'The Leftovers' Recap: All Suffering and No Salvation
'The Leftovers' Recap: All Suffering and No Salvation
Emily E. Steck
Emily E. Steck
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
The Leftovers is not letting up. It's how the Guilty Remnant say, "All suffering and no salvation." And it doesn't look like it's bleakness is brightening up.

Remember how I speculated that The Leftovers is not concerned with answers? That's probably because it's giving them right to you, more or less. We don't start with any of the regulars we met last week, but with a couple of unfamiliar ... cops? Agents of the law? Okay, it's someone official. Two someones. They discuss Wayne -- the enigmatic cult-ish leader who claims he can take people's pain away with a hug -- and his criminal history. Wayne's got a thing for Asian girls, whom he keeps around to "recharge" him. He also charges hugs to senators, according to the cops.

Cut to a nasty gunfight of the bureau agents raiding Wayne's ranch. It's hectic, chaotic and not without bloodshed. One of Wayne's Asian flavors -- the sweet Christine whom Wayne threatened Tom over -- is caught by one of the agents. Tom pops out and shoots him. As if his dramatic screaming underwater last week didn't point to enough issues, now Tom's got, like, major trauma.

The credits. Can we talk about them? HBO is known for having such good credits and this is no exception. With an ecclesiastical painting style, it's hard to know whether the portraits are either descending or ascending. Symbolism!

Wayne's World

After the raid on the compound/ranch, everyone sort of scatters. Tom and Christine escape and Tom calls Garvey. No answer. They then witness a bunch more dead bodies before they are reunited with a shirtless Wayne. Which makes me think that Wayne's "hug the pain away principle" is actually because of a lucky shirt.

Wayne kisses a nearby corpse and then embraces Christine, sort of offering her to Tom to take care of her since Tom killed for her. I don't know what the purpose is of the scenes with Wayne, but they sure do give me the creeps. Tom and Christine are about to embark on a road trip. Yay?

Low Winter Sun

Yeah, so it's winter now? Or enough time has passed for the sleepy Mapleton to have a ton of freaking snow on the ground. I'm not sure how I feel about this almost epic time jump. I get that the show is in New York state, but could it really have that much snow?

The show continues its very dream-like sequences, with Garvey waking up with his feet on fire. Garvey shows up to the Guilty Remnant house to investigate a missing persons report: Meg. Remember Meg? She's the Aerosmith frontman's daughter. I'll give a refresher: she's one of the new "recruits" for the GR, leaving her fiance behind. Meg is still in the transition period of being a full white-on-white clothing garment member, so she's allowed to talk.

Garvey glares daggers at his ex-wife/wife Laurie and tries to convince Meg that he's there to help as Meg is not a missing person and there on account of her own free will. Laurie, meanwhile, is now a mentor to Meg, trying to make sure this idiot won't talk. Laurie takes Meg out into the woods, hands her an ax and Meg gets to cutting.

Let me state -- and not for the first time -- that it bothers me so much when actors can't handle an ax or sledgehammer correctly. It's infuriating to me. But I'll let it slide here because Meg doesn't look like the type to know how to do anything useful. 

Mostly, that's because Meg is a whiner. She's on the fence about the GR still, noted by Laurie's silent boss Patti. Mostly because Meg's unwilling to surrender. But she does a little bit by the end of the episode! She gets right back to hacking away.

Teenage Wasteland

On most television shows featuring a mostly adult cast, everyone in the audience always rags on the teenagers. Mostly, the teenage girls. We can call it the "Dana Brody Effect," or trace it back to its most current roots as the "Kim Bauer Effect," but audiences do not care for the plight of teenage girls. I find this quite a shame because as a recovering teenager, I am still interested in the stories. 

Jill Garvey, I hope, is not going to be one of these effects or characters because she's pretty awesome. She's not whiney or inactive, and she's not always shouting with her family; there is a quietness to Margaret Qualley's performance I really like. Anyway, Jill and her friends, Aimee (yeah -- that spelling) and the Frost Twins, grow suspicious of the town's pity case, one Nora Durst. 

Nora was the speaker at Heroes Day because her entire family vanished on the Sudden Departure. Nora is kind of a tough case to crack in this episode; we see her conversing with the crazy priest/Ninth Doctor. And then we witness her purposefully break a cup at a coffee shop -- because she can? Like I said, I don't have a firm reading on Nora. 

The teenagers follow Nora because there is nothing else to do in Mapleton (and they are probably curious at her bizarre antics -- I know I am). While the teenagers are waiting/stalking Nora, Aimee goes into Nora's car for a further look (when Nora's in a house). She steals some (stale) candy in the front seat. Jill points out it was probably for her kid. That's just a little heartbreaking. 

Nora arrives at a regular house to videotape an interview for a family's "departure benefit." The couple is older, probably in their late 60s+ and are reluctant to ask the very personal questions of the survey. "Has Charlie ever travelled to Brazil? Speak more than one language? Like to cook? Food allergies? Had more than 20 sexual partners?" The parents reveal that Charlie had severe autism. Maybe I'm just a very cynical viewer (so The Leftovers and I are one and the same), but the departure benefit seems like it is probing more for an explanation than a settlement. It's the exact kind of bull, bureaucratic thing the government would hand out. 

Garvey Should Be an Anagram for Crazy

Garvey is sent to a therapist by the mayor (whose character I also don't really have a grasp on -- is she keeping peace or power?). Garvey thinks therapy is bull (obviously) but still goes, noticing a big penguin that kids used for aggression. Garvey clarifies what happened with the dogs and deer; the therapist eyes Garvey like he is crazy, cuz, well... 

Garvey is still hung up on the dogs that are around town. Now, I know some of the viewers and commenters were upset because they are dog lovers/have souls, but I guess I'll make a case as to why it's necessary that the dogs are being killed (for thematic purposes only; otherwise, I'd be one cold recapper). 

The dogs are the only ones who have made sense of this "senseless tragedy" by going back to their most primal state. They've actually dealt with the Sudden Departure, in an animalistic way. The humans of the show have not (that's why there's a show!). I completely understand why the dog massacre is incredibly disturbing to so many people, but one of the reasons it was probably used in the pilot was to make you notice. Everyone is forgetting/not dealing with the Sudden Departure and those who aren't are making the mess worse.

And once we learned that Garvey's wife left him to make it her life's purpose to make people remember, Garvey is infuriated enough to want to kill the dogs. (Garvey is the deer he keeps seeing, perhaps?) What I am trying to say is that it was a thematic killing, not because it was done in a desperate attempt for sympathy. I think it runs much deeper than that, but please disagree/agree with me in the comments.

Garvey is one of the main characters who is actively trying to forget and remember the departure; this is why he's so conflicted and entranced by the "mystery man"/dog killer (who we learn is named Dean). Dean even stops by and Aimee and Jill recognize him -- so no more "it's all in his head" theories, people! Dean says, "They aren't our dogs anymore." Garvey spends a lot of the episode looking for him and looking crazy to his unit. 

Speaking of crazy, Garvey visits his father at the local mental ward, bumping into the mayor, who's also visiting him. (It has just occurred to me that this is another Lindelof motif: craziness). Garvey's father was kind of a big deal before he lost it, but Garvey leaves wondering if his father really did lose it. His pop relays this message: they are sending someone to help you. Keep it to yourself. 

Other Thoughts

  • Nora still has the family caricature stickers on her car. That kind of broke my heart.
  • I know it's not for everyone, but I really like Lindelof dialogue. There's something really beautiful about it that resonates with me.
  • "Penguin One, Us Zero" was the episode title. Sometimes I wonder what goes through writers' minds before stopping myself. It's fruitless.
  • I didn't catch any books being read or shown in this episode, but if you saw one I missed, please mention your catch in the comments. 
  • Laurie and Garvey are still married. I just wonder what their kids know/feel.

The Leftovers airs Sundays at 10pm on HBO.

(Image courtesy of HBO)



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