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

Picking up where “Cairo” left off, the season finale features a series of reckonings, not all of them as satisfying as one might have hoped.

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Photo: HBO

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.

Picking up where “Cairo” left off, the season finale features a series of reckonings, not all of them as satisfying as one might have hoped. In particular, the ignominious end of Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph), clutching his fatal wound in a bathroom stall somewhere on the road to Mapleton, fails to resolve the tension between his charismatic presence and his failed leadership. On the one hand, the pitiable circumstances of his death befit the false prophet who’s abandoned his flock: “Just another asshole who thought he was God,” the agent interviewing Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) explains, as if to comment on Wayne’s deluded promise to grant Kevin’s unspoken wish. On the other hand, Wayne’s empathic encounter with Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) in “Guest” made clear that the force of his personality, if not his half-baked ideology, attracted followers whose belief was sincere and ardent and recognizably human, reaching out to reclaim the connections that the Sudden Departure irreparably severed. The increasingly measly glimpses of Wayne, simpering and alone in tight, airless spaces, neglected to explain why he suddenly lost his ability to draw apostles close; instead, his role in the series devolved into indications of his fugitive status and the inexplicable pregnancy subplot. Every martyr is, to his doubters, just another asshole pretending to be God, and Wayne’s unceremonious shuffle off this mortal coil did little to address how we distinguish between the two. I, for one, was relieved to see him go.

Indeed, “The Prodigal Son Returns” replicates certain of the problems that plagued the series premiere and “Penguins One, Us Zero,” falling back into an unwieldy, melodramatic vein that subsequent episodes largely avoided. Kevin’s dream sequence, bringing back both his father (Scott Glenn) and a bellowing Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), manages to undermine the powerful finality of the elder Garvey’s mad tirade in “Solace for Tired Feet” and the Guilty Remnant leader’s suicide in “Cairo,” all while hitting the “crisis of masculinity” angle too hard to be effective. The series has long since been most successful when it invests its most profound concerns (faith and doubt, bereavement, regret) with workaday intimacy, as in the horror that consumes Coon’s face when Nora discovers the life-sized dolls of her departed family at the kitchen table. The moment earns its emotional ferocity because the images that precede it—Nora brushing her teeth, for instance—are so unremarkable: As I wrote about the depiction of the Sudden Departure in “The Garveys at Their Best,” the terrible thing that happens is terrible, in part, because we failed to see it coming.

And yet, The Leftovers has enveloped me so thoroughly in its universe that the finale’s flaws (too many characters, too much plot, too little focus) ultimately melt away, supplanted by the brilliant conclusion. After Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) comes to Kevin’s aid, helping him bury Patti in the woods with a selection from the Book of Job; after Jill (Margaret Qualley) confronts Laurie (Amy Brenneman) in the GR compound; after Christine (Annie Q) deserts Tom (Chris Zylka) and the baby; after the residents of Mapleton respond to the Guilty Remnant’s heartless act with a storm of destruction and violence—after all of this, another day still dawns, borne up by a tenacious, quiet belief that we continue on in the face of tragedy, doing the best we can.

Nora’s note to Kevin, recited in the same calm, gently sorrowful manner that has marked Coon’s tremendous performance all season, returns the episode, and the series, to its central question: What happens when the only thing you have left is the memory of what you’ve lost? “Sometimes when we were together, I remembered who I used to be before everything changed,” she reads:

“But I was pretending. Pretending as if I hadn’t lost everything. I want to believe it can all go back to the way it was. I want to believe that I’m not surrounded by the abandoned ruin of a dead civilization. I want to believe it’s still possible to get close to someone, but it’s easier not to. It’s easier because I’m a coward, and I couldn’t take the pain. Not again. I know that’s not fair, Kevin. You’ve lost so much, too, and you’re strong. You’re still here. But I can’t be, not anymore. I tried to get better, Kevin. I didn’t want to feel this way, so I took a shortcut, but it led me right back home. And do you know what I found when I got there? I found them, Kevin, right where I left them. Right where they left me. It took me three years to accept the truth, but now I know there’s no going back, no fixing it. I’m beyond repair. Maybe we’re all beyond repair. I can’t go on the way I’m living, but I don’t have the power to die. But I have to move towards something, anything. I’m not sure where I’m going, just away, away from all this. I think about a place where nobody will know what happened to me, but then I worry I’ll forget them. I don’t ever want to forget them. I can’t. They were my family.”

The message has an incantatory quality to it, the declarative repetitions striving to magic away the darkness that descends upon realizing that there’s no going back. But for all the bitter resignation it carries, Nora’s letter holds within it the same faint hope we place in bibilical parables and scraps of verse, philosophical investigations and holy ghosts, blood, burns, human embraces, and feral animals: the hope, as thin as the paper it’s written on, that while we can never return we may be redeemed, simply by moving forward.

This is, of course, the moral of the prodigal son too. “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad,” the Bible says, “for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

“Look what I found,” Nora says, smiling, as she holds Wayne and Christine’s baby.

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins,” T.S. Eliot wrote, reflecting on a wasteland of his own. I suppose this, for me, is the most succinct statement of what The Leftovers is “about.” It doesn’t matter what fragments we use to fill the gulf left over after we lose what we hold dear. What matters is that we find something, because there’s the next day, and the next, and the next. “Before” may be lost, but there’s always an “after.”

For more Leftovers recaps, click here.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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