Leave it to Damon Lindelof to keep us poor viewers hanging for one more week to find out the aftermath of Patti’s suicide, and Jill’s decision to move in with the Guilty Remnant. But at least he did it by way of a fascinating full hour flashback to the 36 hours or so leading up to the Sudden Departure.
I admit that, even though I knew what the final outcome would be, I spent the whole time with a knot in my stomach, likely the residue of the poor woman whose baby vanished in the cold open to the show’s pilot. She shows up again towards the end of episode, arguing on her cellphone, as she idles next to Laurie at a stoplight, no less than an hour before the big moment.
She’s not the only returning ancillary character either. The elderly couple with the developmentally disabled son who were grilled by Nora early in this first season has a strange interaction with Kevin Garvey, Jr. as a deer enters into their home and stars tearing the place apart. We also see Patti and Gladys in their pre-Departure lives, the former a patient of Laurie’s who is the polar opposite of the confident cult leader she becomes, the latter a dog breeder who might give the Garveys a puppy.
Through this all, Lindelof lays on the drama and foreshadowing a little too thick. There was some power to Patti’s insistence that something bad was going to happen, which helps somewhat explain her turn towards the Guilty Remnant, but the use of the deer as this portent of what’s to come by having it show up in the vicinity of the people who would soon disappear felt quite chintzy. I was also entirely unconvinced by the “big moment” where Laurie is in the middle of an ultrasound and the baby she hasn’t told her husband about disappears before her eyes. So too the moment when Kevin, Jr. realizes the woman he’s been screwing in a cheap hotel has vanished. We already know they are haunted characters; why belabor this point?
The moment in this episode that did hit straight and true was when Nora’s family all disappear. For any parent, the thought is harrowing. But here, in a scene where Nora is trying to maintain control of the household on her own while her husband sits idly by, and then angrily loses it when her daughter spill juice on her phone just as an important call is coming in….let’s put it this way: if you have a kid, you’ve likely had a brief moment where you wished they weren’t around. How would you then feel if your wish, made in a moment of frustration and anger, inadvertently came true? In this instance, it deepened Nora’s character, and her pain immeasurably.
While I’m excited for them to get back to the main story arc, I’m also hoping they do more flashback episodes like this. I’d love to know how Patti, Laurie, and Gladys came into the fold of the Guilty Remnant, and how Tommy fell under the sway of Holy Wayne. And, as great as it was to see Scott Glenn’s character free of the voices haunting him in previous episodes, I want to know what led to his mental break. Was it just the Departure or something more? With a second season promised by HBO, hopefully all of this will be addressed in detail. For now, I’ll be champing at the bit for this season’s final episode, airing next week. Brace yourself, fellow Leftovers fans, I think it’s going to be a big one.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.