Five weeks into The Leftovers, and I feel like each episode is not just a test for the characters, but for the audience, as well. At this point, especially after the brutality of last night’s episode, the fence-sitters are out. Either you are immensely invested in The Leftovers (as I am), or you’ve found a reason to give up on the show (and you’re probably not reading this).
For the stoning, I almost don’t blame folks for abandoning the show. I have not winced at onscreen violence that hard since a certain character was burned alive in Sons of Anarchy. It made my stomach do flips.
As always, however, The Leftovers leaves us with new questions this week.
1. What happened to Kevin’s white dress shirts? Truthfully, I have no idea. Was the dry cleaner actually incompetent, or were the shirts he gave to Kevin not actually his shirts? I mean, they weren’t all together, but then again, if the dry cleaner were incompetent, they wouldn’t be, would they?
I feel like this bit is a little like the missing bagel in episode two: The fact that he found the bagel (and his shirts) suggests that Kevin is not actually crazy, and now that we know Dean the Dog Killer is actually real, we are more inclined to believe that Kevin is not yet batshit like his father. Or like other people think his father is.
On the other hand, if the dry cleaner just gave Kevin random dress shirts (that just happened to fit him), then where did the real ones go? Did Jill take them to fuck with her Dad, just like she took the Baby Jesus? Did Aimee take them because she wants to sleep with Kevin? Or did the Guilty Remnant take them last week when they broke into houses and stole pictures, because the GR probably needs a steady supply of white dress shirts?
Is this going to be one of those Lindelofian things that just hangs? (Magic 8 Ball says: Yes)
2. Who is Neil?
After Patti manipulated Laurie back into the Guilty Remnant and basically told her to shove her feelings back down into her hidey-hole of repression, Patti got a doggy bag, wrote the name Neil on it, and — presumably — filled it with her own feces (she had no food left, and after writing Neil’s name on it, she asked if she could “be excused.” She then placed the bag that clearly had something in it on Neil’s doorstep. I’m guessing it was her poop).
Who is Neil? I’m not sure, though it’s probably someone from Patti’s past (her husband?), and Patti is crapping on that past. It gives me the strange sensation, however, that Patti’s involvement in the Guilty Remnant is spiteful, and perhaps has something to do with a grudge she has against “Neil” in her past life, and not because she’s particularly invested in the cause.
That would be the most emotionally devastating irony, wouldn’t it?
3. Did you feel guilty about Gladys? Or did she deserve that?
From what we’ve seen of Gladys this season, she’s a fairly terrible person, and the scenes in the cold open before she was stoned reinforced what a cold, unlikable person she is. And after last week’s episode, I had completely written the GR off as terrible people who deserved whatever they got.
And yet nobody — no matter how terrible — deserves to be stoned to death. Plus, there were two other things that made me feel bad for Gladys: She begged for her life, meaning she didn’t want to die, and 2) that she had a crisis of faith when her son died suggested that was something deeper, more relatable about Gladys, and that maybe she actually joined GR to escape a deeper pain and not because she wanted to annoy people.
4. What the hell is up with the Feds?
Is this really what the Feds are doing? They’re “eliminating” problems like the Guilty Remnant? That’s the thing about The Leftovers that we’re not seeing. There are two extremes here: GR, who want to be “living reminders” and refuse to let anyone move on with their lives, and then there’s the Feds, who want to sweep the past up — eliminate reminders of it — and move on.
If we saw more of the Feds — people like the FBI agent who offered to send three vans full of armed agents to “give you the results we’re looking for” — we might have a tad more sympathy for the GR. At least, I would.
5. What was up with the story that Reverend Matt told Kevin?
Oddly enough, between the GR and the feds, religion has become the middle ground between two extremes. It’s part of why I’ve really grown to love Reverend Matt Jamison. I am not a religious person, but he makes the most sense to me (it probably has something to do with Eccleston’s performance, too).
The conversation between Kevin and Matt on the way to the morgue was one of my favorite scenes from the series, and one of the most humane. I really applaud Reverend Matt’s Job-like determination. Speaking of Job, Matt basically quoted in that exchange Saying 13 in the Gospel of Thomas. I wouldn’t have parsed its meaning, either, if Matt hadn’t told us. “It’s easier to stay silent than it is to speak truth.”
Compare that with what Patti said to Laurie: “I understand that going back to [your family] feels comfortable. And easy. Because the alternative, what we do, is very very hard.”
So is staying silent easier, or is it very very hard? The two philosophies are butting heads, but I think Patti and Matt can agree on this point: “Killing these people is pointless. They don’t care because they’re already dead.”
As far as the GR is concerned, they are basically dead. They’re remnants from before the departure, living ghosts. “What I want is to bring them back to life,” Reverend Matt tells Kevin.
For Kevin — and his relationship with his wife — Reverend Matt may be the only ally he has. He’s clearly not ready to “eliminate the problem,” and by trying to allow Matt to pray over Gladys’ body, he’s sympathetic to Matt. He, too, wants to bring the GR back to life.
But as Laurie demonstrated when she blew that (f**king) whistle in Reverend Matt’s face, she doesn’t want to come back to life. Patt and the GR have won. If her daughters’ cigarette lighter, he husband’s anguish over the divorce, and the death of Gladys can’t bring Laurie back to life (and in fact, pushes Meg into the fold), then I can’t imagine anything would.
At least Kevin still has Nora and that aching smile to fall back on. And this smile — THIS SMILE RIGHT HERE — is the reason why I love this show.
This woman lost her family. She found out her husband was cheating on her, anyway. She doesn’t believe in her brother’s religion, and yet she’s able to move on, to bring the past with her, to remember it, make it a part of her, and deliver a whimsical smile that says there’s still reason to live, still reason to hope, still reason to smile.
6. Do you think Jill was right? That Laurie wouldn’t have cried if Jill had died?
I don’t know. I honestly don’t know, and it hurts not knowing.