‘The Leftovers’ recap: Season 1, Episode 5, ‘Gladys’

Do these characters hate each other or not? Credit: Paul Schiraldi
Do these characters hate each other or not?
Credit: Paul Schiraldi

For five weeks in a row, “The Leftovers” has taunted us, pretending, again and again, that it has something to say. “Gladys,” an episode that at last focuses on the mysterious Guilty Remnant, somehow manages to spend the better part of an hour trailing one of the more interesting aspects of the show while yet again revealing next to nothing.

Gladys, the GR member of the episode’s title, is brutally murdered in the opening sequence, stoned to death by the residents of Mapleton. It’s very bloody, and just before she is knocked unconscious, she breaks her vow of silence, begging, “No, please stop.” It doesn’t work. Gladys – who you might remember as the woman standing outside of Matt’s church during his dream in episode three – dies, and the GR discovers her in a scene that’s shot like it’s straight out of a horror movie, all shadows and sudden light.

The scene cuts to Kevin, who’s waking up. After he gets dressed, he offers to give a sleepy Jill a ride to school (she refuses) and bumps into her friend Aimee in the hallway. It’s still never been explained as to why exactly Aimee spends so much time at the Garveys, and the show’s fixation with sexualizing her is getting creepier and creepier. This time, she’s clad in some fairly skimpy pajamas and offers to make Kevin (“Mr. Garvey,” ugh) some coffee. He gives her a look, and says nothing. Is this supposed to be comedic?

Laurie, back in the GR’s headquarters, is having trouble dealing with Gladys’ death, and has a panic attack in a scene that would be moving if it weren’t filmed in such a drawn-out slow motion. In the hospital, the doctor finds nothing wrong with her, though he does ask just how many cigarettes she smokes per day.

As it turns out, Kevin’s investigation of the murder scene doesn’t really go anywhere, though it is revealed that the mysterious dog man was there. Apparently this man is real, and not just a figment of Kevin’s imagination. It’s frustrating that we’re halfway through the season and it’s still unclear as to which characters are actually, literally, real. This episode as a whole feels like it would have worked better as the second episode of the season, since it doesn’t really reveal much and the murder, potentially, could propel the plot forward.

The investigation soon ends, because an officer at the police station goes against Kevin’s wishes and calls in the feds (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and Cults, to be exact), informing them of the murder. Kevin really does not want the case to leave his hands, presumably because of his emotional connection to this chapter of the GR, but too bad, it does.

Meanwhile, Kevin’s missing some shirts, something he remarked on while trying to wake Jill and which is apparently a plot point. He visits the drycleaners, and it’s a strange interlude in which he essentially accuses the Indian employees of stealing his shirts. There’s something disquieting to the way in which this show uses its non-white characters, all of who are secondary and none of whom are portrayed in a particularly positive light. (Holy Wayne’s a fake and a predator, Christine’s not particularly bright, Mapleton’s mayor doesn’t get along with Kevin, and now there’s the drycleaner employees and the supermarket checker who can’t pronounce “inebriated” and is corrected by Kevin.) Later, Kevin gets drunk and demands to be let into the drycleaners after hours, visibly scaring the employee, who hands Kevin some shirts that he claims are his. It’s unclear how the scene is meant to be understood – are those really Kevin’s shirts? Did the dry cleaners actually steal them (as Nora said earlier), or is Kevin just a jerk who just forced this employee to hand him some random shirts out of fear?

The feds won’t release the body back to Kevin and the Mapleton police force, but the bureau member that speaks with Kevin does offer to, in a chilling turn of phrase, “eliminate the infestation.” What is going on with the GR? We learned last week that they’re national (and have, at the very least, chapters in both Texas and the East Coast), but there’s still no how or why. At this point, the show’s writers are wasting the GR’s potential by just having them standing around smoking all the time. It looks cool, and that’s about it.

Kevin also grills Matt about what he was doing the night of the murder (attending a meeting with his Bible study group, as it would turn out). Matt has more screen time this episode than he’s had since the third, but the writers have seemingly dropped the Matt versus the GR storyline they were heavily implying at that episode’s end. It’s too bad, too, because any scene with Christopher Eccleston in it magically becomes the most interesting of the episode.

We’re nearing the end of the episode, and little of the GR’s daily life or reasoning have been shown. Meg decides that she is, to quote her note, “READY” to join the GR, but just as she’s about to do so, she’s interrupted by a microphone squeal. It’s Matt, out on the front lawn, preaching about commitment and respect and faith. (If Matt forgave the GR, why was this not shown on screen? What’s going on between him and Laurie? Why are moments of character development and motivation alluded to and then completely dropped on this show?)

Matt asks for any GR members in agreement to leave the house and stand with him and Laurie, looking crestfallen, does come down. It almost seems like we’re going to get an acknowledgment or clarification as to what exactly is going on between those two, but no, of course not. Instead, Laurie blows a whistle a few dozen times, shutting Matt up and wiping the smile off of his face. But did they have a love child or not?

The scene switches to Kevin. He tells Jill that, “Your mother and I are getting a divorce.” Jill looks pained, but then tells him that it’s not his fault, which does not exactly seem in character. As Kevin sobs, the scene cuts to the bureau’s headquarters, where Gladys’ body is removed from its shipping crate and immediately incinerated, unlike the other bodies there. There’s something fishy about the bureau, but before “The Leftovers” becomes a government corruption drama, it should probably tie up some of its abandoned narrative threads.

Grade: C-



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