The Leftovers: Off Ramp Review

The Leftovers reintroduces us to Laurie in the intimate, intense "Off Ramp." Here's our review...

This The Leftovers review contains spoilers.

The Leftovers Season 2 Episode 3

The Leftovers has got me hooked. Three episodes into its second season, The Leftovers is taking all of the best elements of its first outing and just improving on those things tenfold. So far, the show has presented new characters and an intriguing new location, reintroduced old characters with urgency and pushed them to unfamiliar places.

That’s why when I learned that this episode would be taking us back into the world of the Guilty Remnant, I tensed up. I have been so enamored with the execution of the soft reboot, that the prospect of going back to the dour chain-smokers felt unnecessary, but I was quickly proven wrong. The Guilty Remnant matter to the story because they matter to Laurie’s story, and Laurie’s story shouldn’t be glossed over.

With the exception of flashbacks and facial expressions, this is really our first opportunity to meet Laurie, and we’re introduced to the woman when she’s going through an intense period. Strapped for cash, desperately trying to combat the GR while writing a book, all while suppressing the guilt she feels over almost killing her daughter and the anger she feels at the cult who brainwashed her. Just like several characters last year, Laurie is given almost an entire episode to highlight just how damaged she is.

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Amy Brenneman is fantastic as Laurie, trying to help the GR members in the same way that she wishes someone would have tried to help her. Her urgency to do well by these people is driven by how unwell Laurie is, which we slowly learn throughout the episode with the help of some neat non-linear storytelling. These micro-episodes are where The Leftovers shined last year, so its no surprise that Laurie’s mounting stresses felt intense, vulnerable, and engrossing. Maybe its not shocking that this episode was directed by Carl Franklin, who helmed last year’s stand-out episode “Guest” which reminds me a lot of this hour.

Tommy is the other focus of the episode. I already expressed how little I cared for the character last year, but in this episode Tommy is given more purpose, and possibly, more power? Tommy spends majority of the episode going undercover in the GR for his mom, but he’s soon found out and weirdly victimized by Meg, another of last year’s lesser characters who looks to be back in a big way, at the top of the ranks. After he survives the encounter, he reveals to Laurie’s self-help group that he has acquired the power of Holy Wayne, which is interesting for a whole mess of reasons.

We never knew whether Wayne’s powers were legit, how powerful they actually were, or what they all met, so it’s unclear whether Tommy actually can take away people’s pain or whether he is only using the notion as a means of manipulation. It will also be interesting to see if Tommy starts a cult of personality like Wayne, which could lead to interesting story moments and a direction to take the character. Laurie seems very worried that the GR is not going to stop, so perhaps another cult could steal some of the GR’s thunder, but it if Tommy and Laurie are tricking people, it makes their cause a little morally dubious.

Overall, there was just a ton in this episode that worked. The recall of “Where is My Mind?” from last week, this time as an instrumental, was a brilliant touch, showing the parallels and differences in the Garvey’s stories. The meeting with the book editor was a perfect place for Laurie to have a meltdown and it was the first time we hear that the GR believes that the world has actually ended, a piece of information that feels valuable moving ahead. Finally, the miniature arc of the woman who left the GR only to commit suicide in truly brutal, heartbreaking fashion served as a reminder of how Laurie might be struggling and who things could easily be worse for her.

In my eyes, The Leftovers has set up three completely different, unique sets of characters with plenty of fertile storytelling ground ahead for all of them. I couldn’t be happier with the way the season has started and I look forward to see how the split Garvey clan will mirror each other as we move into uncharted waters. 

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4 out of 5