The Leftovers: “Two Boats and a Helicopter” Season 1 Episode 3 Review

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This was going to be my last episode of The Leftovers. But now we know what kind of storytelling this show is capable of, and it makes me not want to miss a single moment of it.

That could of course be undone by the next two episodes being completely awful. For now though, I have faith in The Leftovers. And for this phenomenal work of television, faith, or lack thereof, could be just enough to save this series.

It’s jarring for a show to do a character study just three episodes into its first season, but following around Matt Jamison (an on point Christopher Eccleston who had only briefly appeared in the first two episodes) for an hour proved that this show can have some focus, and not just be all over the place.

An in-depth character study is exactly what The Leftovers needed. Matt is a priest. He believes October 14th was not the good being taken to heaven. Spending a lot of his time making flyers about the terrible things some of the disappeared did, he’s also not the most liked man in town. But as a priest, he still has faith in God.

Two Boats and a Helicopter opened with Matt giving a sermon about his childhood. He tells of how he prayed for attention and suddenly got leukemia. Then he offers prayers for a young girl in a coma. The tone for the episode was set when Matt visited the hospital the next day to learn that the girl woke up. “We prayed for her this morning,” he says proudly. “Well she woke up last night,” the doctor returns. This was just the first instance of Matt’s faith being challenged.

In a beautiful early scene (seriously though, that lighting) that develops the type of man Matt is, he baptizes a young baby for her father, as her mother is against the tradition. The intimate ceremony ends with the father giving Matt another name of a person that disappeared who did horrible things. While on his mission, Matt is consistently followed by the The Guilty Remnant. Just as they won over Megan in the pilot, they seem persistent to get Matt to join them.

With his church being sold and pigeons seemingly guiding him to his destiny, Matt gambles $20,000 dollars on a game of roulette. He wins betting on the same color, red, three times in a row, allowing him to buy his church back. Having a man of the cloth gamble to win the future of his own personal House of God was great foreshadowing for the events to come. Through this storyline, The Leftovers engaged in its own mystery. Is Matt really in touch with God? Are his failures the path God set out for him? Or maybe God doesn’t exist? In which case, Matt is fighting for nothing.

This episode isn’t antireligion, but it is a cautionary tale in puting too much faith in the ambiguous. As Matt’s moral compass crumbles, his luck only worsens. His money get stolen, which wasn’t much of a shocker. But then he almost kills the man who did it, which was much more shocking. Again, this is a priest fighting for his church.

The next big scene has a car driving by throwing a rock at a member of The Guilty Remnant. Matt immediately tries to help, only for the driver to come back and bludgeon him as well. The horrific dream sequence that follows shows us a man terrified of his own self.

Finally, he wakes up, desperate to turn in his money to save his church. But it turns out he was in the hospital for three days and missed the deadline.

In a final “got ya!” moment, Matt walks by his church only to find that The Guilty Remnant were the ones who bought it. Damn them.

Two Boats and a Helicopter accomplished everything The Leftovers has been trying to simply by focusing on one character. Matt was the perfect lead, incredibly flawed but never unlikable, to take us through this journey of questioning your faith. The Leftovers‘ first two episodes asked big questions as well, but not as narrowly and sufficiently as this. This episode felt fully involved in the world the show has been building thus far, but the storytelling was on another level. Here’s to hoping more stuff like this is on the way. Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

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