Of all the characters on The Leftovers, Matt Jamison always appears in the weirdest situations involving naked people. Season 2’s “No Room at the Inn” saw him removing his clothes to make a point; Season 3 now turns it around and presents a clothed Matt, while everyone around him is naked.

Matt-centric episodes are always polarizing, in part because a religious fundamentalist is not an easy character to sympathize with. But “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World” is the show’s most successful Matt episode for three reasons: His dogmatism is shaken, his surroundings are a surreal blast, and Chekhov’s lion.

When Matt embarks on a “holy” mission to track down Kevin in Australia, his plane takes a detour because a nuclear event has thrown the airports into chaos. Determined to get to Kevin, Matt cons his way onto the closest mode of transportation — that just so happens to be a lion-obsessed sex cruise.

Introducing a live lion into a television show is just asking for a Checkhov’s gun moment. It was obvious the lion would have to eat someone, but for a time it seemed like Matt would be the victim.

The lion sex cruise in 'The Leftovers'
Matt, Laurie, John Murphy, and Michael in 'The Leftovers'

The Leftovers, however, is smarter than that. The lion is indeed present when Matt confronts a man calling himself “God” (complete with a calling card that reads, “Yes, I am God”).

When “God” tells Matt “everything you’ve done, you’ve done because you thought I was watching; I was judging. But I’m not. I wasn’t. You’ve never done anything for me; you’ve done it for yourself,” he’s tearing down Matt’s entire life. Coupled with the reveal that Matt is dying of cancer, the show seems to be drawing Matt’s story to a close and preparing him for death. But his death is simply spiritual, as he emerges from the episode intact while “God” is eaten by the lion. It’s a moment that would be too on-the-nose if “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World” didn’t masterfully balance its humor and self awareness with its philosophy. This episode demonstrates the show at its strongest: utterly unique while still being engaging, bizarre without being self-serious, and perfectly balancing events like lion orgies and philosophical epiphanies.


story continues below

The third and final season of The Leftovers is currently airing on Sundays on HBO.

Photos via HBO