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The Leftovers season finale recap: 'The Prodigal Son Returns'

The Guilty Remnant goes out in a blaze of glory, and Wayne grants Kevin one wish.

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The Leftovers

TV Show
Drama, Fantasy, Mystery
run date:
Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston
Current Status:
In Season

“But He stands alone, and who can oppose Him? He does whatever He pleases. He carries out His decree against me, and many such plans He still has in store. That is why I am terrified before Him; when I think of all this, I fear Him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me. Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.” —Job 23, as read by Kevin Garvey Jr.

The title of The Leftovers‘ season finale, “The Prodigal Son Returns,” refers to a New Testament parable, but the soul of the episode belongs to Job, the put-upon God-fearing man of the Old Testament who bravely weathered the Lord’s harsh neglect. It’s more than an apt metaphor for the residents of Mapleton, especially police chief Kevin Garvey Jr., who’s been punished by forces within and without ever since 2 percent of the world’s population inexplicably went poof. In episode 9, “The Garveys at Their Best,” a pre-Departure flashback episode that revealed interesting character connections, Kevin told a stranger that he wasn’t a good guy—right before he committed adultery with her. In last night’s finale, which picked up directly after episode 8, “Cairo,” when a battered Patti purposely slashed her own throat and died in Kevin’s arms, Rev. Matt argues that Kevin is a good man, and makes him read the above Biblical passage before burying Patti in a ditch.

Good? Bad? Spared? Condemned? Potato, po-tah-to. That’s been the whole M.O. of The Leftovers, hasn’t it? There’s no rhyme or reason to what happened, and if you insist on concrete answers, you might find yourself in a rubber room watching Perfect Strangers. The real question is, are your intentions good? Um, actually, that’s also now up for debate.

Patti really screwed over Kevin when she jabbed a shard of glass into her neck and bled out on his cabin floor. When we first see him in “The Prodigal Son Returns,” he’s standing over her body, practically in shock (likely just as he was on Oct. 14 after his nameless lover vanished before his very eyes) as Nina Simone’s cover of “Ne Me Quitte Pas” haunts the background. When he finally comes to his senses, he dials a number on his cell. Who would he call? Nora, who he’d previously called from the woods in a panic when things initially turned bad? His daughter, Jill, at home, if only to tell her he loves her? Nope. Instead, it turns out that the Garvey men have a habit of turning to Matt when they’re in a bind. And Matt, who knows first-hand how easy it is to lose control, comes through, Mr. Wolf style, with a change of clean clothes, fresh water, and two shovels in the trunk. (I was almost surprised the good reverend didn’t pull some decomposition lye out of his car.) They bury Patti’s body together, an emotional teetering Kevin falls apart when he reads Job 23, and Matt does his best to not tap-dance on the grave of the woman who evicted him from his own church. The ceremony culminates in a baptism of sorts, with Kevin pouring water over his head and bloody skin after the ghastly series of events. He looks like a new man as he and Matt get in the car to head for home, and he drifts to sleep as the radio announcer talks of a shootout between authorities and a fugitive. (I couldn’t make out on my TV whether the radio reported it was Holy Wayne, but it seemed to be understood.)

NEXT: Operation M.D.