8.7

The Leftovers Review: “No Room At The Inn”

(Episode 2.05)

TV Reviews the leftovers
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<i>The Leftovers</i> Review: &#8220;No Room At The Inn&#8221;

Poor, poor Matt Jamison. The God fearing man who can’t catch a break. The saddest sack in a TV series full of sad sacks. Poor, poor Matt Jamison.

Just as it was at about this point last season, we follow this pious preacher man through the nine circles of hell that is his life. Like his furious efforts to earn the money to save his church through gambling, Matt puts himself through all kinds of sinful activity for a singular purpose: to get he and his poor wife back into Jarden after someone beats him and steals their wristbands. It’s a Sisyphean experience, with every small step forward of progress resulting in a huge tumble back down the hill.

And it’s a terrifying, heart rending, somewhat thrilling thing to watch—a man so absolutely blinded by his own sense of faith and righteousness that he’s willing to step in front of a speeding train. You admire it to a point, but most often you just pity poor Matt Jamison as he gets his head cracked open by a wrench, humiliated and almost loses his wife in a small flood as they try to get back into Jarden through a drain pipe.

What writers Damon Lindelof and Jacqueline Hoyt fail to do is give us the nice, rueful punchline of that fateful episode’s last season where Matt wakes up after taking another blow to the head, and finds he’s missed the deadline to pay the mortgage on his church building. And he has to stand there while the Guilty Remnant paints it white.

This time around, he, for that same sense of piety and justice, decides to torture himself. After seeing a man in stocks in the encampment outside Jarden, who can apparently only be freed by the person who will replace him, Matt wanders back there after his eventful day and willingly places himself there. No rhyme or reason in the world could explain that action. Not even his steadfast faith that led him to the one Christian at the camp (played with the most delectable brutality by Brett Butler), and which put him in the position of beating a man with an oar in return for $500.

To bury the lede a lot, Lindelof and Hoyt already had our attention by the big reveal of Mary’s pregnancy. (I’ll give you a second to roll your eyes about the miraculous gestation happening to a character with that name… right after you get done rolling your eyes at the on-the-nose mention of Job being Matt’s favorite book of the Bible.) All of the trials he goes through seem somehow noble, even if it means him trying to explain that he didn’t essentially rape his catatonic wife and knock her up. The closing just felt like overkill.

The only reason that I can surmise for Matt’s decision is that he wanted to be able to tell people of the miraculous night of his wife’s awakening, and he knew that John wasn’t going to let him. And if all the horrors and cringing scenes of this episode were worth anything for us viewers, it was to finally see what John really meant when he said, “There are no miracles in Miracle.” He doesn’t want people to know that the town is actually something special. Once that news gets out, he loses control of the Everytown U.S.A. charm of this place and it turns into a shitshow of religious nutjobs and media insanity. There’s definitely something deeper at play here, but we’ve still got five episodes left for that to come to light.

As I’m sure I said about “Two Boats And A Helicopter,” the episode that saw Matt go through hell and more last season, what made even that most ridiculous of endings somewhat manageable was the acting of Christopher Eccleston. One of England’s best character actors, he is perfect throughout, bringing to life that strange alien-like presence that so many men raised in strict religious households carry with them. They are almost encouraged to act like they aren’t of this world. Watching Eccleston embody that almost makes cheering him forward up the ladder and into the stocks worth it. Almost.

Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste, and the author of Empire: The Unauthorized Untold Story, available in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter.

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