This post contains SPOILERS for Season Two, The Leftovers.
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor
Laughing With, Regina Spektor’s song, is the perfect highlight to The Leftovers episode, No Room At The Inn.
No Room At The Inn explores one man’s struggle to keep faith in a world that’s shifted beneath him. Faith is something that has fled the grasp of most people in this new world. People are desperately searching for new things to guide their life, now their former beliefs have stopped making sense.
Matt Jamison is a minister to an empty church. He is mocked and physically attacked on a regular basis. Through all this, the audience are led to believe he’s a good person at his core; until his catatonic wife becomes pregnant. We are forced to face the possibility Matt might have raped her, despite his memory of a day where she miraculously woke from her catatonia. We must consider he made up the memory to justify a repugnant action.
Mary and Matt Jamison had been trying for a long time to become pregnant, before the accident. Matt is sure Mary woke up long enough to become pregnant by miracle, and will wake again before the child is born. The people closest to him seem to have doubts; as they’ve come to doubt most things in life since the departure. It’s disturbing to see on their faces that they think he might have had sex with her while she’s unable to consent, while simultaneously seeing a lack of willingness to judge him for the action. It is a reflection of a society that teaches us to think of a person in Mary’s condition as a little less than human. When Matt can’t get back into Jarden, the people who originally sponsored him don’t come to his rescue; a passive aggressive condemnation, but the only one he receives apart from questions at the medical clinic.
Matt’s sister Nora has a neighbor named John Murphy, who’s mission to prove miracles don’t happen, provides a juxtaposition for Matt. Jarden has renamed itself Miracle, because of the belief they were spared from the departure. People believe the water has mystical powers, and residence in the town will protect a person from future departure events. If Matt is proved a rapist by the end of the episode, John’s position that miracles don’t exist becomes more credible. That doesn’t happen.
Matt has to betray some of his core value in order to get Mary back into Jarden; on the belief she will lose the baby if he doesn’t. Nora saves Matt out of loyalty to her brother and sister-in-law. Matt chooses to she her as an instrument of God’s will. A freak accident kills the man who stole Matt and Mary’s wristbands that would have allowed them reentry into Jarden. It’s possible Matt might see this as God’s punishment, if not for the child left without a parent in the accident. He decides God wants him to take care of this child, in order to repent for beating a man with a boat oar earlier in the evening, while he was trying to get his wife back into Jarden. He is standing in judgement of himself, as proxy to God.
Does Matt know Mary’s revival was a lie? Does he really believe it happened?
Did it actually happen?
Faith is personal. Our attempts to explain our faith to other people often ends in mockery and disbelief. With this in mind, it seems appropriate we aren’t brought any closer to a definitive answer to these questions by the end of the episode.
This last line of Laughing With is, “We’re all laughing with God”.
This is an appropriate sentiment to end on, for an episode that doesn’t bring us any answers to the many questions of faith it evokes. In the circumstances presented in this episode, laughter wouldn’t be the result of happiness. What’s there to be happy about? Bitter recognition of irony would cause laughter in the face of tragedy. The song reminds us the world these characters are occupying is an ongoing tragedy. In such a world, compassion and empathy compel us to set aside skepticism in favor of mutually respecting the things that give people comfort.