“The Leftovers,” part deux

After fulminating against the failure of “The Leftovers” to represent 38.6% of the population of Texas, I watched the second half of Season 2 last night. I remain impressed by the ease with which this show passes both the Shukla and Bechdel Tests. There are many scenes in which people of color, especially the Murphy family, talk to each other without mentioning their race (the former), and a lengthy, wonderful two-hander between Nora and Erika in which they are definitely not talking about a man (the latter). But Damon Lindelof and his crack crew of writers still need to step up their game.

Meanwhile, poor Kevin Garvey. Poor sweaty, pretty, baffled Kevin, that skinny-jeans hipster wreck of a man. I am fascinated by Justin Theroux’s performance, which reminds me of my enduring love for the young Keanu Reeves. As he piteously asks Nora, “Have you been noticing that I’m, um, kind of losing my mind?”, his emotions and the terror they inspire in him rise to the surface like the parting of the waters in Lake Jarden. You can’t blame his daughter for being angry pretty much all the time, because Kevin is a shitty dad: sincere but shallow, impulsive and self-obsessed—matter of fact, it must be kind of like having a Hollywood celebrity for a father. Episode 8, “International Assassin,” which just might be the most unhinged hour of television I’ve ever seen, points up Kevin’s profound lack of a sense of irony, and maybe that’s just as well. It’s the man’s earnestness, his thin veneer of masculinity so easily giving way to tears and confusion, the helplessness of his love for family (including, bless him, his ex-wife) and his general inability to fix anything, that make “The Leftovers” such a treat.

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