The Leftovers season 3 episode 5 review: An oddball departure

*Do not read ahead if you haven't seen The Leftovers season 3*

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The Leftovers season three will be available to watch in the UK on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV from 4 July

“Australia is the key to the whole game.” 

This line, spoken by Hugo “Hurley” Reyes in the TV series Lost, was designed to be picked apart by theory-hungry fans, poised to analyse anything thrown their way. Ultimately, it amounted to nothing. That Damon Lindelof's next TV series The Leftovers has heavily eschewed the series' endgames to that same country is no coincidence - as Reverend Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) frantically navigates his way Down Under in a bid to retrieve Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), it's hard not to think that perhaps this time around, the line may bear truth. 

With the Sudden Departure's seventh anniversary just days away, Jamison is on borrowed time to get to the other side of the world to not only find Kevin but to convince him he needs to be back in Texan town Miracle for… well, whatever comes next (the apocalypse, nothing or something else altogether). Flights have been grounded following the launch of a nuclear missile courtesy of a postal French bloke on a submarine in the middle of the ocean (the 'why' surrounding this event is somewhat murky but it’s no stretch to imagine that impending apocalypse does strange things to people).              

Any other character would be deterred by such an occurrence, but not Matt. He enlists the help of a foreign-aid approved friend to fly him, John (Kevin Carroll), Michael (Jovan Adepo) and - to his annoyance - Kevin's ex-wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) to Australia, viewing the global catastrophe to be a mere “obstacle” dealt by God. Unbeknownst to him, his journey there will spark a series of setbacks that, by the end of the episode, sees Matt's faith dying a slow death.

The episode - titled 'It's a Matt Matt Matt Matt World' - continues in The Leftovers' now trademark vein of pulling up the handbrake and swerving the vehicle into uncharted terrain. This could well be the show's most idiosyncratic hour of TV yet, initially aided by the cold open which places viewers - for the first time ever - into the middle of nowhere away from the comfort zone of its characters or the blanket of familiarity conveyed by Max Richter's ever-haunting score. That and because it throws the episode's central quartet headfirst onto a boat filled with sex-crazed passengers celebrating the seed of a lion named Frasier. Really (Frasier is actually a real-life lion who, in his old-age, fathered 35 cubs in one night).

The boat is merely a conduit linking Matt's story with unexplained phenomena that have casually presented itself in previous episodes. At this stage, The Leftovers isn't interested in spelling things out for anyone, so when the camera first locks on David Burton (Bill Camp), you either remember we’ve met him before or you don't (for the latter crew, he's the man Kevin encounters in his hotel afterlife - first, on the bridge on his way to the well, and then again before he performs his rendition of 'Homeward Bound’ in a scene direct from Twin Peaks). 

Burton’s story is detailed here: he’s a former bronze medalist athlete who resurrected after perishing in a rock climbing accident. He now spends his days reading, throwing people overboard and refuting the existence of any God other than himself. Unlike Kevin, he quite enjoys the 'Messiah' tag he's become affiliated with.

Quite why Matt meets him on a sex boat that sets sail from Tasmania is never explained, and nor should it be. What rule-book states one of a TV series' final episodes shouldn't unfold in such a location? Stranger things have happened, not least in the world of The Leftovers.

Despite being primarily Matt-centric, this episode belongs just as much to Laurie as it does to the reverend, Amy Brenneman making up for almost an entire season's worth of silence by getting to spar with Eccleston's stubborn character in the episode’s most delicious interactions. These two have only shared minimal screen time in the past and it's engrossing to see author Tom Perrotta’s creations interact, Laurie largely conveying incredulity over Matt's belief that her ex-husband is not having a psychotic break; she struggles to comprehend that a man who shits four times a day could be “the goddamn second coming of Christ.”

The episode's title references 1963 comedy It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, yet there's nothing comedic about where Jamison's story is headed, even if his deadpan-dunked final line induces a chuckle. By the end of the hour, Jamison has acknowledged that he is hurtling headfirst towards his grave following the return of the same illness he found himself cured of as a boy after a simple prayer to God - the event which shaped his religious beliefs and steered him to this precise moment in his life.

A climactic showdown with Burton eventually sees Matt convinced he's come face-to-face with the deity he's dedicated his life too. Burton claims responsibility for the Sudden Departure leaving Matt with one question: why? “Because I could,” Burton responds, detaching Matt’s faith from this world. After a lifetime of obstacles, Matt wants some answers. It's a remarkable scene in an outlandish episode and the only time Richter's score rears its head. 

As Burton gets mauled by Frasier’s descendant in the episode's closing moments, so too does Jamison's faith. Yours in this show, however, will only be rewarded - even if unanswered questions remain.

The Leftovers season three will be available to watch in the UK on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV from 4 July

Episode one 'The Book of Kevin' review
Episode two 'Don't Be Ridiculous' review
Episode three 'Crazy Whitefella Thinking' review
Episode four 'G'Day Melbourne' review