The Leftovers S03E02 “Don’t Be Ridiculous”
Director: Keith Gordon
Starring: Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston
Writers: Damon Lindelof & Tom Perrotta AKA Tha Lonely Donkey Kong & Specialist Contagious
A review by Michael Walls-Kelly
Now that’s The Leftovers I know and love.
It’s weird, funny, frustrating, complicated and almost impenetrable. What other show on TV would use the theme song from Perfect Strangers, have a Wu-Tang Clan tattoo as a plot point and use a teeter-totter to drown a man?
The episode starts with Nora (Carrie Coon) investigating the disappearance of the man who lives on the pillar in Jarden. Nora speaks with the man’s wife (Brett Butler, reprising her role from season two) who swears that he departed. We know he fell from the pillar and Nora, not one to put up with bullshit, gets to the bottom of it. The man’s wife came to Matt (Christopher Eccleston) to help her bury the body and give the Pillar Man a legacy. Nora has the body dug up. All in a day’s work for a the Department of Sudden Departures.
Then Nora gets a phone call asking her if she wants to see her children again. The call is from Mark Linn-Baker (as himself), one of the leads on the ‘80s sitcom Perfect Strangers. In season one we learned as a little background joke that all of the leads of Perfect Strangers had Departed. In season two, as another small joke, we found out that Mark Linn-Baker had faked his Departure. Bringing this little background tidbit to the forefront and actually making it interesting, relevant and heartbreaking is such a The Leftovers move.
Nora meets with Linn-Baker and he tells her some sci-fi technobabble about certain types of radiation and Nora isn’t buying it. But the crux of the scene is her connection with Baker. Both of them were left here while three people close to them Departed. Linn-Baker and Coon are great in this scene with Linn-Baker especially deserving kudos for taking a funny joke and cameo from previous seasons and showing the human pain behind it. The writers deserve credit for attempting to do that, too. There’s also this line, when Linn-Baker drops Nora’s phone in the toilet for security reasons, which is so on-the-nose I kind of love it:
Everything that matters is up there in the cloud, right?
Nora is given a phone and told that she’ll be contacted about reuniting with her kids. At that point she goes on a small journey and we find out the answer to a few questions. What happened to Lily? Christine, Lily’s birth mother, showed up and wanted custody. Nora couldn’t bear seeing the loss on another mother’s face and gave Lily up without a fight. Why did Nora have a cast on her arm? She broke her own arm in a car door to cover up a Wu-Tang Clan tattoo which she got to cover up a tattoo of the names of her Departed children. Where is Erika Murphy (Regina King)? Living nearby and still friends with Nora.
There are a lot of great moments in “Don’t Be Ridiculous” but I was especially glad when King showed up. She’s a fantastic actress who has rarely been recognized for the work she’s done in shows like Southland, American Crime and season two of The Leftovers in particular. One of the best episodes of that season was “Lens” which basically made King and Coon the MVP’s of the show, so putting them together again was a great idea. Nora confides in Erika and Erika helps her out by bringing her out to her trampoline and the two of them jump on it while Wu-Tang Clan’s “Protect Ya Neck” plays. It’s a goofy moment that has a real heart to it. Erika’s sharing with Nora how she deals with her grief over her daughter, Evie, dying and Nora is getting to escape a bit and appreciate some childlike joy.
When Nora returns to town she catches Kevin (Justin Theroux) asphyxiating himself and they have their normal heart-to-heart they usually have when she catches Kevin doing something weird. They tell each other that they’re happy, and they do seem happy with each other, but not overall. That’s why, when the phone rings and she’s told to come to Melbourne, Australia she agrees to go. It’s also why Kevin asks to go along with her.
Speaking of Australia, we’re given another little hint about the wider spiritual world at play in The Leftovers. When an asshole sheriff named Kevin is confronted by a group of women on horseback they believe him to be our Kevin and they kidnap him. They tie him to the end of a teeter totter and dunk him in water for a couple minutes, presumably trying to recreate Kevin’s trips to the afterlife we witnessed in season two. Obviously, this kills the sheriff. It’s an interesting scene, especially with the leader of the group’s insistence that they know they have the right man. It’s a nice commentary on religious zealotry, how even if you have the broader aspects right there can be devastating consequences when you fuck up the smaller details.
The episode ends with a man on crutches coming out on the porch and asking them what they’re up to, It’s Kevin Garvey Sr. (Scott Glenn), the father of the man they’re looking for.
Keep watching! This episode was great, on par with some of the best entries in the previous seasons. The premiere was good as well, but “Don’t Be Ridiculous” didn’t have the burden of reintroducing the show. It was also a Nora-centric episode which are usually my favourite for two reasons. One, it gives Carrie Coon a lot to do, and two, her episodes usually delve into the nitty-gritty of how different the world is since the Departure. I could watch a whole episode devoted to the duties and the jargon used by the Department of Sudden Departures. I’m excited to see where the show goes next and how the trip to Australia will change Kevin and Nora.