It wouldn’t be an episode of The Leftovers without some heavy-handed religious allegory, so given the title of the latest episode, “No Room at the Inn,” the HBO series was clearly swinging for the fences. After last week’s “Orange Sticker” (pushing the narrative that there are no miracles in Miracle), this week saw an effort to suggest that there actually are. In “Orange Sticker,” Matt told Nora that the first night he and his vegetative wife Mary were in Jarden, Mary woke up. They talked and made love, but she went back to sleep in the morning. Having proclaimed his faith in Jarden and its spiritual healing, it’s now time for Matt to set an example. Season One’s “Two Boats and a Helicopter” (the best episode of the series so far) revolved around Matt, so it was hard not to have high expectations going into “No Room at the Inn.” Those expectations were met, as “No Room at the Inn” ranks among the best in the series, thrusting Matt into the biblical tale of Job. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, the short version is that God and the Devil made a bet on Job’s faithfulness, with God proving it by throwing endless suffering upon the man to see if his faith would ever waver.
Matt now spends his days waiting for Mary to wake up again. He films her sleeping each night and then reviews the footage each morning to see if anything’s changed in her condition. This is the beginning of his daily routine. A cheery song plays over a montage of Matt’s endless caring for Mary, with Eccleston wearing a smile that feels simultaneously genuine and forced. At the end of the night, he says “Goodnight. I love you.” Over and over again the song plays, Matt performs his routine with the same determined sense of hope and belief that is slowly waning. It used to be service and love, now it’s a chore. He repeats each day in order to recreate the conditions of the day Mary woke up. With The Leftovers being a show about faith and hope, and the desperation in holding onto such ideals, Matt deems Mary’s relapse into a comatose state as a test of his faith. He begins yelling at her to look at him, only realizing how hostile he looks when he sees himself on the camera. Christopher Eccleston sells this deterioration of faith convincingly, translating the baggage of this endless cycle in the few minutes given.
Matt is having a bad day that only stands to get worse. For starters, he dropped his phone in the toilet. He’s taken Mary to Austin for a scan, and the results don’t signal her getting better but do reveal the surprise that she is pregnant. The doctor insinuates this happened as a result of rape since Mary can’t give consent to anything, but Matt is going to stick to his narrative of their making love when she woke up and seeing this pregnancy as a miracle. Given the title of the episode, The Leftovers‘ obsession with religious allegory, and the fact that the character’s name is Mary, the narrative should have been expected but still came as a shock when revealed.
“No Room at the Inn” is an intimate study of the value of suffering, and plays out in similar beats to “Two Boats and a Helicopter,” as Matt’s good samaritan act ends up getting him in danger in both episodes. In Season One, he gave some money to a young couple after winning at the casino, only to then be robbed of all his cash at gunpoint. Here, Matt pulls over to help someone with a broken down car. The assailants see that the couple have wristbands to get into town and rob them, breaking Matt’s hand and busting the car. Lindelof (as God) continues to throw more suffering at Matt as he makes his way back to town with Mary.
Eccleston is at his best on The Leftovers when given an hour to himself. There’s something so pathetic yet empathetic in his performed optimism, taking each bit of incremental bad news with an almost delusional stoicism. He views each act as a challenge, a chance to prove his faith. He adopts the narrative of Job so fittingly, taking his suffering with a willing smile. It’s no mistake that Matt names the Book of Job as his favorite Bible story later in “No Room at the Inn,” given the fact that Job’s wife only spoke once (Mary only spoke once in this episode), furthering the comparisons between Matt and the biblical figure.
There’s a dichotomy of beliefs about Jarden that are personified by Matt and John in this episode. John confronts Matt about Mary’s pregnancy in the visitor’s center, and HE gives Matt the “No Miracles in Miracle” speech in rebuttal to his claims of Mary waking up. Matt relents with the ulterior motive of getting back in but can’t let his faith in the place relent. He challenges John, asking why he hates Jarden so much. This obviously hits a mark with John, who denies Matt his help in retaliation. “No Room at the Inn” was Eccleston’s episode, but it’s Kevin Carroll who is turning into this season’s MVP among the cast. There’s clearly something that happened to John to make him deny any occurrence of a miracle in his town, and Carroll magnetically conveys a thinly veiled heartbreak. Later, Matt will once again declare his faith in Jarden in a refusal to accept help from John. He believes the town will heal Mary, and she will come get him from the camp outside Jarden.
At one point in the camp, Matt walks by a naked man chained in stocks. He’s told that in order to free him, he must take his place. It’s back at this spot that the Job narrative comes to a certain clarity, as Matt takes the man’s place in order to demonstrate his faith in Jarden and God. “No Room at the Inn” was a large departure from the overall narrative of this season, but it’s episodes like this that make The Leftovers such a fascinating show. Lindelof excels when following one narrative, exploring grand themes and allegory in an intimate setting. Last season’s “Two Boats and a Helicopter” began the Job narrative for Matt as he struggled to save his church, and “No Room at the Inn” concluded the arc. Matt is choosing to suffer now in an effort to demonstrate his unwavering faith, resulting in one of the best episodes of the season so far.
Dylan Moses Griffin has been a cinephile for as long as he can remember. His favorite film is Taxi Driver, and he reads the works of Roger Ebert like it’s scripture. If you want, he will talk to you for 30 minutes about the chronologically weird/amazing Fast and Furious franchise.