This Leftovers review contains spoilers.
With an episode titled “Gladys,” and knowing full well that The Leftovers is capable of telling singular stories focused on one character, like season best “Two Boats and a Helicopter,” I believed that maybe tonight’s episode would follow that trend. When the episode begins looking at Gladys, you know, the Guilty Remnant member with the glasses that looks sort of like the elementary school librarian who “shhh”ed you a lot, I thought that maybe we were going to get a deeper look at exactly how someone might be swept up in a cult.
It seemed so intriguing in my head, and just as I thought the show would move to flashback, or Gladys might make a call to a loved one on the nearby public phone, she’s swept off into the woods by a gang of faceless figures. What follows is a grisly depiction of a stoning, with the helpless Gladys breaking her vow of silence to plead for her life as blood oozes from her many open wounds. It was completely gruesome and a bit much, and as I sat a little horrified at what I just watched, I lamented the fact that we weren’t getting the self-contained story I had envisioned.
What I didn’t know is that we had earned a martyr that will set the season on its real course. In a show that was lacking stakes, an ATF agent who just exists as a voice gave protagonist Kevin Garvey a figurative button to blow up the Guilty Remnant in Mapleton, and it’s all because of Gladys.
Gladys’ murder officially announces that it’s open season on the Guilty Remnant. The townspeople, whoever it was behind the rocks that killed Gladys, have decided enough is enough, and it’s officially police chief Kevin Garvey’s job to keep the peace. The GR won’t stop, so Kevin tries to reason with the townspeople by implementing a town-wide curfew that would make their late night exploits illegal. But the townspeople very verbally aren’t willing to surrender their rights because of the GR. At home, at the office, hell, even the dry cleaners, Kevin just can’t win.
That losing streak follows him to work where one of his detectives calls the Feds, the Federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. In the episode, whether it’s a television in the background or chatter amongst people, we know the ATF is getting in squabbles with cults around the country (you know, sort of like this). Obviously, Kevin thinks he can control the situation on his own, so he desperately tries to get a hold of the ATF before they can begin their investigation.
Of course his calls aren’t returned in time before Gladys’ body is shipped off to ATF HQ, and when he finally reaches the agent, their conversation is a little surprising. The agent doesn’t seem too concerned with finding the killers and bluntly tells Kevin that if he says the word, the ATF will come in and “remove” the GR. Now that Kevin has this card to play, it’s likely to be one that burns a hole in his pocket the longer he refrains. This decision, the choice to keep the peace himself or blow the GR away from Mapleton entirely, is most likely going to be the main, external conflict for Kevin, along with finding the group responsible for the murder.
That search leads Kevin to Reverend Matt, and it makes sense. Matt has motive, losing his church, and he has numbers, as he holds group sessions for his church at his home. Christopher Eccleston’s character continues to draw my focus, he’s nice enough on the surface when Kevin questions him, and he goes the extra mile to try and mourn Gladys outside the homes of the GR, but something about his line “killing these people is pointless,” didn’t sit well with me, even if he followed it up with intentions of giving the GR their lives back. I still paint him as suspect number one.
The B-plot centered on Laurie having a day off. Noticing her troublesome behavior, Patti decides to take Laurie to a hotel for a day off, allowing her to sleep with some extra amenities, get some good grub, and even speak. Laurie doesn’t indulge in the latter, which causes Patti to tell a story about Gladys and her very own day off. Patti relays that Gladys had a son die, and as she was struggling in the house, she allowed her a day off where she could speak about her troubles, but Gladys remained silent, just like Laurie. Patti tells Laurie that she knows how difficult it can be to stay away from your family, to doubt their mission, but doubt leads to fire building up and turning you to ash. Who knows if Gladys got over her doubt or not, but she ends up as ash in the end anyway, a not too subtle reminder that maybe Laurie’s choice over the GR or her family doesn’t matter either way.
This episode of The Leftovers was the first time where the show’s pacing felt familiar, along with all of its ugliness. The episode also created some sort of urgency that wasn’t quite present before. The show is still not without its problems, it can’t figure out what to do with Jill at all and can still seem a little too self-impressed with its symbolism, but it still seems like we’re building to something. What that something is just better be worth it.
The Best of the Rest
- Seriously, that stoning was really hard to watch. Between this and Game of Thrones, I’ve had enough head-based injuries from HBO this year, thanks.
- Dean kills some dogs while the GR search for Gladys’ body. It only makes sense that he’s a part of the investigation, only to torment Kevin more. He also pops up to vocalize his distaste with the curfew. At least we absolutely for sure know that the guy is real, now we just have to figure out his motive.
- The sexual tension continues to stew with Kevin and Jill’s friend Aimee. Ugh. This is such a tired cliché and the pairing seemed so obvious right from the first episode, which is a shame, because otherwise Aimee is such a great character so far. Please, please, please, no American Beauty, ok?
- The scene where Laurie has her panic attack is very cool, with the camera mimicking the incoherence of Laurie.
- Dean apparently is late for a ballroom dancing class? And Patti’s go to tunes are Hall & Oates? I had you guys pegged all wrong!
- Jill runs her hand over a flame in science class and Aimee asks, “Is that the best you can do?” My sentiments exactly. The one-noted brooding has already taken its toll on me, and that scene in particular almost seemed like self-parody. Jill is without a doubt the weakest link here, the only slightly redeemable thing she did this week was tell her dad that she loved him. I don’t know if Lindelof and Co. just can’t write for teenage characters, or what, but this needs to be remedied quickly.
- Kevin goes at great lengths to remind Jill about the alarm. Surely that won’t come back up at some point in the future *wink wink*.
- How many times will the show find excuses to show shirtless Justin Theroux?
- Kevin’s battle with the dry cleaners reminded me of the missing bagel. Until Kevin became aggressive, he couldn’t retrieve his missing items, but then he achieved a sense of calm when he found them safe and sound. Clearly he shouldn’t of drunkenly harassed the guy, or been out driving in the first place, but the guy didn’t even look!
- Nora and Kevin have another little flirty scene together. Kevin announcing his divorce to Jill at the end of the episode maybe means that now that he’s accepted the finality of his marriage, that Nora will move closer into picture.
- What was up with Patti’s bag for “Neil”?
- Matt’s speech is interrupted by a clearly emotional, whistle-blowing Laurie. The general shock and disappointment on Christopher Eccleston’s face is perfect. He’s doing some great acting as Matt.