The Leftovers episode 5 recap: What happens when Matt meets God

In this episode, bringing God to justice becomes Matt Jamison's new and very singular obsession

Christopher Eccleston as Matt Jamieson in The Leftovers.
(Image credit: Ben King/HBO)

The greatest trick The Leftovers may have pulled isn't bringing Kevin Garvey back from the dead, it's breathing new life into Matt Jamison. Over the course of the show's three seasons, this gadfly preacher has harangued the ordinary citizens of Mapleton and Jarden about the inherent sinfulness of the Departed and the inherent sinfulness of the people left behind (basically the inherent sinfulness of everyone); informed his desperately grieving sister that her Departed husband was screwing the kindergarten teacher; and driven away the wife and son whose mere presence should have been nothing less than miraculous — all so he could chase some fantastical vision of being the wisest of wise men, the prophet who finds a scruffy, tattooed Messiah. For these actions alone, Matt (Christopher Eccleston) has earned his place in the pantheon of TV characters who are just The Worst ™, taking his throne between Rory Gilmore and King Joffrey. So many viewers may react to the title of this week's episode, "It's a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World," with some measure of trepidation. "A Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World" is a hard terrain, bristling with righteous indignation and neurosis — but this episode isn't just about exploring that terrain, it calls masterful bullshit on everyone's (not so) favorite holy man, and, in doing so, brings him to a state of actual grace.

The episode's opening sequence — wherein a French submariner violently steals both keys needed to release the nuclear missiles aboard his ship, and then nukes parts of the Pacific Coast — doesn't just explain the cataclysmic events from the very end of "G'Day Melbourne" or serve the purely tactical function of grounding flights and forcing our core players onto the wildest ferry ride: The nude Frenchmen's dash down the narrow corridor is symbolic of how Matt has pursued his often-times obliterating version of faith. The Frenchman circumvents the fail-safe, stretching his body in an elegant gesture of balletic madness to turn both keys at once, one held between his fingers and one pinched between his toes. Matt has been ostensibly seeking evidence of a divine order (like his passion to prove that the people who Departed weren't actually Raptured because only good people get Raptured, and if only good people get Hoovered into Heaven, then he should have gone too), or humankind's potential for salvation (his preoccupation with Jarden as a Holy Land and Kevin as its personal Jesus) — but, like the two-key system on the submarine, it's a fail-safe that doesn't work. No matter how devout he is, no matter how much he martyrs himself, he can't pray away the cancer that may have spared him as a child, but has now come to claim him.

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