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Justin Theroux (#110 of 12)

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 10, "The Prodigal Son Returns"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 10, “The Prodigal Son Returns”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 10, “The Prodigal Son Returns”

Trying to develop a unified theory of The Leftovers is probably foolhardy, not least because its defining episodes (“Two Boats and a Helicopter,” “Guest,” and “The Garveys at Their Best”) so thoroughly shatter any effort to reduce the series to a description of its supernatural premise. But if you were to ask me what The Leftovers is about, its rendering of the tumultuous relationship between head and heart is where I’d begin: Half of the series is built from bibilical parables, scraps of verse, philosophical investigations, holy ghosts, while the rest is composed of blood, burns, human embraces, and feral animals. The Sudden Departure, the void at the center of The Leftovers, surpasses understanding, but the show’s true subject—loss itself—is one we can all identify with. “The Prodigal Son Returns,” like The Leftovers as a whole, is a primer for all the physical and psychic weaponry we deploy to fill the gulf that opens when what we held dear is gone.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 9, "The Garveys at Their Best"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 9, “The Garveys at Their Best”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 9, “The Garveys at Their Best”

The return of the deer. The crack in the wall. The proverb on the calendar. “The Garveys at Their Best” is one long presentiment of disaster—the “tremors,” as Patti Levin (Ann Dowd) remarks, before “the big one.” Circling back to the day before the Sudden Departure, this striking interlude in the season’s narrative arc satisfies our desire to know what life was like in Mapleton before October 14th, and to understand the intensity of the grief that followed. But the episode rejects our craving for an explanation as to why, littered with premonitions that add up to nothing more than the knowledge that the course of human events is beyond our command. “A man said to the universe, ’Sir, I exist,’” Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) reads, toasting his father (Scott Glenn), Mapleton’s Man of the Year. “’However,’ the universe replied, ’that fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.’”

The Leftovers Preview: Justin Theroux’s Hidden Package

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<em>The Leftovers</em> Preview: Justin Theroux’s Hidden Package
<em>The Leftovers</em> Preview: Justin Theroux’s Hidden Package

In his recap (to be posted here tomorrow at 11pm EST), Matt Brennan calls the cold opening of this Sunday’s episode of HBO’s The Leftovers “a disorienting change of pace.” And while I’m pretty sure he’s referring to both a previously unseen location and the understated, genial tone of characters we’ve otherwise come to know as edgy and combative, it was hard not to be distracted by the sight of Justin Theroux jogging commando on his way to retrieve a package hidden underneath a mailbox. And we’re not the only ones. Co-star Liv Tyler apparently also has trouble averting her eyes during Theroux’s jogging scenes.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 8, "Cairo"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Cairo”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Cairo”

“Cairo” begins with a song, climaxes with a poem, and concludes with a whisper, but it’s what each of these leaves unspoken that captures the testy relationship between faith and doubt at the heart of The Leftovers. As the opening montage augurs the coming collision between Patti Levin (Ann Dowd) and Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), suturing her arrangements for the Guilty Remnant’s next radical act to his preparations for dinner, the music we hear is excerpted from “I’ve Been ’Buked and I’ve Been Scorned,” an African-American spiritual. Left out when Patti closes the church door, however, are the lyrics that traditionally come next: “Ain’t goin’ to lay my ’ligion down,” the hymn resolves, “no, Lord.” “Cairo” is a dark night of the soul, but the power of conviction is omnipresent at its margins.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 7, "Solace for Tired Feet"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “Solace for Tired Feet”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “Solace for Tired Feet”

After the powerful one-two punch of “Gladys” and “Guest,” “Solace for Tired Feet” is a useful respite, pausing to establish the constellation of conflicts driving the first season of The Leftovers to its conclusion. It’s a measure of just how thoroughly the series has won me over that the episode manages to work through this abundance of plot without slipping into the labored, distracted mode of “Pilot” and “Penguins One, Us Zero.” Indeed, “Solace for Tired Feet” leavens its rather harrowing tale of (seemingly) false prophets with lovely, funny details, like the image of Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) spraying two members of the Guilty Remnant with a garden hose. The Leftovers once strained to be taken seriously, but it now approaches both light and dark with an easy, expansive confidence.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 6, "Guest"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 6, “Guest”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 6, “Guest”

We need to talk about Nora. The unshakeable woman of the Heroes Day dais is now a distant memory, long since shadowed by intimations of a troubled inner life: the handgun, the broken coffee mug, the news of her husband’s infidelity. Until tonight, though, Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) remained mostly inscrutable, the Mapleton resident least susceptible to profane rants and crying jags. No more. With “Guest,” at once funny and dire, playful and painful, The Leftovers whittles away Nora’s placid exterior until all that’s left is the abraded soul inside.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 5, "Gladys"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “Gladys”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “Gladys”

Three minutes into “Gladys,” the titular member of Guilty Remnant is dead. The episode’s central event, her brutal murder, is already in the past. And in the long unwinding that follows, as the emotional, social, and political consequences of that terrible act reverberate through Mapleton and beyond, the gulf between those who need to remember the Sudden Departure and those who wish to forget it grows ever larger. “Grace period is over,” Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph) warned in the show’s pilot, and though he meant to suggest the transformative power of his own charismatic presence, tonight’s episode demonstrates the broader implications of his foreboding words. The chronological conceit of the series, picking up the thread of October 14th three years later, suddenly appears canny indeed. With “Gladys,” an enthralling portrait of what happens when the urge to move on collides with the persistence of grief, The Leftovers joins the ranks of television’s must-see dramas.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 4, "B.J. and the A.C."

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “B.J. and the A.C.”

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “B.J. and the A.C.”

If you, like me, were cautiously optimistic that “B.J. and the A.C.” would replicate the focused structure and rich characterization of last week’s “Two Boats and a Helicopter,” a celebration of sorts is in order. “B.J.,” eccentric and tersely expressive, may not yet signal a trend, but for the first time since The Leftovers premiered, I’m not simply enamored of its potential, I’m excited by its proficiency with an unorthodox brand of suburban drama, part Left Behind and part Leave It to Beaver.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 2, "Penguin One, Us Zero"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “Penguin One, Us Zero”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “Penguin One, Us Zero”

Troubled chief of police Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) first encounters the penguin of “Penguins One, Us Zero” during an exchange with the police department psychologist assigned to evaluate his fitness for duty. Garvey’s massacre of a pack of dogs (gone wild, local myth has it, after witnessing the Sudden Departure firsthand) has Mayor Lucy Warburton (Amanda Warren) and the chief’s colleagues on the force worried about his mental state, and Garvey’s unsubstantiated claim that an unnamed “mystery man” (Michael Gaston) joined him in the shooting does little to quell their doubts. Amid the combative atmosphere of the counseling session, the most jarring detail is the presence of a goofy, inflatable black bird with large blue eyes and toucan-esque splashes of color on its body. “I work with a lot of kids,” the shrink explains. “They use it for aggression.” As its title suggests, the second episode of The Leftovers teems with flashes of anger, but it’s the objects of frustration that end up winning out.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 1, "Pilot"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

In the beginning, at least, The Leftovers sounds familiar. The clamorous white noise of modern living hangs in the air, keeping time for the passage of an ordinary autumn day: a crying infant, telephone conversations, the tumbling dryers of a suburban Laundromat. Indeed, what will eventually mark October 14th as the dividing line between “before” and “after” is a brief and surprising silence, the pause that precedes the uproar of alarms, screams, and collisions accompanying the “Sudden Departure.” Created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta from the latter’s eponymous novel, the series imagines a world in which two percent of humankind has vanished, but the premiere evinces admirably little interest in an explanation. The questions The Leftovers poses are rather more prosaic. What does it mean to be awakened not by sound, but by its absence? Why do we wait until what we hold dear is gone to acknowledge what it meant to us in the first place? Where do our regrets go when “before” becomes “after”?