The Leftovers Finds A State Of Grace
She's having a really bad seven years.
This episode of The Leftovers is called "Crazy Whitefella Thinking," which: yes. That is what is happening here -- plus a sort of Homer-like odyssey with crutches and a cassette-tape player. There are a number of moderately delusional whitefellas on this show, but this one's dedicated to the long and winding journey of one in particular: Kevin Garvey Sr., who stumbled out the front door of a house in the Australian outback in the final moments of last week's episode. This week, we find out about that house and how he came to be there. Kevin Sr. is the subject of this week's episode -- he goes through a lot and Scott Glenn really sells it -- but he isn't the point. The point is Grace, who sums up the ethos of The Leftovers and explains, in five beautifully shot minutes (thank you, director Mimi Leder), what Kevin Sr. does in the previous fifty minutes -- or, arguably, what the entire show has done in twenty-three episodes.
When Kevin Sr. burst into last week's episode, Grace and her posse of middle-aged ladies had just drowned a local police chief named Kevin, expecting him to be resurrected. He wasn't. In a stunning and sobering button to this week's episode, we step away from Kevin Sr.'s story (though not from his perspective), and find out how Grace got to that place: she was buying groceries when the Sudden Departure took place, and came home to find her husband and five children gone, their Bibles lined up neatly in a row. She took their departure as a blessing from God, knowing, she told Kevin, that they were spending eternity sitting at His right hand -- that is, until two years later, when authorities found the children's remains on her land. Turns out Mr. Grace capital-D Departed alone; not knowing whether their mother was ever coming back, the kids set out across the Outback on foot and didn't make it. As Grace said, she never even thought to search for them. Fast-forward six years and fifty-one weeks, when she found Kevin Sr. collapsed and ready to die at the foot of the cross she put up to memorialize her family, a $100 bill and a single page from the Book of Kevin in his hand. She didn't recognize the "scripture," but as a guilty, grieving parent and a fan of scriptures generally, she took to heart the part about a police chief named Kevin who drowned, passed through to the underworld, and could speak to the dead and take away their pain. Desperate to enact that kind of mercy for her own kids, she kidnapped a local police chief who happened to be named Kevin and tried to make it happen.
Last week, the kidnapping sequence came across as a little funny -- dark, but absurd. Grace and her squad were certain, no-nonsense, with no sense of irony; we didn't know where they were going with all this. Out of context, I thought they might be some kind of wacky frontier lady-cult, and I was here for it; the drowning seemed like a bit much, but the presentation of the whole thing was light instead of tragic. Besides, that guy was the worst! I laughed. This week? No laughing. It's not grotesque, mostly because it's told and not shown; it's just really, really sad.
As we get further from the Sudden Departure, as the physical and philosophical scope of the show expands, Grace's long monologue is a concise reminder of what we're doing here. Oh, right: this is a show about grief and about people spiraling into weird places in their lives because of it. (By "weird places," I mostly mean "mental illness and murder.") In fact, Grace is a spiritual member of the extended Garvey-Durst-Murphy family, if not an actual physical or legal one: echoing some of the themes of our main cast of characters, two of her kids are Aboriginal and adopted, and the departures she's mourning aren't Departures at all. At this rate, she might as well transplant herself to Jarden, Texas (but not, because it looks like Jarden, Texas might be coming to her in the near future).
Of course, Grace's scene is just the end of a long episode that isn't about her at all -- so why is she there, aside from joining up with Kevin Sr. as a disciple of Chief Jesus? In a sense, she's just another character trying to cope with loss, as everyone in this world is assumed to be doing. But she's also operating in parallel to Kevin Sr.: she's following certain voices into behavior that would have been unthinkable before. She thinks she must be crazy. He really IS crazy, and thinks she's just misinformed and has the wrong Kevin. This may be the point where she begins to play, somehow, into Kevin Sr.'s Noah complex (or pre- Noah, in the sense that he's trying to prevent the flood in the first place?). She's prepared: the only thing we know about Grace's present situation, aside from the murder part, is that she and her people are building an awfully big boat. Because why not? It looks like everyone on this show really does find their tribe.