TV Review: It’s Christmas Time On The Leftovers And Something’s Missing

In a bit of metaphor, heavy handed even for a show like The Leftovers, Jesus has disappeared from Mapleton. Baby Jesus, that is, from a life size Nativity scene marking the arrival of the holiday season in the small town. Chief Garvey couldn’t care less, in fact, he’s pretty certain Jill is behind the theft, only he can’t prove it. Despite his best efforts, Kevin is pulled into the search by the mayor while he tries to coordinate security for a town fundraiser.

The Guilty Remnant continue their assault on Mapleton, and displaying a cunning sense of strategy to occupy Kevin’s teams at the fundraiser. While he’s busy arresting the few members who show their faces, a larger group of the silent, chain smoking cult sneaks into people’s empty homes and steals family photos from their frames, leaving a blank square behind. It’s a bold move and the first we’ve seen from the GR, who have so far been content to stand silently on the corner, smoking and watching people.
Tom and Christine are still on the run, hanging out in a dive bar when a half naked man walks in raving about a dream where Christine walks over “the dead all dressed in white.” He also somehow knows she is pregnant, another message from his cryptic dream. Tom is growing weary of Wayne’s silence, constantly checking his phone for Wayne’s call. Still, Tom follows through with his charge to protect Christine, getting in a brawl with the ranting man. Tom and Christine head to the hospital to insure the baby is fine, where Tom is suspected of abuse and has to make a quick escape.

On a larger scale, “BJ and the AC” is about the symbols in which we put our faith. The episode opens on a factory floor, where we watch anonymous hands assemble a child’s baby doll that is eventually purchased from a toy store and finds its way into the manger. On its own, it doesn’t hold any particular power. We watch someone take it off the shelf and place it in the nativity with little fanfare. The residents move past it, the religious scene hardly registering, until the baby is stolen. Kevin’s right about Jill, who tries to show her continued apathy by almost burning the doll before she pulls back from the action. It’s an almost confrontational scene to watch, depending on where your personal beliefs fall, as the kids hold a joint to the doll’s lips and another tries to defecate on it.

For Kevin, it’s his family, now splintered by the Sudden Disappearance, only now we learn that things were probably falling apart long before then. Kevin was admits to cheating on Laurie and had a difficult relationship with his stepson, Tom. Still, when Laurie stops by to ask for a divorce, using Megan as her speaking proxy, he refuses. The scene where Megan reads Laurie’s emotional words in a shuffling monotone is a cold as the winter weather outside. Laurie is already disconnected from her family, but when Jill gives her a Christmas present, a Zippo lighter engraved with “DON’T FORGET,” it puts a crack in her facade. She might toss it into the gutter in front of Megan, but she comes back later for it, only it remains just out if reach like everything else in this post Disappearance world.

Even Tom, in danger of losing his faith in Wayne and hopping a bus back to Mapleton, gets a gut check from his symbol as the phone rings at the last possible minute to keep the boy with Christine. However, it’s not a call from Wayne, but a recorded message from a company called “Loved Ones” who seem to specialize in helping those who lost a loved one three years ago. This convinces Tom to grab Christine and hop a bus out of town, only to have the drunk man’s prophecy come true when the bus comes to a screeching halt. The road ahead is littered with corpses, all dressed in white or in white bags with a “Loved Ones” tag, spilling out of a shipping container. It’s a master stroke of pulling us back into the bigger mystery of what happened to this world just as we get more invested in the individual characters.

“BJ and the AC” is another strong episode of The Leftovers, coming on the heels of last week’s hour centered on Father Jamison. We watch as more lives intertwine and we learn more about the characters we follow. I love the subtle touches of the supernatural that are slowly spilling into the stories. I feel like The Leftovers is finally hitting its stride. There’s also a welcome bit of humor here and there, and humanity as well, peppered across the hour, making the heavier things less bleak, but no less impactful.

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