proximoception: (Default)
All Leftovers brought out to spoil:

So season 1 was about different reactions to true loss, the sort that shatters the implicit deal the world has made with you. New deals are sought, many ostensibly with the world but in fact with oneself - the first deal is "naive," the second sentimental/self-conscious, one you know you're making, one you know (deep down you know) your hands are both sides of the shake.

Deals like: if I stop caring then what I care about cannot be taken away again; if I do the bidding of one saying he is God then I can tell myself I will be spared further pain (and then maybe start to believe it, which really might remove the true pain); if I listen to the irrational then I can reason with it, or adopt its reason and this pain will have mesnt something; if I expose those who seek to tout false new deals for safety with the world then I will cease being driven mad by the thought one might be possible, even though it means accepting the permanence of my loss; if I lie to others to take away their pain perhaps I'll start to believe it myself and lose my own - perhaps my lie will prove to be true magic; if I perform the traditional magic rituals just as I did before my loss perhaps it will prove a test and all will be somehow restored; if I convince others that nothing can now be done perhaps I'll believe it myself; if I am good in every way possible perhaps further loss will be prevented (as I was not good before, perhaps I was somehow the cause); if I try hard enough perhaps I'll find something close enough to what I've lost that if I blur my eyes I'll feel I've lost nothing; if I ignore or silence those who speak of loss perhaps I can pretend it didn't happen.

And of course a lot of these have "secondary" versions, where they're about those lost TO loss - attempts to win back someone lost to one of these other costly deals.

Season 2 recaps a lot of this, but ropes in another group of deal-makers: those who see others lose - vividly enough that they can no longer be naive in their world-trust - and seek to make new deals so as to not face loss themselves. (Though we eventually learn they've all lost too, such that maybe there's never a point of naivety, but only ever different approaches to poking the mystery.)

Deals like: if we repeat the traditional magic rituals of safety perhaps they'll prove to have been what protected us and will continue to work (priest at black church, doctor); if we irrationally repeat the singular or repeated actions that happened when others were lost perhaps we'll appease the irrational taking forces enough to stay saved (goat guy, wedding girl); if we sacrifice something immense perhaps we will be spared greater loss (ex-pedophile, presumably pillar guy, maybe Kevin); if we go where the safe ones are and do what they do perhaps we will be safe like them (Nora, Matt, all the outside people).

The safety-avouchers breed resentment in those who feel no safety can be found: your magic didn't work for me, so why should it work for you? I will make it stop working for you (Liv Tyler?), I will show you by harming you that it never could have really worked - that all was coincidence (Liv Tyler?), I will show you that you have been harmed and have suffered losses you are denying (glasses daughter?, her brother finally).

The fireman is against novel supernatural promises of safety and vaguely annoyed but tolerant of routinized non-invasive traditional ones. This would seem to make sense: back your shit up or telegraph that you don't really mean it or you're a dangerous liar. His mistakes aren't "deal" ones like all the others, but superadded - he's a psycho vigilante about it because he's been hurt by a religious man (or anyway we assume the man was then religious); he's not wrong in his worries but in his lack of trust in the judgement of others (which is sort of justified, in context) and (especially) his lack of sympathy. He's a strawman, since what he represents barely exists and where it does causes much less preventable grief than every other mistaken position examined on the show. And is essentially a hybrid, a patch-man: the direction and means/intensity of his opposition are separate matters. The latter's brought in to help justify attacking the former, like it was with Nora in S1.

Lindelof has to use him to slander the New (i.e. activist) Atheist position because a) otherwise the show looks like an attack on religion rather than a sympathetic and disinterested examination of how/why it happens (an attack which it totally is, but will mostly be dismissed as propaganda if it looks like it is), b) otherwise the show's own take on the supernatural becomes clear and it loses a huge source of audience interest (two, actually: the tease of what the supernatural wants and the tease of whether there's a supernatural), and c) because he's probably an agnostic of the "in case of emergency break glass" kind rather than the "it's in a strict sense possible that a different sort of Anything can happen than the sort that all plausible sources of confirmation have thus far confirmed exclusively extant" kind (i.e. atheists). You'd think he couldn't be, given his close probing of so many of the psychological and just plain logical issues involved, but that's the easiest sort of nonsense for people who know better to retain - and history teaches us people who know better can retain just about any nonsense.

I look at it charitably for two reasons: 1) it probably helps someone write a show like this, since it allows more of the "wrong" characters to be "inhabited" by the writer, both because of a lack of temptation to categorically reject and the fact that they and the writer are both finally addicts (sounds bad, fine, but anyone with ANY position on this at last thinks everyone else is an addict, no? - and the show shows quite handily how non-positions are still positions, in this area), even if one is a mint-sucker and the other a chain-smoker; 2) because it keeps the "anything can happen" vibe alive in the narrative - real life has it by default, but art dealing heavily in ideas starts to feel constructed BY ideas, thus arid, unless something about the characters is kept clear of those ideas, which is facilitated by a final position of "no one knows what the fuck is going on" (or, as Yeats puts it, "What do we know but that we face / One another in this place?"). I mean, it's kind of cheap but it technically means the characters' inability to see through one another is guaranteed, and this mechanical otherness keeps alive dramatic otherness - or anyway lets the human otherness of the actors' faces into the conceptual push of any given frame.

There's other ways to do that, but maybe not with this particular series-m.o. It's literally sui generis the way The Walking Dead is, since for each unprecedented and unbreakable rules have been set up that mean most normal t.v. show practices have to be heavily retooled or abandoned. I think it's sensibly become even more reliant on realistically idiosyncratic and/or opaque actor expressions in season 2, since fewer and fewer people can be thinking of it as a thriller, even if our attention is still directed by thriller conventions and pleasures. In S1 the big trick was keeping *occurrences* feeling realistically unstable - finding a place where the weird of real life and the weird of the supernatural could both fit the tone of events, so that the two sorts of explanations for each weren't just causally compatible with it but tonally so; they kept that up (and fantastically) for the early episodes of S2 but then switched to "miracle" mode, where we're pushed beyond 50/50 ambiguity toward thinking something more than physical laws must be at work in events even if we can't begin to guess what or why, as though (ironically? knowingly?) embracing the logic of Kevin's ex-wife when she makes her son go charismatic. S2 tries to give us a positive belief, after all, one more or less borrowed from the end of The Road: other people are still a distinct sort of miracle even if nothing else is a miracle or (equally unhelpfully) everything else is. Treat them that way. All other math is nonsense or cancels out.

The ending works because it sticks exclusively to atheist-agnostic common ground (as well as ground the religious have trouble denying they're still on - as it's mostly what they made their modifications to feel they could STAY on). But what works works even more when you make the final step: We don't only know that we face one another here. We know that we face only one another here.

(Also dogs. That sequence was beautiful. The last part most of all. Because dude, I may have loved you but I. Am. Out. Just like the daughter the abuser of abusers unknowingly abused.)


Re. Int'l Assassin and Liv Tyler: I guess these two strands are going for the same thing - death providing a reality test? Thinking the kids are going to die makes the guards unwilling to attack those waiting. Tyler with the son at the bar is basically embracing pleasure as meaningful in itself, and not as part of a plan that (Genealogy of Morals-style) justifies pain. She's so amused by the Remnant leaders because she isn't one. She wants people to remember death so they'll stop lying about it, and by extension life. I think we're supposed to like her? Though her not helping chest-shot Kevin suggests there's something wrong with her position too. Also the fact that she's terrorizing kids - flat out assuming they're already making bad deals with the world. Whereas Kevin can only throw into oblivion the depression-embracing, family-distant strand in him by acknowledging what created depression in Patti, thus by extension himself - events have traumatized him. He has to "die" because only that clarifies his values enough for the one to prove prior to the other - the desire to save. This is why he tries to save her from the well AFTER pushing her in: that's his final self. His policeman self. None of it makes a damn bit of sense unless we conclude that that guy from S1 was a figment of his imagination, which I can't remember if it's confirmed that he is or isn't? Somehow still a spokesman for a part of his psyche, if real, at least - and one who was speaking to a figment of his own IIRC?


Related: I don't fully get the smoking stuff, probably because I don't smoke. I think I intellectually grasp it - something you're compelled to regularly do even if it's dangerous/morbid, a second, pause button sort of mode that takes you out of full allegiance to the normal flow of your life? But I don't know what that feels like, precisely, so am likely missing other aspects of it. I have persisting trouble sorting out what smoke and smoking signify in Bishop for the same reason, I think.
proximoception: (Default)

So the leads' house represents their hasty partnering. It's sight unseen, has a lot of problems, may fall apart at any time given the frackquakes. His temper tantrum at the exploding lightbulb was a nice dovetail - anything can set man or bulb off. The need for safety has led to everyone being less safe.

Being safe in terms of odds was I guess the theme of the episode, esp. given its title - Orange Sticker, for the gov't verifications of non-departure on all Jarden's houses. The priest seems to be talking himself into it (as presented), his sister wants to be.

The "Better Shape Up" cover fits Kevin's self-castigations via hallucinated proxy, but the shift re. who needs a man puts it on her too. She's the one who grabbed his hand and led him through all this - adopting, the house etc. He's doing it out of reckless self-indifference (again, as presented), she out of restless self-interest: find two kids and a husband and a more stable home and voila, her lost life's replaced. She buys him a carton of cigarettes, still doesn't know his daughter's age (and gets her trashed), and doesn't seem to care about his lost time and suspiciously serial-killery behavior except insofar as it's left her alone. And she has a much more practical and unabashedly criminal way of approaching covering up Kevin's proximity to the disappearance. The handcuffs are deeply fucked up. She's bribing and cajoling people to stay with her.

Does Kevin fit the theme? Suicide can be sought as a form of safety, I guess, and so can refusing to accept you're suicidal. Exceptionalism is behind the town's neuroses and appeal, and their doctor neighbor isn't immune to her own version of it when speaking of her miracle daughter. Does Kevin feel that way about his mental health? People who have been through what he has - and people who share his genes - aren't always stable, but he feels he must be? Which means he ignores what's rising up inside him, which starts finding ways to escape. The specific manner of his first attempt to be imprisoned, his being in no hurry to remove his fingerprints, the implication that since his guilt hallucination knows where the phone's been all along he must too, his jumping on the person who doesn't have a gun when breaking up the fight ... part of him wants to be destroyed for his sins. Perhaps because that keeps him safe from wondering whether he's even committed any? In the previous episode we're reminded he blames himself for his wife's depression - and, via magical thinking, for the loss of her baby. For him Jarden (Jardin/Garden/Jordan?) isn't someplace physically safe but someplace new, so maybe free of reminders of his many ambiguous failures. It doesn't work that way, of course. Hence the suicide attempt, I guess? Another controlling (and wealthier) wife, another fragile home, and again with visions of the woman he buried. Definitive proof that the practice of Flitcraft won't work.

And the fireman? Isaac has either knowledge sans malice or malice sans knowledge, but he treats him like he had both. And even if he'd truly been threatening him, a second home attack ends up getting him almost killed rather than resolving a (highly ambiguous) promise of harm. So another death wish? Or is he trying to feel safe by convincing himself there can be no supernatural agency? What he wanted from Isaac in their earlier interview was admission that he was a charlatan; one assumes he wouldn't have kicked him out of town, or at least would have spared his house, if he'd received that. This seems like an iffier line of attack, but the otherwise great Nora episode from last season suggests that the show sincerely throws "New" style atheism in with the other destructive overreactions to pain, confusion, risk, regret and death.

I can't seem to remember how to do probability math, but I assume the 9300 or whatever isn't too far past being the largest community one would expect to escape unscathed if a 1 in 50 plague were to hit a world of 8 billion. Likewise I assume a 1 pound 1 ounce surviving premie is close to the record but not impossible.

The son is going for a different kind of safety: assuming God has taken his sister stops him from having to worry about her. With Him she is safe - which makes him feel safe - and to prove to himself he believes this (which in most religions is supposed to be part of what makes it true) he's taking away others' sense of safety.

Is anyone sensible? Kevin's daughter, I guess, though that's making her kind of dull. Though also helpful and helpfully able to ask for help. Realizing no one is safe permits risk assessment and management. Nothing else seems to.

Was there any meta-story dialogue in this one? The "exceptional" speech comes close. How protagonists are protected by audience-demanded rules: if they disappear they must be alive, if they seem to attempt self-murder it must be a drugging and frame-job.

The cult leader's adultery story, too: she wouldn't have believed her husband would tell such a cliched lie about such a cliched affair. And the one thing that's exceptional about that affair she cites not for its unpredictability but to further stress that she hadn't been exceptional after all. Which is an odd thing to be bitter about, considering the details, but that's probably the point. Thinking everything will always go wrong, looking at everything from the worst angle, is another way to be safe. From ambivalence AND ambiguity, here: suppose he sensed she didn't want to be part of that sex act, or thought her too good for it, so sought to spare her from his compulsion - and suppose he lied poorly because he was a good person hence bad at being bad, or wanted her to find out because of his guilt or his unconscious desire that she become part of his fantasy. Her reading is pretty much "my martiage was shit and the shit wasn't even for me." The food at this restaurant's terrible and the fuckers keep raising the prices! Which I guess makes the other episodes just as much about safety? But I guess the difference is we're looking at the same phenomena from this angle here, another one next time. Last time's was anger, more or less? Or rather the maddening void left when emptiness goes.
proximoception: (Default)
Leftovers got to iTunes. We watched the first three.




Lindelof's not just doubling down on the Lost meta-commentary but pretty much foregrounding it with all this "story" dialogue. How far is he going with it? Is he suggesting he became a sort of guru, a charismatic promiser of a satisfying explanation/excuse for life down the road that enabled people to stay excited about their existence in the meantime but in the end was crucified because of not actually knowing anything but how needy people are? Or is he just saying the two are close enough that he gets it. I wonder why his cowriter is letting his own vision be hijacked by that. Though ... I mean, I totally would. Yeah, he's probably along for the ride. And to prevent Lindelof from Linding off the ending hahaha nahm-sayn?

I'm not sure that Liv Tyler raping someone in a van and then nearly burning him alive with gasoline and a lighter is the best metaphor for the seductiveness of depressive up-giving but I'm also not sure it isn't.
proximoception: (Default)
Episode 3 of The Leftovers was genuinely good, in the written-through sort of way where the "easter eggs" contain half the story, i.e. where every second meant something, and a complete story rather than a series of reversibly vague gestures. Highly un-Lindelof, so maybe the novelist's, or maybe Lindelof learned something.

The series has set up some unique problems for itself as a whole, though. Like an X-Files or Lost that promises, and relies on as its premise, that the big mysteries will never be solved. Where can anything go? Who will watch? Though one sees the appeal to Lindelof.

Lindelof is somehow the perfect name for someone whose work you want to hatewatch. No, ambivelatewatch. He's sucked me back in.


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