In this week’s episode of The Leftovers, tensions rise between the town and the Guilty Remnant after one of their own is brutally murdered. And Garvey works hard to keep the town and his house secure… and his mind sane.
If there was ever going to be an episode of The Leftovers that would convince me the Guilty Remnant was a cult, I for sure though it would be this one. It’s an episode devoted to dissecting why it is the GR do what they do by examining one of its most devoted members, Gladys, after her death.
I am not a fan of violence in film and television. At best, I can handle a choreographed fistfight from an action-adventure show like Buffy or Arrow (that’s my bread and butter) because that stuff isn’t so much violence as it is a comic-book and everyone has skills/powers. But other shows that revel in violence? I can’t deal with it at all. Within the media, there is a glorification of violence, not perpetuated by action shows, but more by serial killer and mystery shows. The shows where it is almost cool to kill people because either they deserve it or you are supposed to sympathize with a psychopath. (The Following is the worst offender of this in recent memory, but there are so many.)
The Leftovers impressively averts that trope, thank god, by making it nuanced. We see how easy it is for people to want Gladys dead; she stalks people, she paints the city white, she ignores a man having a heart attack right in front of her. She is fulfilling her vow to the GR and we can hate her for it. But when Gladys is abducted and stoned to death, breaking her vow of silence to plead with her life, it is very difficult to watch because no matter what she’s done, she doesn’t deserve that. It isn’t almost cool that a woman was murdered, no matter how she lived her life. It’s very important that The Leftovers shows all sides to this person and to the persons involved.
A Day Off
After the credits, Patti bangs the pots to gather everybody because her people are missing. The GR gathers at the gas station to look for Gladys in the woods, running into the gun-loving Dean, there to shoot and kill the feral dogs. It’s Laurie who finds her strapped to the tree.
At Garvey’s house, we see a half-naked Garvey and his impressive back tattoo. Is this going to be as “important” as Jack’s tattoos from Lost? Oh, I hope not. He’s just missing all of his white shirts. Huh.
Garvey answers the door to find Patti with a note that says, “One of our…” And thus begins the investigation that ripples everyone’s lives. Patti agrees to go off the streets and lay low while Garvey and his inept team investigate. Guess who’s there? Dean, a witness to the horrific murder.
Before Garvey can get to work, he needs to check on Jill at school. This was actually always a nightmare of mine in high school, that one of my parents would show up to give me some really bad news. Therefore, I think Jill’s reaction to run into the hallway and start crying is completely appropriate. She’s just worried about her mom before scolding herself: she shouldn’t have cried because her mother wouldn’t have cried for her.
That may not be the case, though, because Laurie is almost definitely in a stage of grief. As Meg starts smoking Laurie’s cigarettes, Laurie looks homicidal that Meg could just do that. But then it’s very clear that Laurie is having a panic attack. We see her getting treatment from a doctor at a hospital. Patti is there in normal clothes to pick her up in a discreet car. Did they get a bulletproof car? Patti starts playing Hall and Oates on the radio. It’s so bizarre to see Patti acting so blase and normal.
Patti takes her to the nicest motel I’ve ever seen. Everyone is staying at the motel, and I wonder how the GR affords this. Did they have to sell all their world possessions just to get into this cult/club/organization? Laurie takes it all in, how normal the place is compared to how she lives her life. The room is non-smoking (hah) and there’s a mirror for Laurie to look at herself. I’m sure Laurie’s thinking, why can’t I just be normal? I could have seen how messed-up my hair was these past eight months.
After Laurie sleeps for more than the recommended eight hours, she meets Patti at a diner for some grub that isn’t white. Wearing spring clothes, Patti starts talking about random stuff because she’s ignoring the whole vow of silence thing. After eight months of not speaking, Laurie is overdue for a day off, but she can’t seem to get the words out. So she just listens to Patti talk about Gladys.
Gladys, the woman who died, had a son. Over in Yemen, her son died. Patti explains that Gladys began to feel again, that it started to happen out in the open. Although she never spoke one word, never broke, people could see she was falling apart. Just like Laurie. Patti then gets into a very philosophical/metaphorical/symbolic speech about fire. Something like,
“Because doubt is fire. Fire is going to burn you up. Until you are but ash.”
The Leftovers has hinted at there being other organizations like the GR popping up around the country, and this episode has proof. There’s an entire government bureau ready to handle them and it is Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Are any of these organizations actually violent, though? It appears maybe, but the GR isn’t actively nonviolent in its destructiveness.
Still, the ATF is involved when one of Garvey’s deputies calls the feds to handle the case off. Gladys’ body will be transported to their labs, to much protest from Garvey. Garvey isn’t getting his way at all in this episode, or in life. He really needs a win, but he won’t get it. He stakes out the GR headquarters with beer. In his car. He falls asleep and a bunch of angry dogs attack the side of the car. Someone needs to do a mental health check on this guy before he goes full Will Graham. Garvey checks in with Aimee to check in with Jill about everything, but as Aimee notes, Jill doesn’t really do okay. It will have to do.
At the laundromat, Garvey demands to know where is his white shirts are. Is he crazy or are they stealing them? He runs into Nora, where they get their flirt on. Like, just hook up already. Just kidding: Nora’s destined to be miserable and alone given her awful luck.
Inspiration or desperation has hit for Garvey (they could be one and the same for this guy) as he realizes who could possibly hate the GR this much. The Reverend Matt Jamison, of course! At an informal interrogation, Garvey questions Matt, who was at an overnight study group with friends who were helping out Mary. With a solid-ish alibi, the Reverend may be cleared of murder, but not creepiness. He wants to see Gladys’ body. Matt is a suspect but still wants to pray for her? Garvey says no, rightfully.
Garvey arrives for the Council Meeting, where he suggests a town curfew after such a violent hate crime occurred to a member of the Guilty Remnant. Dean, crazy dog-shooting Dean, is one of the loudest protestors and the one who ultimately wins: no one on the council wants the curfew. The town people do not want that. And so it shall be. But the GR is still left unprotected, so Garvey comes to the GR headquarters to give them whistles for extra patrols. No one grabs a whistle.
After failing yet again, Garvey shows up to the Reverend’s house to allow the Reverend to pray over her. It’s the closest thing Gladys will get to a funeral (not that she probably wanted one anyway. What would be the GR’s policy on funerals? I’d say no-go). The Reverend gives a speech about stoning and how it is easier to stay silent than it is to speak truth. Killing these people is pointless because they are already dead. The Reverend wants to bring them back to life. Did he just admit to killing them? Possibly. All I know is that he is one shady man.
At the morgue, the body is missing. Even though Garvey tried to prevent this, the stupid bureaucratic morons shipped her out to Virginia. Garvey threatens the ATF agent on the phone. Pretty drunk, Garvey buys more alcohol and runs to the laundromat to threaten the laundromat manager. He’s one scary Chief of Police, abusing his power like that. He screams for his shirts and the manager just hands him some random shirts.
Back at the cult compound, Meg’s promoted herself to full-time mute when Reverend Matt Jamison with his study group — in all black attire very similar to the people who killed Gladys (ahem) — come outside with a microphone. He gives a sermon and a funeral service for Gladys in a semi-condescending tone. Laurie runs outside, and Matt looks so pleased when she comes out to him. He’s less pleased when she starts blowing a whistle in Matt’s face. As loud as she possibly can. And Laruie has just recommitted herself to being an annoying little cause.
Back at home, Garvey drops off his white shirts and announces he’s getting divorced from Laurie. It’s not his fault, Jill says. They say they love each other before Garvey cries and breaks down into his pillow. If anyone is going to kill themselves this season, my money’s on Garvey (not that I’m betting on that happening; his life is just miserable).
At the ATF center, they take Gladys’ body and put it through an incinerator. Patti and the Reverend’s story about fire makes sense now, considering this is straight out of a dystopian fiction story. And the episode ends.
This feels like the first episode that has a purpose, if that makes sense. It’s making such direct points about violence that’s relevant to everyone in town. As great as the third episode was and as much as I liked the fourth episode, this feels like a standard episode of The Leftovers. It’s the town versus. the GR. It’s Garvey versus everyone. It felt like great television coming together.
- The Leftovers doesn’t have a “Previously on…” It also has its own cold open. This is incredibly odd for an HBO show.
- My friend really wants Aimee and Garvey to hook up because they are both attractive, but the show is clearly setting him up with Nora. So we’re at a shippers’ crossroad. Somewhere, the Tumblr shippers are deciding on ship names and t-shirts for their collective parties. Somewhere, I am deciding which ship I will ship. Dilemmas, dilemmas.
- I’m debating whether or not to read the book the show is based on. I’m siding with no, but if someone says I absolutely have to read it, then I will.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 10pm on HBO.
(Image courtesy of HBO)