us know in the comments.

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