Matt (Christopher Eccleston) is one of, if not the most, nuanced character in the series because he struggles more than any other character in holding onto a conviction, and in the context of The Leftover’s absurdist carnival, he has the most to lose. For this, I could watch the entire drama unfold from his perspective. Two of the most satisfying pieces of schadenfreude in the franchise have involved the doubting minister because he’s a whipping boy that hasn’t kneeled despite his moral assassinations at times.
The episode is a stand-alone allegory of The Leftover’s continued thesis of religious faith. Is it a delusional manifestation grounded in desperate validation or an eyewitness account of the divine gifted to the chosen few? Up to this point we believe Matt had an intimate encounter with Mary (Janel Moloney), another tonal, cosmic tease consistent with The Leftover’s riddle. But the lawyer’s implication at the hospital that he could have raped her adds a new gradient within the context of Matt cracking under his regime with Mary, followed by his injury-induced illusion of her communicating with him. Despite the overwhelming odds that the baby will be a stillbirth, the event salves his doubt, serving as his Virgin Mary.
The rest is painful to watch, which is pleasing drama because you’re committed to Matt. He might be delusional, but his inner resource makes him heroic and that much more abused. The proscenium of the campgrounds and exterior of Jarden is a vantage that hasn’t been explored yet but provides an even more panoramic perspective and critique. Miracle is protected like a rare and scarce physical resource, a spiritual reserve—you need wristbands, sponsors, and documentation to enter, and it’s fortified by an army garrison. Faith has been commoditized and politicized like a religious institution. Because of these institutions, Matt has trouble entering along with the inhabitants of the “campgrounds,” a de facto spiritual ghetto.
But unlike the Guilty Remnants that embrace nihilism, the forbidden refugees have found spiritual recourse in self-denial, masochism, and exploitation, as Matt experiences and falls victim to the various iterations. But the campgrounds are still biblically-charged, laden with Christian symbology, such as Matt flagellating the “Brian!” guy, the storm drain Matt pushes Mary through as a valley of darkness, and the naked guy in the stocks as a device of atonement.
Matt is graced with a deus ex machina in Nora (Carrie Coon) and Kevin (Justin Theroux) pulling him out, and like Job, Matt’s faith is rewarded with the desperate father’s tragic dose of karma. But Matt recognizes the symbology of the goats (sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell) as a continued warning to show empathy. But because Matt is Job version two, his naked display of self-sacrifice in the stocks in the campgrounds will result in a new artistry of torture for him, as we’ll continue to wonder with affection if he’s a false prophet.