Solace indeed. The first half of the rookie season of The Leftovers hurtles forward at breakneck speed, propelled by a whole lot of pain, a whole lot of angst, a whole lot of doom and gloom, and just a little tiny bit of hope. It’s fairly characteristic, actually, for an intense episode of this show to contain one small but valuable nugget of joy within the dark folds, although I’m not sure the darkest episode “Gladys” had anything of the sort. “Guest“, the sixth and best episode of the season, showed Nora more broken and identityless than she’s ever been — and yet her connection with Wayne (“Will I forget them?” “Never.“) was one of the most life-affirming moments in the entire season. Her brother Matt endured a series of cruelly hellish occurrences in “Two Boats and a Helicopter“, and yet his win at the roulette table probably elicited a smile as large as his out of most viewers. The previous episode “Penguin One, Us Zero” showed us just how tragic it could be to lost your bagel, and then it showed us just how exhilirating it can be to find it again.
So “Solace for Tired Feet” is just that: a breather. It’s not built with such intentionality, of course, and if anything it’s structured as a set-up to the final stroke of the season. “Tired Feet” says here is where everyone is, here is where they seem to be headed, and here is how they are all connected. The first two points are necessary to orient us towards the end of the season’s arc, but it’s the third point — the ways in which all of the characters are connected — that’s most impressive in this otherwise slow hour. To boot, instead of a full episode of straight-up intensity, “Tired Feet” provides a blend of hopefulness, revelation, and some intriguing Lost-style question marks.
Most of the action of the opening season takes place in Mapleton, but it’s often intercut with the story of Tommy Garvey as he tries to protect and care for the pregnant Christine. It’s easy to see how everyone in the New York suburb — Kevin, Jill, Matt, Nora, Meg, Laurie, etc. — are all connected because they’re all there, but Tommy’s a different story. Or is he? The sense throughout The Leftovers is that the Departure both changed and unified everyone left behind in ways that were not always savory. Everyone, to some degree or another, in spite of their individual struggles, shares the same pain. But in “Tired Feet” the pervading sense was that the human race could be connected by more than just the Departure, could have shared the same pain all along even prior to loved ones disappearing. Tommy fits in with the Mapleton crew in that he’s struggling for normalcy in the face of a series of impossibilities.
And those impossibilities further tie him into the suburbanite struggles throughout the season, either directly with his relationship with Wayne or thematically, as in “B.J. and the A.C.“, both of which take the possibility that these characters are all connected by more than just the Departure and make the possibility real. If that’s true, then that’s its own form of hopefulness: that Life After Departure can be a thing, can be an attainable thing, and can even a desirable thing. In “Tired Feet” Tommy encounters a kind of Doppelgänger Christine that could potentially destroy his world — literally, as she fires a gun at him — and yet there’s a hopeful sort of spin on the meeting as well. Tommy sits down with new people and laughs for presumably the first time in a long time, meets someone who shares the experience of knowing Wayne rather than someone who just shares the experience of having lost someone.
Still, those aforementioned impossibilities aren’t simple enough to just be explained away by possibilities, however interesting their co-existence might be. Lost did that, pairing the specific mysteries of the island with the grand mysteries of life, and The Leftovers is a worthy successor in that respect. “Tired Feet” delves into the maybe-ramblings of the Senior Garvey (played by Scott Glenn, the most evil actor in Hollywood) and presents a few tangible mysteries along the way, items that act as clues of sorts in the greater mystery of the Departure. As in Lost, the polar bear and the smoke monster and the massive stone foot ultimately help to explain the ostensible Big Question (“What is this island and why are we here?”) of the series; in “Tired Feet”, Kevin Sr.’s issue of National Geographic and Doppelgänger Christine’s insistence that Wayne is “the bridge” act toward the Big Question of The Leftovers (“What is the Departure and why are we still here?”).
Yet that Big Question was not, in the end, what Lost was really about, and the same will someday be said to be true of The Leftovers. What is it about? We’ll have to wait and see.