3. "The Leftovers - No Room at the Inn" In response to Reply # 0
I had always hated Matt Jamison's character up to that point: the accusatory, hate-filled reverend that was laying blame of the Departure on the victims themselves, driven by comically unwavering faith. The episode had no Kevin or Nora until the very end, yet Matt's story was an especially poignant journey in a series defined by them.
It was in this episode that you realized how deep his despair with his wife Mary really was, and opened my eyes to how well his character was written.
It's cliche, but for me the episode was the pinnacle of the "emotional rollercoaster" and I rarely get affected by the narrative tug at the heartstrings.
8. "Just looked it up, you're right, it was primarily about Matt." In response to Reply # 6
He was trying to restore his church but the bank was about to foreclose for lack of payment. He sought a loan from Nora but found cash from Kevin's dad, parlayed it at a casino but ended up losing it all anyways (including the church).
This is indeed a strong episode, but IIRC it didn't do much to endear Matt to the viewer. After his sister rejected him for the loan, Matt told her that her husband was cheating with their kid's school teacher. That's... fucked up, to say the least, hah.
It wasn't until the second season that I actually started to empathize with Matt though. Before that I felt like his misfortune was karmic justice.... after that S2 episode it felt like his pain was undeserved.
(Sidenote: That first season was very rough and draining to watch, but it ties together the loose ends in stunning fashion in the last few episodes. It's worth getting through on its own merits, but I understand why a ton of people bailed midseason.
However, from top to bottom that second season is, IMO, one of the best seasons of television ever, of any genre, of any show. It's a shame that S1 turned so many people off because S2 had abysmal ratings. I'm INCREDIBLY grateful that HBO granted another season because of the strong reviews and word of mouth. I fully plan to rewatch it all before the third season next year. If you're at all mildly intrigued I would highly recommend diving back in. If it's any consolation the second season is far less bleak than the first).