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The Leftovers Season One Finale: “The Prodigal Son Returns”

By Eleonora Iafano on Sep 12, 2014 to The Leftovers

TheLeftovers_KevinFinale

“Prodigal son.” For those that are familiar with the term, it means a son who has returned to his family after a long absence. This particular son is special; “prodigal” by definition means ‘a person who leaves home and behaves recklessly, but later makes a repentant return.’ Three characters in the season finale seem to fit the description rather well and each of these men, in their own way. Our Holy Trinity in the season finale is Kevin, Tommy and Holy Wayne. Each of these men have behaved in such a way that would be considered reckless, harmful or immoral.

Kevin, still in mute shock from witnessing Patti’s suicide, waits. While he is waiting, he decides to light up a cigarette. Clearly, the man is stressed. Who wouldn’t be in that situation? We found out, in the previous episode, that Kevin and Laurie’s marriage was in trouble; they were wearing each other down and had really nothing nice to say to each other. Kevin was looking to get out; Laurie was caught off guard by a surprise pregnancy and once the Departure took place, she ended up being, figuratively and literally, empty inside.

Leftovers_PattiandKevinKevin finds himself in a series of weird dream like states. The first dream is when Mike comes to find him and they dispose of Patty’s dead body. Mike brings water, shovels and a change of clothing for Kevin. After Kevin falls asleep, he is taken out of Mike’s car by force and ends up in the town psychiatric facility. Weird, right? It gets even creepier: he gets to visit his dear old dad. But wait! Guess who makes a surprise appearance? Patti! After a very weird conversation with both of them, Patti sits on top of Kevin’s lap, which was unsettling, to say the least. Very eerie to think that he’s actually seeing a dead person and conversing with them, while sitting next to his father, who also has some mental health issues. Kevin is in deep denial, between being in a psych facility and seeing a dead woman talking to him and listening to his father babble on about the Departure. He suddenly wakes up to find himself with Mike, in the car and no psychiatric ward in sight. They go for a bite to eat and speak about the Guilty Remnant and Patti’s last words. It almost turns into a confession of sorts, as Kevin unburdens himself to Mike. He tells him the truth: he wanted to leave Laurie and his family. He was unfaithful. That ever since the Departure, he really did lose his family, one by one.

Christine and Tommy are driving when she needs to feed her baby. Along the way, they stop and Christine finally comes to the realization that Wayne was a liar and a user. “I should have known he was lying when he said I was special,” she laments. Well, duh. A guy like Wayne will say anything to get a girl like Christine into bed. She fell for it, got pregnant, and ended up on a very long road trip. You just know that she wants nothing to do with the baby. She leaves Tommy high and dry and he is forced to care for the baby. Great parenting, 101.Leftovers_TommyandChristine

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jill has decided to join the Guilty Remnant (GR), because, hey, she wants to be closer to her mother. The people of Mapleton are already distrustful of the GR and really don’t like them around. The GR are abused at every turn and the only person who seems to want to try to help them is Reverend Mike. He does his best but let’s face it, he’s not very successful. Jill and Laurie exchange a series of notes and Jill does what any teenager would do at that moment: be defiant towards one of her parents. She takes off her regular clothing and slips on the white top and pants of the GR. Meg offers some solace with a note – “At least you’ll be together.” I don’t think this is what Laurie envisioned for her family.

A lot of people have struggled to move on. What makes it worse is feeling guilt, fear or depression. The GR doesn’t seem to think so. The GR really are an enigma. They claim to do things in a peaceful way and yet, what’s with the sneaking about in the dark, entering people’s homes and stealing pictures of missing loved ones? And the whole incident with Patti killing one of her own, to make a point? In fact, what takes place during the episode is a creepy staging of “loved ones” (lookalike Loved Ones  Dolls) into people’s homes. They were placed to remind them of what they lost; to make them remember. Placing those life like dolls in people’s houses was bound to have a bad reaction. What were the GR thinking by doing that? What did they hope to accomplish? The residents of Mapleton weren’t going to let this slide. Unfortunately, violence and destruction of property were the consequences of such actions. Some people feel heartbroken about this; others become angry and vengeful. The episode where the GR was collecting clothing and accessories? It wasn’t for dead bodies. It was for the Loved Ones dolls of families that were affected by the Departure. So, while Jill and Laurie sit facing each other in one of the GR house, the rest file out, with Meg leading them, into vans. This is not going to end happily and you can tell that tensions hit the boiling point. (All this done to an instrumental version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.”) 

While in the diner, Kevin ends up crying and leaved the table where he and Mike were sitting. While in the bathroom, he hears someone in distress. It turns out that Holy Wayne has been mortally wounded. You have to wonder, did he get stabbed by someone? Was it a half hearted suicide attempt? Kevin tries to get him help but the only help Wayne wants is the ability to grant Kevin one wish. Interestingly enough, Kevin has a very pensive look and Wayne looks at him and smiles, understands what he has wished for and slumps over. Seconds later, police come barging in and arrest Kevin, and check on Wayne. He is dead, and Kevin is seen speaking with another police officer. Mike vouches for him and the two return back to Mapleton. Here is where the Prodigal Son term serves a purpose: we have Holy Wayne, who, moments before dying appears to grant a wish to Kevin. So, was Wayne a fraud all this time or was there something mystical to him? Did he really have some sort of prophetic gift to actually heal people and absolve them of all their pain and suffering? I never liked Holy Wayne. There was something very creepy about him, to be sure, but I found him to be a pervert. And my gut feeling was bang on, because half way into the series, we see that there were other guys like Tommy, and other pregnant women, like Christine. That being said, Holy Wayne’s death left me to wonder: who stabbed him? Or was he sick? Was he depressed and decided to inflict a mortal wound on himself? Why did he impregnate all those young Asian women? Did he really have a ‘gift’ to heal people?

HolyWayne_Finale

As Kevin and Mike head back, it almost felt as though Kevin was “coming home” after he behaved so recklessly. When I say “behaved recklessly,” you have to remember that Kevin wasn’t the most upstanding Police Chief. He drank a lot and was on a lot of prescription medication. Do we really know why he was taking all of those pills? Anxiety? Depression? Did he perhaps have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? And what was with his binge drinking and blackouts? Would that behavior not count as reckless? His use of police force when trying to get his shirts from the man at the dry cleaners was police brutality: let’s face it, normal people don’t yell and use a very menacing tone while trying to get an item back from the dry cleaners. His hallucinations of his father and of dead Patti? What do we make of that, especially with the way his father was talking so cryptically as to why some people went missing and why the rest of them were left behind? His confession to Mike about his affair with a woman on the day of the Departure would also symbolize that he wasn’t happy with his marriage and wanted out. Bringing Patti to a secluded cottage in the middle of the woods hours away from Mapleton also leads us to believe that Kevin may be suffering from a mental disorder. Especially when we find out that he used force on her, tied her and couldn’t even remember doing so. Almost seems like there is a split personality going on: the Kevin who wants to be angry and vengeful and take his depression/frustration out on members of the GR and the Kevin who desperately wants everything to return back to normal.

As Mike and Kevin return back to Mapleton, they find the atmosphere laced with tension. It’s no picnic. Fires and smoke blaze all over the place. People are running around like wild animals. There is no semblance of law enforcement. Open hatred towards the members of the GR runs rampant. People are beating and shooting any member of the GR. Kevin tries his best to bring some control to the scene but fails. In the chaos, he sees Laurie and finds out that Jill is inside one of the burning houses. He rescues her and begins to get his family members back, one at a time. Firefighters come to the scene, fires are extinguished and order is slowly restored. However, it doesn’t fix what went down and it only serves to add more salt into a wound that barely healed.

Leftovers_NoraFinaleTommy returns back to Mapleton and see his mother looking out over the water. How fitting that another family member has returned to the fold; one positive thing to be happy about. Tommy had left home and was a drifter for a long time. His reckless behavior included not contacting his family for long periods of time and putting his trust in a man who may or may not have been a fraud. He also lashed out at the man who was his actual biological father, which appeared to be a source of tension between Tommy and his mother. While Tommy has returned back home and Jill has been rescued by Kevin, we hear Nora reading her break up letter to Kevin. She states that everyone has been affected by the events of three years ago. She says that she is weak and a coward and wants to leave. She also says that Kevin treated her well and made her feel whole again; however, she just didn’t want to get close to anyone again, as she couldn’t bear the pain of losing someone again. She loved Kevin but felt that it was better to part of good terms. All this is being read in a monologue while she tidies her house up and closes it up, leaving that life behind. While on route to Kevin’s home, she finds a baby on the porch. Nora looks so happy and like she has a purpose again when she gently holds that little baby. Jill and Kevin watch and for a brief moment, it looks as though Jill is happy to see someone else happy again.

Kevin and Jill have returned to their home. Wayne, Tommy and Kevin can both be seen as the prodigal sons returning to their rightful places. Wayne, because he returned to where his ‘father’ was (possibly heaven). Tommy, because he was gone for so long and felt that he never needed anyone. In fact, he did; he needed to be around his family to feel whole again. Kevin, because he wanted to make amends and try to right old wrongs and perhaps, not take anything for granted.

Perhaps Holy Wayne was on to something, maybe there was a higher power to him. We’ll never really know. Kevin may have had his wish granted: he wanted his family to be safe and whole again. So far, it looks like there has been some sort of closure and that maybe Holy Wayne had Leftovers_Hopesomething to do with bringing father and daughter back together, as well as the long lost son returning back. Deep down inside, maybe Kevin truly repented and wanted forgiveness; he wanted to have his family safe and happy to be together again. As for Nora, her hope lies in starting a new life somewhere else and leaving all the events of the past behind. Finding that baby on the porch seemed to have given her a new purpose. And for just a second, there seemed to be a tiny little frisson of hope present in Mapleton. And maybe a little bit of hope was all that anyone needed.










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