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What an episode! ‘Two Boats and a Helicopter” continues to expand the world of The Leftovers in unexpected and dynamic ways. I commended last week’s episode for expanding on the world, demystifying some of the vague aspects of the pilot, and this week, the series takes even greater risks in storytelling, to great effect.
In a departure of the show’s structure (if that can be evaluated in two episodes), the episode focuses mainly on Matt Jamison, a character that has been deep in the sidelines for the first two hours. And while the episode was very much his story and journey, it does an incredible job in exploring other characters in the series. For example, in the hour’s most effective and engaging scene, Matt visits Nora Durst and the nature of their relationship is revealed. It is an expertly timed sequence since the previous episode left us wanting more of Nora, wanting to have a greater sense of who she is and voila, the show provides. Their dynamic communicates so much about the characters’ shared past and especially how the last three years have affected each of them.
Plus, it was a true surprise to learn that they are siblings and it made perfect sense when looking at their interactions in retrospect. And later, in a short scene with Laurie the show speaks volumes about that particular character’s state of mind and emotional condition. In just perhaps a minute or two of screen time we know exactly what Laurie is going through and her story continues to progress, despite the very limited focus. The rate at which the narrative unravels in the show is deeply engrossing and cleverly done, it is very deliberate, but we always get enough to satiate our curiosities in each episode. Every time Matt crosses paths with another character, whether it be Nora, Laurie, or Kevin, a little bit of their individual story seeps in and informs their own stories as well as the greater narrative being told.
But this is Matt’s story, and an incredibly effective one at that. Though it takes some time to get into, one keeps waiting for the episode to cut to another character and interrupt Matt’s storyline, but once you realize that we’ll be following this one character throughout the entire episode (which is probably the scene after Kevin shows up and we assume that we’d follow Kevin’s perspective afterwards but instead return to Matt) it takes off beautifully. The concentrated focus allows us to immerse ourselves into Matt’s story and, regardless of his dubious beliefs or methodology, strongly sympathize with his mission. A lot of this is due to Christopher Eccleston’s beautiful and emotional performance. You could just feel the character’s sadness and desperation emanating from Eccleston’s expressive face. It is a wonderful showcase for the actor. In terms of story, the idea that nature is somehow connected to a greater spiritual power/source continues to be fun to watch.
Matt sees the pigeons as guides or symbols sent by some sort of greater being/force and thus he goes on his wonderfully tense and bizarre gambling spree. Are they really prompting Matt to gamble the money? Who knows? Those dogs did seem to attack and devour the deer; they were certainly behaving in a peculiar way. And the greater question of cosmic powers at work over this universe endures and continues to intrigue. Was it just luck that made the roulette ball land on red three times in a row or was there a higher being influencing the outcome? The fact that Matt missed the deadline suggests that it was pure luck, that it wasn’t ‘meant to be’ for him to retain ownership of the church, that there is no greater being at work. If so, where does that leave him? I cannot wait to see what is up ahead for this tragic figure.
Diverting from the usual structure is perhaps the best decision the writers made in this episode, as Matt was far more engaging than Kevin ever was in those first two episodes. Nothing against the character or his story, it is quite compelling, but Justin Theroux’s acting style is (as I’ve stated before) kind of bland and building a series around his very quiet performance might not be the best way to go. However, in this episode there is a sense that the focus isn’t necessarily on Kevin, but on this community: how they interconnect and affect one another in the aftermath of a momentous event. If this is the direction the series is going then I predict there will be many wonderful episodes to come. This episode might not persuade those on the fence about the show, but with it The Leftovers has solidified a distinct style that has me hooked.
What did you think?