Season One, Episode Five
The events of October 14 shook the world in a way that it has never been shook before. Focusing in on the town of Mapleton, NY, we see the way different people are reacting to the loss of loved ones. Particularly, Chief Kevin Garvey is reeling in a downward spiral even when he didn’t lose anyone during October 14. But the events certainly affect everyone, there’s no doubting that.
The Guilty Remnant have been mostly a mystery up to this point. About fifty or so live in the community, chain smoking, wearing all white, and communicating through markers and pads instead of speaking. Why? That remains unclear. What are their purpose? If it isn’t just to piss people off then that also remains unclear. They claim they want to constantly remind everyone of what happened on October 14, and to never forget, but why? Nonetheless, half of the episode revolves around the GR when one of their own is stoned to death.
I understand that it’s hard for us, as the audience, to feel any sympathy for the GR losing Gladys. From the beginning of the episode they’re seen around town painting things white and even walking right past a poor man who falls down on the sidewalk. They don’t seem to care about anyone else other than themselves, so why should we care for them? But that’s part of what I appreciate The Leftovers for so much, that it’s not about whether or not you like these characters. It’s seeing everyone as a human being with flaws and having to deal with the troubled world we all live in. And these people clash against each other time and time again, but for what? What’s the point of this life and why do we all keep trying to hard to fight for something we don’t understand?
Gladys’ death is able to put Kevin and Laurie as the focus for the episode, yet separately. Kevin and his team are on the investigation while trying to keep the town as safe as possible, which is not an easy thing to do. Kevin wants to have a curfew, but the town quickly rallies against him and the vote turns down the proposal. Meanwhile, we get some more of the “is Kevin crazy or not?” when he loses all of his white shirts from his closet. Also, when Gladys’ body is taken by the AFTEC, he has a conversation with an agent there that seems awfully fishy. I’m not ruling out that whole conversation was in Kevin’s head.
The real focus is on Laurie and the GR. Head GR, Patti, takes Laurie on a day off after she has a panic attack. In regular clothes, they both sit at a diner and eat breakfast. It was fascinating to hear Patti talk to Laurie during the diner scene. We get an insight to the GR, what they mean, and the things Patti understands about herself and the members involved. This whole time Laurie has been close to breaking. She left Kevin because she was “broken” and has devoted herself to the cause of the GR, but with the divorce papers and Jill giving her a lighter, Laurie’s faith is dwindling and Patti sees it. She explains to Laurie how it’s certainly not easy doing what they do and sometimes you just need a break. But even when Patti gives Laurie the green light to talk, she doesn’t. She remains strong.
It isn’t until the end when Laurie races out of the house to confront Reverend Jamison who wants to pray for Gladys that we know exactly where Laurie stands. She’s keeping her belief in the GR and shuns off Matt during a prayer. Patti smiles, knowing that she’s back and stronger than ever. Patti also accepts that Meg is now devoted to the cause, as she’s wearing white and smoking without being told to do so. Sometimes in a community that is close to being broken, a tragedy can unite them all to become a much more powerful force. Gladys’ death just might have that effect with the GR.
There are a few emotional moments in the episode. First, when Kevin walks into Jill’s classroom she storms out of class in tears, fearing that her mother has been killed. After telling her it wasn’t so, she commented that Laurie wouldn’t cry for her. It was a powerful, small line from a rebellious teenager going through a lot for her age. Jill, like most of the people on the show, might not be very likeable, but it’s hard not to feel for her. The other emotional scene was at the end when Kevin confesses to Jill that him and Laurie are getting a divorce. She takes it with a stoic face saying, “Okay.” It’s not surprising to her, but that doesn’t make it any less painful for Kevin. In those situations, we always hang onto every last thread hoping that something will turn around for the better. But when you finally get to that breaking point, it’s hard to digest.
So who has it better? The GR who believe in not feeling for anything? If you leave everything behind then you’ll shield yourself from any hurt, right? But as Reverend Jamison put it, in doing so they’re already dead. But is it any better to try and forget what happened and to keep going around in circles constantly mourning tragedies and losses? Is it really normal to build someone up to love only to inevitably let them go down the line? Maybe we can all just go see Wayne and he can fix everything that is broken.