Loyalty is a bond that can be stronger than blood ties, but creating that connection requires a careful balance of trust and vulnerability to show that you can be both sensitive and stoic to the needs of someone else. But loyalty can also be dangerous, and that becomes clear in “The Leftovers‘ ” fifth episode “Gladys,” where we witness in rather chilling fashion how and why the Guilty Remnant stay so devoted to their cause even in the wake of horrific acts.
Indeed, viewers were likely jolted by the shockingly violent cold open of the episode. Following the GRs’ cruel Christmas act at the close of “B.J. And The A.C.,” the already fraught relationship between the group and the citizens of Mapleton has clearly reached a tipping point. While waiting outside a gas station for a fellow GR member who had gone to use the bathroom, the bespectacled Gladys (Marceline Hugot) is snatched and taken into the woods by an unseen group of assailants. She’s then duct taped to a tree and stoned to death, in a sequence that director Mimi Leder doesn’t shy away from, holding the camera on Gladys face for every brutal blow.
The event shakes up the GR, even if new member Meg (Liv Tyler) is coldly rational about it, noting that retaliation was inevitable, and none more than Laurie (Amy Brenneman), who has already seen her emotional core tested as she possibly entertains doubts about her involvement with the group. The morning following the murder, Laurie suffers a panic attack and winds up at the hospital, and after she’s discharged, the usually sour faced Patti (Ann Dowd) is waiting to drive her back … except they take a detour to a local hotel. And what initially looks like an act of kindness turns into some direct and precise manipulation.
After treating Laurie to a comfortable night in the hotel and leaving her with a set of non-white clothes as well, Patti meets her the next morning in a restaurant for breakfast, declaring that she’s given her a “day off.” So yes, that means regular attire and more importantly, Laurie can break the vow of silence that she has kept for eight months. As Patti literally speaks, Laurie is shocked and surprised by her candor, but it soon becomes apparent that the entire charade is not exactly for her benefit.
Patti launches in a story about Gladys, revealing that the former GR member had lost her son while she was in the group. Gladys was a wreck, started moping around the house and even crying while out on the streets doing the group’s work. So Patti did what she’s now doing with Laurie—she took her out for a meal, allowed her to speak, and what did Gladys do? She stayed silent, she “never broke,” Patti says with some pride. While Patti “understands the pull” of family and the past, she says, tearfully, that “doubt is fire” to their cause, and it will burn you up. It’s masked plea of sorts for Laurie to stay with her “family” with the GR and as we’ll soon see, it works.
Meanwhile, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) is having a bad day. He can’t figure out why the house alarm won’t work, he can’t find any of his white shirts for work, and thanks to one of underlings trying to pass off an assignment, the murder case is now in the hands of the feds at Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Cults. And so, he spends a day trying to get jurisdiction back on the case, trying (and failing) to impose a curfew on the town until the murder gets sorted out, and attempting to wrangle some sort of order to the chaos that seems be swirling around his personal and professional life. So what’s at the root of his seeming inability to keep it together? The looming divorce with Laurie, as by episode’s end, he’s come to accept it and finally shares with Jill (Margaret Qualley), with deep remorse and sobbing, that it’s happening.
Indeed, this is an episode where emotions overtake reason for these characters. Following her “day off,” Laurie is back in the fold with GR, and soon she eliminates all doubt when it comes to her commitment to the group. Since he couldn’t get a curfew imposed, Kevin decides to at least give the GRs some measure of protection, issuing them whistles to blow in the event they find themselves in trouble. But for now, the only danger facing the GRs following the incident are those trying to prey on any weakness within the group.
Matt (Christopher Eccleston) sees an opportunity to try and win people to his flock. He gathers his small group outside the GR compound, and via megaphone, begins to urge anyone who wants to join them to do so. Laurie races outside, and it looks like she might be swayed by Matt’s words, but instead she stands in front of him, blowing furiously on her whistle, silencing and confusing the preacher, while underlining her solidarity with the GR.
Also finally putting on her colors—or lack of them—for the GR is Meg, who has now gone fully silent, telling Patti (in writing), “I’m ready.” But remember, loyalty, particularly with GR, can be a life or death situation. As Kevin learns in his dealings with Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Cults, they are offering services to concerned municipalities to effectively eliminate the GR problem. And as “Gladys” closes, we see the titular character in an ATFC warehouse (Kevin wasn’t able to secure his precedence over the case in time) being fed into a fire to be cremated, in a chilling, almost clinical operation. You might find a family with GR, but what Patti perhaps doesn’t tell you, is that you’ll die alone, forgotten and anonymous.