What to do when you’ve been left behind? What to do when you think you were worthy of transcendence but instead you are left with a paralyzed wife and a church you can’t afford to keep? “It’s a test” you keep telling yourself in hopes you are somewhat passing. No one was taken from you on Heroes Day but compared to what your life is like now, you kind of wish they were. In a very “Lostonian” way, this week’s episode of The Leftovers changed its pace and focused on one man’s story. For the last two weeks, we have been mainly following a broken police chief and the people he encounters. We have been shown, only on the surface, how the disappearance has affected everyone who wasn’t taken. It’s obvious that the world is a less safe, more cynical place and since there are no answers to the disappearance, there is nothing left to lose . Living recklessly seems to be everyone’s motto and since “our dogs aren’t our dogs, anymore”, maybe that also applies to our kids, teenagers, spouses, etc. Nothing was left unscathed that day and the best anyone can do is survive because making it better isn’t going to happen.
In this third episode, instead of following the usual characters and story lines, there is a shift in attention. We are shown the life of the sad and controversial pastor, who doesn’t have a congregation tithing and therefore paying his monstrous bills. He is disliked by many due to his crusade of revealing the dirty laundry of those who disappeared. It is assumed that those who disappeared were innocent, morally good people. He takes his precious time to photocopy stories as handouts so people can see the truth. This is his effort to make sense of Heroes Day and perhaps, to console his disappointment that he wasn’t part of the chosen ones.
We begin in front of a church where pastor Matt is putting up a sign that says, “He is always with you”. This is a foreshadowing of how the episode pans out and how absent God feels to Matt. He then goes inside the church and is telling those few who are listening, an anecdote of a young boy. This boy starts to resent his baby sister since his parents are only paying attention to her. He gets diagnosed with leukemia and miraculously survives. This boy is Matt, the minister, and this story explains a lot about his character. In his life, he has been the chosen one, the one who survived something that usually kills its victims. He had visions of being head of an ever crowded church and where people would run to him for answers. As we learned, that isn’t the case and Matt’s role in the town is more of a nuisance than a blessing. Matt’s struggle is incredibly painful to watch as he as to come up with over $100,000 in cash to save his church and we learn his wife is paralyzed. He can’t even seem to pay the lady who takes care of his wife and he is at his end with what to do. There is a picture in his wife’s room that I assume is Job, a Bible character who was constantly being tested by God. Matt religiously stares at this picture for answers. He realizes he has to steal and gamble if he has any chance of saving the church. The irony here is he has passed judgement on those who led a sinful life before they disappeared, not knowing their circumstances or having grace on their hardships. But now he has a desperate circumstance that calls for a desperate act.
His desperate act is the start of unfortunate and honestly, uncomfortable to watch moments where his hope is taken away. He gets brutally attacked 3 times in this episode and the last time costs him his church. He is too late to make the payment, since he was in the hospital for 3 days (not one like he thought). While he was unconscious in the hospital, there is a montage of events that happen. Some are from Matt’s past and others are from his present. Most of the people he interacts with in this montage are absent of any emotion, even though serious things are going on. This is insight into how Matt views his neighbors and that no one wants to help those in need. After Matt wakes up, we learn the people in white bought his church. He has treated these people with kindness, sometimes risking his own safety to help them. This isn’t the world where kindness gets you friends anymore. It’s dog eat dog and he slowly realizes this as he watches them take over the church. What hurts the most for Matt is that it wasn’t about the people in white betraying him but that the God, whom he has so faithfully followed, betrayed him. His sign that was put up in the beginning of the episode was taken down and Matt’s hope went with it. He wasn’t chosen to disappear and he also wasn’t chosen to be the leader among the lost. He wasn’t chosen and it’s that fact that haunts him.