The Leftovers: Penguin One, Us Zero review

Not as dark as the premiere but just as mysterious, here's our review of The Leftovers' second episode.

This Leftovers review contains spoilers.

Last week The Leftovers debuted with a grim premiere that was melancholic and borderline unsettling. The good news is that this week’s episode isn’t half as depressing, but just as puzzling as the first. As long as The Leftovers keeps slowly but surely delivering new nuggets of information and setting up central mysteries, it will continue to keep me involved. But if Damon Lindelof’s continues to echo his former show Lost, being withholding and guarded with answers just for mystery’s sake, then the show will lose any goodwill that it’s generated. That seems like an obvious warning that could be applied to any program, but shows that are as serious and intense as The Leftovers need to reward audiences in some way, otherwise it feels like were slugging it through the muck for nothing.

As of now though, The Leftovers still has me on the hook. I find Police Chief Kevin Garvey’s storyline incredibly intriguing based on its surrealism. Sort of like the David Lynch films that he’s known for, Justin Theroux is a short fused firecracker waiting to be lit any moment, walking back and forth between a dream and reality. It’s hard to tell just what’s real in the chief’s life and what’s in his head.

Certain scenes are clearly dreams, like when Aimee wakes him in his bed and leads him outside to where the mysterious bald man is taking shots at a Guilty Remnant member. Other scenes, like when Kevin loses a bagel in the toaster oven at work, seem to be left up to interpretation. I’m a sucker for unreliable protagonists, and Theroux’s mouth agape look of confusion has me constantly wondering if what we’re seeing through his eyes is real.

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Other people are questioning too. Kevin’s co-workers and the mayor, Lucy, seem disturbed by Kevin murdering a bunch of dogs with a mysterious man that no one saw but him. They put Kevin in therapy, and even the therapists questions Kevin’s story. Things take a turn for the strange when the truck Kevin reports the mysterious man driving turns up in his driveway. Then, the man comes to the door bearing beer and looking for a pow-wow and the audience is left wondering whether the encounter is real until Jim and Aimee arrive at the door too, noticing the man. So it seems like the bald man is real, but we’re not sure why he’s there.

Maybe he’s there to help, like Kevin’s father suggests. Kevin visits his father in a mental ward, where we find out that the mayor and Kevin’s father seem to be in a relationship, further adding to the tension between Kevin and Lucy. Kevin’s father seems coherent enough when Kevin asks him about when he knew he was losing his mind, but then he begins arguing with a voice in his head, which tells him that someone will be coming to help Kevin, whatever that means. It’s just another mystery to add to the others.

Mysteries like just what’s going on with Wayne. In the cold open we see officials discussing Wayne and his crimes, which include eight charges of statutory rape. Then, a crime force storms Wayne’s compound guns blaring, and Tom has to kill one of the intruders to protect Christine, the girl Wayne asked him to look out for. Tom seems shaken up by taking a life, and when he finally rendezvous with Wayne later, it seems like he’s questioning the more than eccentric cult leader and even denies one of his famous hugs. Wayne is a truly creepy yet fascinating character, while Tom seems to be still a little shallowly drawn as of right now. Hopefully more time with him will fill his character in a bit.

Meanwhile, Jill and Aimee spend the day stalking Nora, the woman who lost her whole family, after they see a gun in her purse and her acting suspicious at a diner. They follow her to her job, which is questioning the families of the disappeared to see if they qualify for benefits. Aimee breaks into her car for almost no reason, and as they flee the scene, Nora gets another look at Jill.

Finally, Meg seems to struggle while pledging to be a Guilty Remnant. She questions Laurie’s teaching methods while Laurie and Patti argue whether she should even be in the Guilty Remnant at all, and when I say argue, I mean angrily scribble back and forth. If all of the GR’s scenes are going to be via notepad, things might get a little tiring fast. I still want to know about the finer details about the GR, but I guess I’ll just have to wait.

The Leftovers continues to move forward without pouring on exposition too thick. The show lets audiences get acquainted with the program’s world on their own, which can be fun for audiences that like to be challenged by art and frustrating for those who want things spelled out for them. No matter what camp you’re in, there’s no denying the fact that The Leftovers leaves you curious and wondering, but you have to wonder when patience will run out.

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Keep up with all our coverage of HBO’s The Leftovers right here.

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3.5 out of 5