In post-departure Mapleton, it's really hard to keep the faith

Updated July 14, 2014 09:30 AM
Credit: HBO

Talk about O.M.G.

Sunday night’s episode of HBO’s The Leftovers did away with the myriad character vignettes and focused on the painful, pious life of Mapleton’s religious leader, Father Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston). It raised the question: Did faith decide who left – during the sudden departure that claimed the lives of millions – and who was simply leftover?

We find Father Matt at the pulpit giving a sermon to a mere dozen followers inside his large sanctuary. After sharing a parable about a boy stricken with cancer, he asks his measly congregation to pray for a sick young girl in the town.

Before he can say “amen,” the church doors burst open and a burly man lumbers his way toward the pulpit. Without a word, the stranger begins punching and kicking Father Matt. He then stuffs a flier that reads She Sold Drugs into Father Matt s bloody mouth.

In the hospital, Father Matt gets a visit from Chief Garvey (Justin Theroux), who’s revealed to be a family friend. Garvey warns him that his controversial fliers – signs he posts around town to prove that the taken weren’t all saints and heroes – are going to keep him in stitches, literally. The unwavering Father Matt calls the attacks by angered citizens “an occupational hazard.”

Faith First

Back at the church, a young man whose wife is at the nail shop secretly brings his baby to be baptized. It’s a rare show of faith in post-departure Mapleton and gives Father Matt a break in the clouds. The man tells him about a guy who gambled away his kids’ college fund before he disappeared.

The story sets Father Matt on the trail of yet another guilty departed. He visits the local casino to get more information on the new subject, telling the casino manager it’s his job to separate the innocent from the guilty.

After dodging phone calls from the bank, he finally answers accidentally. His banker informs him the church has long been foreclosed on and now a buyer is ready with an all-cash offer. Father Matt has 24 hours to come up with $135,000 or lose his religion.

He turns to family. We learn his sister is Nora Durst, the woman revered by the town for losing her husband Doug and their two sons in the event. She offers her brother a deal: She’ll give him money from her family’s foundation if he stops pouring salt in the town’s wounds with his insensitive fliers and sermons.

It’s an offer he has to refuse. So resolved in his beliefs, he tells Nora, Doug was cheating. He proceeds to lay out the who, what, when and where of her husband’s infidelities before he and their kids disappeared. In a word: ouch.

From Bad to Worse

Back at his own home, we learn his wife Mary is catatonic and her caretaker is another debtor seeking payment. After bathing his beloved, Father Matt breaks down in tears. It all seems more than he can bear, until suddenly he gets a divine intervention.

In the dead of night, he heads to Chief Garvey’s house, where he finds Laurie Garvey on a swing in the yard. She’s not there to follow him – though he’s indeed on her Guilty Remnant’s watch list – and asks that he not tell cult members that she was there.

Digging up the yard, he finds $20,000 that his friend left for him. On a holy mission, he heads to the casino to hedge his bets. Religion and roulette go well together, because Father Matt prays his way to winning $160,000 with three bets on red.

But life’s never that easy. A shady casino patron follows him out to the car and gives him a similar beating to the one he got in church. Only this time, Father Matt finds his strength, or desperation, bashing the man s head into the ground and reclaiming the spoils.

A Thankless Job

En route to the bank the next morning, Father Matt sees a drive-by rock-throwing attack on two members of the Guilty Remnant. Not one to sit idly by, he hops out of the car to help, only to be leveled by another flying stone.

A flurry of flashbacks show just how hard life has been for the religious leader. He was the young boy with cancer from his sermon. And when they were kids, he and Nora watched as their childhood home burned to the ground with their parents inside. His dear wife Mary may not have disappeared into thin air, but she lost all motor functions after a car accident caused by someone who did.

Again in the hospital, Father Matt comes to. He races to the bank to deliver the cash, only to learn that his deadline passed days ago and the deed is done. Returning to the church that was his parents’, he finds new owners the Guilty Remnant already at work painting and cleaning house.

His response? If looks could damn.

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