Cinema Coma

‘The Leftovers’: Two Babies, Replacable and Onimous

Screenshot 2014-07-21 at 5.29.46 PM

Patti, leader of the Guilty Remnant, prophetically scribbles on a notepad to Kevin Garvey near the beginning of the episode, “There is no family.” “B.J. and The A.C” on the surface is an episode about the further relational splitting of one family, the Garveys. Laurie finally reaches out to her estranged husband, speaking through a written letter read by Meg, but informing Kevin that, “I think I’m supposed to be broken. Maybe we all are.” Then she gives him a sealed envelope with divorce papers. He refuses to sign it.

Jill encourages her dad to find the missing baby Jesus stolen from the town nativity but was the one who stole the baby doll in the first place. In addition, her gift to her mom of a cigarette lighter inscribed with “Don’t forget me…” is initially thrown down a storm drain but later, Laurie reclaims it from the sewer. And Tom, on the road protecting pregnant Christine until he receives a call from Wayne, no one has spoken to in months and is unreachable.

Patti is right, Kevin has no family.

However, the Guilty Remnant’s evangelizing is not limited to Kevin. During the town’s annual Christmas celebration, they break into various Mapletown homes and remove family photos from their frames. Family, the central core of stability in any society, the GR believe is dead.

Underlying this story of familial distancing are two babies, one a symbol of a perishable façade unable to save (Baby Jesus doll) and the other the promised hope of a destructive future (Christine’s baby, the A.C. of the episodes title, possibly meaning antichrist).

Baby Jesus, in the nativity placed in the center of town, is a manufactured Aforda baby boy doll (presumably, shorthand for affordable) purchased from a big box store. Cheap, replaceable and no longer meaning anything post-Sudden Departure, other than keeping a Christmas-time tradition. Jill after stealing the plastic savior from its crib is the one appointed by friends to set ablaze the doll on the waters of the lake. As her friends prep the baby Jesus for its demise, they mock the idea it represents yelling, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Jill can’t bring herself to complete her appointed task and her twin classmates drop off the rescued baby Jesus on Kevin’s doorstep. When Kevin presents to the town at the Christmas celebration the retrieved baby Jesus, announcing his intention to place him back in the nativity, the townspeople collectively yawn. No one cares and in the end, neither does Kevin. Upon returning the baby to the nativity, he finds that Reverend Jamison has already replaced baby Jesus. Kevin then proceeds, on his way home, to toss the doll out his truck window.

The message is clear, furthering the themes of last week’s episode, no wants Jesus because no one believes he can meet them in their daily struggles for understanding. Thus why the Black Keys song “I’m Not The One”, playing against images of the doll being created and then placed in the manger, states about this hollow savior, “I’m not the one/No I’m not the one /You wanted it all/But I’ll give you none/Cause I’m not the one “. And why the ending credits are set to Lin Greenwood’s “I Must See Jesus for Myself”. Mapleton and the world cannot believe in a savior without seeing him with their own eyes, after experiencing the unexplainable disappearance of 2% of the human race.

Then there is the real baby being carried inside the womb of Christine, the Asian girl entrusted to Tom Garvey’s care. A crazed lunatic, naked from the waist down, screams at her, “I know what’s inside you” and “You walk over the dead”. Are the hopes of the world contained there inside her as she carries Wayne’s baby? Or is something more sinister occurring, perhaps she is carrying the antichrist a la “Rosemary’s Baby” or “The Omen”? What is the third eye (target?) painted on their heads as they walk shoeless so as to remain “invisible” to the outside world? Questions abound with Christine’s child and the cult around the mystic Wayne but there is a sense that none of it is good.

Two potent, cutthroat symbols of the spirit of the post-Sudden Departure age. One hollow, empty, a relic of the past and not able to save. The other an omen, a sign of a promised reckoning because the grace period is over. God is dead, families are dying and each individual has died inside. They’re still here but maybe they’re all supposed to be broken.

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