In its third week, The Leftovers takes the bold step of focusing in on one character: Reverend Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston), a figure we haven’t yet gotten a chance to know or really care about. Up until this point, his appearances on the show have involved him yelling at people during the Heroes Day Parade, yelling at people outside a coffee-shop, and giving mysterious town sad-sack Nora Durst a hug. It’s a recurring issue with The Leftovers that character development gets the shaft in favor of atmosphere-building. So, Lindelof and co. have seen fit to give Matt his very own episode – a smart move, as it turns out. This week, he deals with his post-Rapture difficulties, including declining attendance at his church, death threats and his own screwed-up belief system. Strap in, Leftlovers (too soon?), it’s another punishing hour in Mapleton.
The episode opens as Matt tells his congregation a story about a little boy. “I’d say stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but you have and I don’t really want to be stopped,” he begins. “This boy, he’s a good kid, not perfect, but good and, when he’s ten years old, his mom and dad tell him that he’s going to have a baby sister. And she comes and of course he loves her very much, but she’s getting attention. His attention, so he wishes, no, acutally he prays, for that attention back. A month later, he’s diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia, and the cancer eats away at the boy until there’s almost nothing left. But he fights it and he survives, and now he has a choice to make. Does he decide that he was punished, or that he was rewarded?” As he speaks, we see Matt shoo pigeons from the church’s doorstep. “And he decides, I decided, to be grateful, because it changed me, it made me.”
Matt begins another story, about a girl in a coma after an accident on a playground swing. That little boy is now praying for attention, he says. For Emily. “Let us pray,” he concludes. We see his congregation – it’s almost empty. In the post-Sudden Departure world, it looks like people are a little bit dissatisfied with the religion that had before guided them. Wordlessly, a man wearing a bandana enters the church. He’s furious. Stalking up to the front of the church, he sucker-punches Matt, then proceeds to beat and kick him bloody in front of his congregation. Then, he shows Matt a flyer – “She sold drugs,” it says, accompanied by a picture of a woman, one of many Raptured individuals Matt claims never would have been chosen by God. He stuffs the flyer in Matt’s mouth and leaves.
Kevin comes to visit Matt in the hospital. “Occupational hazard,” Matt says of the injury, “What are you going to do?” “Stop pissing people off,” Kevin retorts. They “need to hear the truth,” says Matt. “Your father understood that.” Kevin says, “And look at where that got him,” then as a white flag, invites Matt to dinner. “Nights are tough for me,” Matt says dismissively.
Matt gets on the elevator to visit a different floor, sharing a ride with a sad-looking clown (really, Lindelof, really?). After declining a call from the bank, he encounters a male nurse who tells him, to his delight, that Emily has woken up and is fine. “This morning, we prayed for her,” he says, his faith reignited. “Well, she woke up last night,” the nurse says. Oof.
That evening, Matt gets a visit from an old congregation member, who hasn’t been in a while. He has a baby in tow, and while his wife is getting a manicure, he asks Matt to do a baptism. He’s surprised – not much call for that these days evidently – but obliges his guest. Unfortunately, despite the baptism, the man is reluctant to come to service – it’s clear that his wife has become disillusioned with religion as a whole. The man tells Matt about a gambler named Andrew who disappeared in the Sudden Departure. His face grave, Matt gets out a pen and paper and records the info for a future flyer.
We next see Matt at the casino Andrew habited. He speaks with the manager, who lost his nine-year-old niece in the Sudden Departure, and tells him about a child rapist who also disappeared. “Someone has to expose these people for who they truly were and what they truly did,” he says. “Because if we can no longer separate the innocent from the guilty, everything that happened to us, all of our suffering, is meaningless.” The manager smiles, rolls his eyes and says, “I think I know what happened to your face.” Before they can talk further, the manager departs to deal with some pigeons that are on a gambling table. Yay, more random animals! Matt gives them an odd look.