The Leftovers: “The Prodigal Son Returns” Review

The Leftovers Season 01 Episode 10

The Guilty Remnant cause a heap of havoc for the town of Mapleton in the season finale of HBO’s ‘The Leftovers.’


Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!

DAMN! That episode was heavy.

Throughout this entire first season of The Leftovers, the Guilty Remnant has made it their effort to make the people of Mapleton forget those who vanished three years ago. From the silent protest in the “Pilot” episode, to the mass robbery of family portraits, the GR has executed insensitive acts that only ramped up throughout the season. All things culminated here when they went through with a plan inaugurated at the top of “Cairo.” While I cringed at the GR’s acts of making the remaining forget, it’s the unsettling execution of making Mapleton remember, via “Loved Ones” dolls, that evoked an emotional bundle of shock, disgust, and hatred in me that few great narratives have the ability to do.

Everything has its beginning, and “The Prodigal Son Returns” picks up where we left off three weeks ago in that cabin. You know, the one where Patti took a shard of glass to her neck in a martyrdom-esque act, leaving Kevin in quite the predicament. Through this first season, Kevin has been through heavy situations emotionally, physically, and even sexually. Hope wouldn’t be the first thing that this character possesses. So when Rev. Matt Jamison comes to Kevin’s rescue with clothing, scripture, and water, it’s powerful to see a non-religious Kevin find comfort in something. While the other members of the Garvey family are given screen time here, this was Kevin’s episode. His travels with the Reverend proved to be an intimate display of two characters whom, on screen, had very short, bitter interactions. One interaction, in particular, that I was quite excited to see was the touching, yet messy meeting of Kevin and Wayne. Albeit a very short bathroom break, I feel this was a big event that will have long legs, and the consequences, whether good or bad, will be felt throughout the second season. I also want to note that Kevin was taken captive in both his dream and in reality. In both, he was accompanied by the suicidal leaders of the main two cults we’ve seen this season.


Jill and Tommy both had brief events in this episode. While Jill has had her decent moments all season, I was sad to see less Tommy in this episode. His storyline never really exploded like I expected; instead, we are rewarded with short bursts of dramatic events on his end. While exciting to see, he never really got the elongated narrative the other characters received. Tommy’s important role this episode was being stuck with Wayne’s baby after she was abandoned by Christine, but that wasn’t enough for me, not for a finale at least. Jill didn’t have much of a role to play in the finale as well, but we did see a short continuation of her trip into the GR residence. Both Garvey kids had small roles to play, but each role caused bigger impacts later down the line this episode.

The end game was built up to nicely starting with Nora. Carrie Coon’s performance this season has been nothing less than legendary, and her reaction coupled with great directing really sold the effect that the GR has afflicted upon Mapleton’s citizens. This short emotional breakdown was enough to warrant the town’s apocalyptic-style uprising and attack on the GR. What a powerful moment it was for Kevin and Matt to return from Cairo to a town that had been driven mad. Credit to the show for being so grounded and so deeply invested in a realistic perspective of this world post-global taboo. The fact that the show remains tame enough that hearing gunshots is actually jarring is something that’s hard to do today. Seeing the profound rage and sadness playout in the night was an immensely powerful scene to end the finale with. Everything was full force here. The music in the show has no doubt been fitting, but the show’s signature ballad just intensifies everything that it pairs with.


We’ve seen many GR members break their vow of silence: Gladys in her last moments, Meg in a fit of rage, and even Patti. One character who has never done it, though, is Laurie, which is why when she finally yells, “Jill!” it’s quite the moving performance. The impact of this whole uprising scene continues to segue without letting up as Kevin desperately scans the burning GR residence for his daughter. I can’t compliment this end piece enough on all fronts: directing, writing, and performances.

We say goodbye to The Leftovers not with a cliffhanger, but more with a vague set up for what’s to come. It’s all very open at this point. On one hand, the GR is finished off and their goal of making Mapleton remember is complete, leaving opportunity for the show to focus on a new cult, preferably Holy Wayne’s. On the other hand, the GR isn’t finished and will be a recurring threat on a larger scale (we did see a couple in the city in “Guest.”) Wayne’s multiple offspring carries his legacy now, and we will most definitely see that transition into the next season now that one of his is in the hands of Nora.


Say what you want about The Leftovers and its creator, but there’s no doubting that this first season was expertly crafted and definitely sets up a long running story. “The Prodigal Son Returns” was a finale done right. Everything that was planted in the show’s beginning rose to fruition and delivered a spectacle of intensity, emotion, and gravitas. For those wanting answers to every question raised isn’t thinking realistically; it would make for corny and just bad television. The Leftovers balanced the mystery, delivered a satisfying amount of answers, and left enough here to speculate on, as any great drama does. I personally can’t wait to see where the show goes, and given the weird, yet bold routes it has taken, I’m open to anything.

Did David Lindelof right his wrongs, or are you anti-’The Leftovers’ (meaning you are against good television)? Make us remember in the comments below.


*We do not comment on anything relating to previews for the next episode and beyond.
About Dev Allen (136 Articles)
I'm a robot, majoring in happiness and minoring in personality. I generated A boy has no name, but you can follow him @DevPointO.

1 Comment on The Leftovers: “The Prodigal Son Returns” Review

  1. Michael Spring // September 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM // Reply

    Wow, that sure was a fantastic finale. I find that one week break after the flashback episode even more annoying now, considering the flashbacks to the moment of “the Departure” led perfectly into some of the “returning Loved Ones” reactions we see here. I am hoping we haven’t seen the last of the GR, although their Mapleton chapter seems to have been quite decimated now.

    Great great episode, really looking forward to more cripling despair next year!

    – Michael

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