The Leftovers S03E05 Recap: 'It's a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World'

Much of this final season of The Leftovers has been about getting each and every character from point A to point B; point B being whatever Damon Lindelof has in mind for the series finale. More tangibly, it involves shipping all the main characters off to Australia for the seventh anniversary of the Sudden Departure. But every character also has baggage to unload before getting there. Much of the first half of the season was about Nora and Kevin Jr's baggage. Their inhibitions, their beliefs about what they are and what they aren't, about the Sudden Departure and their place in it.

This week, "It's a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World", the focus switches over to, you guessed it, Christopher Eccleston's not often seen but seemingly omnipresent Matt Jamison, who rallies the troops (John, Michael, and, begrudgingly, Laurie) and ships them off to Australia to find Kevin and bring everyone back for what he presumes to be judgment day. But as we've come to learn over the course of three seasons, nothing ever comes easy for Matt Jamison, so what follows is an arduous several day journey on a cargo plane and then an lion orgy ferry where a man claiming to be God murders a man.

There are so many points in time where Matt could just leave well-enough alone, but Matt is a man of principle. What's more, he's a man who is resigned to a life of suffering in order to stay true to those principles. Be it something pretty commonplace like reporting a murder, to something he could let go like a man blaspheming by calling himself God, or even the very premise of the episode and his need to find the man he's deemed to be the second coming of Christ. Even metaphorically, with the return of his illness. Much like Job or some other long-suffering Biblical character, Matt's purpose on this show, in this world, is to suffer in order to make things happen, and he does a lot of that in his dedicated episode of the season.

The purpose of all of this, plot wise, is to get these characters to Australia for the show's final act. But on a character level, for Matt, his true destination is a confrontation on the sex ferry. Matt is willing to put up with a lot in order to achieve his goals, including the sex-obsessed members of a lion-worshiping cult, but he draws the line at the blaspheming of a man who calls himself God. The incomparable Bill Camp (returning to HBO after a great turn on The Night Of last year) guests as David Burton, a former decathlete (and bronze medal winner) who purports to have resurrected after dying in a rock climbing accident. He has very specific ideas of what it means to be God, and shares them in the form of frequently asked questions on a card. He denies responsibility for the crusades or the holocaust, he claims not to be Jesus' father and that his supposed son's resurrection was just a sighting of Jesus' identical twin brother. But he does take credit for the Sudden Departure, and he did it simply because he could. Also he kills a dude by throwing him overboard.

Matt claims he wants to take down someone who is spitting on every aspect of his life, of the things he worships. He makes this his crusade when no one believes him, he captures Burton and ties him up, but when he confronts him, he seems conflicted about whether or not he's the real deal. Eccleston delivers an amazing, nuanced performance in this scene, as a conflicted, confused man who doesn't want to believe that the degenerate in front of him is God, but also doesn't want to pass up the opportunity in case he is, especially after everything he's seen in the last seven years. Camp is equally brilliant in a quiet performance opposite him, displaying a subtle confidence that makes even the viewer question what's real and what isn't.

But after going through many tests himself, Matt sort of winds up constructing a test of his own. A dissident group plans to release the lion on board the ferry while everyone is leaving the ship, all while police is congregating to arrest Burton for the murder after a body was found at sea. The lion winds up attacking Burton as both tried to escape, thus proving that he wasn't really god. The more important lesson for Matt is, however, that sometimes things just happen, be it the Sudden Departure or the sequence of events that led to everyone congregating in Australia.

And that ties into the episode's bizarre opening, which shows us a naked French naval officer steal the keys to his submarine's weapons, circumvent the need for a second man to simultaneously turn the keys and launch the nuclear weapon that strands Kevin and Nora in Australia. No one dies in the blast, but everyone is understandably freaked up. Despite that we know ho the explosion happened, we don't know why. Why did this man decide to get naked and launch a nuclear weapon at no one a few days before the anniversary? Maybe, just like the Sudden Departure, the answer doesn't really matter. Maybe it's more about the stuff that the explainable makes us do.

"It's a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World" is short on answers in terms of everything that's going on, but it does give us a lot of insight into what makes Matt Jamison tick. It's a whirlwind episode with great performances and for that, it gets 8.5 naked Frenchmen out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Another weird guest spot in this episode is Captain Aceveda from The Shield as the cargo plane pilot.
  • Matt gets the group into the boat by telling a dirty joke about priest rape, but Laurie starts a joke about a panda and I would really like to hear the end of it.
  • "Did you bring your whistle, Laurie, because it sounds like you need to blow off a little--" "Fuck you!"
  • "I read it on the card he gaveme, right after he washed his hands of the Holocaust."