In this week's episode of The Leftovers
Jill accuses Nora of hiding something and Garvey is left to a tense situation with Guilty Remnant leader Patti.
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I'm beginning to think that the first season of The Leftovers has divided its characters into two camps: those who have identified and accepted that they are not okay and those who still deny this. Each one of these characters is dealing with the 14th on an "okay/not okay" basis. It's clear that no one is okay after this global abandonment, but those who are firmly in the "not okay" camp feel they need to do something about it.
The Guilty Remnant members have always been "not okay" since the 14th and join the GR once they accept it, like Meg does in the pilot. As Patti says, it is all she thinks about. The brother-sister combo of Reverend Matt Jamison and Nora Durst were going through the motions of being "okay" until we witnessed their respective POV episodes.
What's been clear since the pilot is that little Jill Garvey is not okay, no matter how much she tells Aimee and the Frost twins otherwise. Jill has been abandoned by her mother and brother, by their own choice. Her father is always working. Her grandfather is insane. And this happened in her teenage years.
Like her father, she's determined to cling to the notion that she's all right, but she goes about this by proving Nora isn't. Jill questions Nora about the gun she saw in her purse earlier this season, and even as Nora lets her search her bag, it isn't enough for Jill.
After a fight with Aimee, she takes the Frost twins to break into Nora's recently "renovated" museum of a house to find exactly what she's looking for, but she isn't happy. In fact, Margaret Qualley sells how tired Jill must be of pretending to be okay, even when she knows she no longer believes it. It looks like she even contemplates suicide before putting down the pistol.
But even as Jill accepts that she can't get past the events of the 14th, I'm surprised that she lands at the Guilty Remnant's door for Laurie. Laurie, who abandoned her. Laurie is poised to become the next leader of the GR, but even she has her secretive "weak" moments, like fetching the lighter Jill gave her for Christmas. She's also quite the antithesis to the GR's current big bad leader, Patti.
Kevin Garvey, Will You Murder Me?
Can we talk about the most important thing that happens in this episode? Hands down, it's the sit-down between Patti and Garvey. The show has hinted at pitting them against one another, but it's made very clear in the opening montage that these two will face off in a great way.
They do this by making Patti a villain, a concept that works until it doesn't.
If you haven't seen Lost or plan on doing so, skip this next section as I cannot help but compare the two. Lost was legendary for its ensemble cast and its nuanced approach at characters, especially its more sinister ones. The show's "villains," so to speak, were known for doing drastic things to accomplish their mission and were highly accomplished manipulators.
There are two very, very familiar looking villains on The Leftovers and they are the mysterious dog-murdering Dean and Patti. Dean describes himself as a guardian angel in this episode -- a telling choice of words since Garvey's maybe-insane father used the same descriptor for the PTB giving him instructions -- and he definitely enables Garvey in a bad way. Like, in a kill-dogs-and-abduct-Patti-into-the-woods way. (For Lost fans, Dean is totally the Man in Black, amirite?)
Patti was harder for me to peg down earlier in the series thanks to Ann Dowd's impressive performance, with her smirks at Garvey and her bursts of humanity at times. But Patti, bloodied and tied to a chair, is clearly on the same level as Lost's Benjamin Linus -- she's a manipulative, cold zealot who is exactly where they want to be.
Poor Garvey, losing his mind, is so acceptable for Patti's early bulls**t, where she explains she will come after Garvey and will decimate him for this. But then snippets of the truth come out of her. October the 14th? That consumed her every waking thought. Patti flat-out says that the difference between her and Garvey is that she accepted it.
She also lays out the code behind the Guilty Remnant: to strip away their humanity until they are erased into a blank state where they can act as living reminders for everyone else. Like any great believer, Patti hints at a future reckoning or war to be had. Her troops are ready.
But Garvey's still reciting mantras of "You're okay" under his breath -- he isn't buying into her speech and he calls her out on this mustache-twirling, small-town terrorism. Patti firmly reminds him that Laurie came to her because Patti can offer her a purpose. "Not answers, not love. Just a reason to exist. Something to live for. Something to die for." "Did Gladys have a purpose?"
Patti answers, sure: for Gladys to become a martyr.
This is where Patti becomes an outright villain, much to the show's weakness. I don't mean to compare it to Lost again, but the villains of Lost were so effective because they had proper motivation, revealed often through POV episodes. Patti doesn't have that.
Instead, Patti is a manipulative leader and villain. I doubt the screams we heard of Gladys pleading for her life meant she was "okay with it." And I doubt when Laurie's time comes she will be "okay with it too" since we firmly learned this week in the Laurie-Meg subplot that the GR isn't supposed to do violence.
Patti breaks these rules and more in a beautifully delivered monologue by Ann Dowd. Patti wants to become a martyr herself, to destroy Garvey. She might as well be asking Kevin Garvey, will you murder me? And when Garvey refuses to because he's still clinging to being a good man, Patti stabs herself in the neck with a piece of broken glass as Garvey rushes to her side to stop the bleeding.
Patti may always get what she wants, but I don't think a few speeches about all-consuming thoughts about the Departed really give any insight into why she's doing any of this. There isn't enough known about her character to be nuanced, so she's easily reduced to villain status. A believer is not enough to be the villain the show wants her to be.
- I'm trying out a different method of reviewing lately (eight episodes in, I know). I'm sacrificing word count for multiple viewings to make it more of a review and place for discussion. If this completely fails, though, shout me out in the comments and I'll try and merge this with a more traditional recap.
- Jill and Aimee's fight about being okay was pretty pitch perfect. Kudos to Emily Meade for hitting all the right notes of being high, devastated and just showing how intuitive Aimee is.
- What I also love about that fight is that Jill goes nuclear and asks Aimee what we've all been wondering: has Aimee tapped Garvey yet?
- The production design of Nora's house is really great. The brash orange-colored walls become a stark, melancholic blue into Nora's bedroom. Her family was happy, but her marriage was not.
- There's a minor subplot of Meg violently attacking the Reverend after he says something about her mother. Apparently, she died the day before the Departed and possibly disappeared? Didn't know that could happen. Meg also seems like she could easily jump ship and join Matt's side of this "war" since she openly defies a lot of GR practices.
- Somebody consulted J.J. Abrams: there are lots of lens flares in this episode.
That's it. What did you think of this week's The Leftovers?
airs Sundays at 10pm on HBO.
(Image courtesy of HBO)