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Figuring Out 'The Leftovers': What We Know, What We Don't, and Questions for Episode 2

Photo of Ben Travers By Ben Travers | Indiewire July 1, 2014 at 1:51PM

If you were thrown off a bit by Sunday night's premiere of Damon Lindelof's latest mind-bender, we've got you covered with this handy recap of the show's goings on.
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Paul Schiraldi/HBO Paterson Joseph in "The Leftovers"

While apparently some found "The Leftovers" too dour to dwell on, many fans of Damon Lindelof, "Lost" or Peter Berg will stick with the show out of devotion, curiosity, or genuine interest. Much like "Game of Thrones," die hard fans could simply read Tom Perrotta's novel to find out what happens in the end -- but as we've seen with both shows, the book doesn't always line up with the visual version, and with Damon Lindelof, you simply never know what's going to come next. Theories will certainly abound regarding what happened to the missing two percent, as well as the other personal and philosophical mysteries found in the first hour of "The Leftovers." 

READ MORE: Watch: 'The Leftovers' Premiere Is Now Available to Stream on Yahoo!

Below, we've compiled a list of facts, beliefs, and questions. Obviously, the list can't be all-encompassing, so please leave your own lingering quandaries and theories in the comments below, or find us on Twitter. We'll try to touch on the big ones, though, or at least those worthy of discussion.

Facts:

1) The Chief's wife was not one of the taken. 

For all the heartbreaking scenes packed into an hour and 15 minutes of television Sunday night, perhaps the most devastating was discovering Laurie, Chief Garvey's wife, wasn't one of the departed. She's still here, just no longer able to live with her husband and daughter (and son, who has also fled the family). It was a twist both unexpected and earned, though not in the usual way. Learning of Laurie's obviously difficult decision -- the pain in her face when Kevin asks her to come home will stick with me for a while -- near the episode's end helped it land, simply because so much awful shit had already happened. What's one more, especially when it comes with a Lindelof style twist?

2) The Chief (Justin Theoroux) was cheating on her when everyone disappeared.

This point in fact still needs to be clarified, but it appeared as though Chief Garvey was with another woman at the time everyone was lost. While speaking with the mother we met in the opening scene, Kevin is asked where he was on October 14th. We then see a quick flashback to him in bed with someone other than his wife -- a woman moaning an awful lot like Aimee moaned when hanging out with Jill outside of school. Could the Chief have been having an affair with his daughter's best friend? We're veering into the next category with that question, but it's a fact that he wasn't holy enough for the maybe-the-Rapture. 

3) "Holy Wayne's" son was taken, but later told him people need to "wake up" in a dream.

Wayne, the bald prophet young Garvey is inexplicably serving, looks and sounds like a mad man. He's hidden in a fortress protected by episode director and executive producer Peter Berg, as well as a small army of devoted servants. It takes multiple car changes and clearances just to get to the door, and to do that you must be blindfolded (as ex-"Friday Night Lights" star Brad Leland found out). For what? A healing hug. Without all the secrecy, it could have been at first confused for some kind of hippie commune preaching love and peace in the face of all this darkness (though we should have known this wasn't the case, since no optimism can exist in this world).

Things get creepier when we're given our first long scene with the man himself. “We’re gone, Daddy, and all the people who stayed are pretending like it never happened. They’re asleep, but they need to wake up now," Wayne tells Tom after waking him in the middle of the night, brandishing a blade. He's quoting his son, a son he lost on October 14th, and one who is apparently telling him to seek vengeance on a country looking to recover. How he'll go about that is yet to be seen, but you better believe Wayne has some big plans. 

4) "Those aren't our dogs."

It's a well-known fact in the Hollywood studio system you can't kill a dog on TV or in movies if you're looking to make any kind of profit. Audiences can't handle it -- "What Just Happened," the 2008 film starring Robert De Niro as a movie producer, illustrates this point very well. While the mixed critical reaction to "The Leftovers" indicates many so-called experts aren't any more open minded, the early shooting of a seemingly innocent pup proved more compelling than a simple statement from the filmmakers about what they can and can't do.

At the beginning, the dog represented innocence, hence the Chief’s anger over its death. But by the end, we see the dogs weren’t innocent at all. They were preying on the innocent, as we see them viciously attack the elk standing in front of Garvey's car. What's interesting about the scene is what the animals represent.

The elk was in the Chief’s house and tore it up, or at least that's what we're lead to believe when he interrogates the animal. Is it meaningful the elk was in the kitchen, a room stereotypically associated with the housewife? We know Laurie did her fair share of damage to Kevin, even if he deserved it for cheating. If the elk represents Laurie, then who are the dogs? The GR? Their non-violent protests (or reminders as they'd probably prefer) seem innocent, but they're tearing people away from their homes and loved ones. The Chief is then is forced to kill the dogs he thought were innocent — will he be forced into similar action against his wife's organization?

5) No one in the Garvey family disappeared, but they may have been more affected than any other family.

Getting back to the first fact on this list, it doesn't appear the Garvey family lost any members on 10/14. Yet the day clearly broke them. The son is worshipping a magical hugger. The mother has taken a vow of silence. Kevin drinks. Jill chokes a dude while he jerks off. They've got more problems than the woman who lost her whole family. At least she can get it together enough to give a speech on Heroes' Day. Undoubtedly more will come out regarding the Garvey family turmoil, but watching through the eyes of an intact group provides a unique perspective. If these guys can't keep it together, what hope is there for everyone else?

Questions:

1) What happened to the Garvey family that made them break?

This is topping my list. Was it the husband cheating? Was it the daughter's friend? Was it the son's gullibility? Was their mental state simply not strong enough to handle October 14th? I can't wait to find out more, and -- best of all -- the answers can't disappoint. If it's complex and layered, great. If it's just the day's mysteries, fine. Either way, it's compelling drama.

2) What is going on with Meg (Liv Tyler)?

Meg seems to be our way into understanding the Guilty Remnant. Without her hatred-turned-attraction for the men and women in white, it would have been difficult to understand their collected conscious (after all, they don't speak). Now, with her end of episode decision to join up, we've seen at least how one convert became converted -- even if we don't know why she did it. The nagging depression seems to be the main reason, but is that it? And what's it stemming from, for Meg in particular? The short answer seems to be nothing, which would make her issues all the more haunting.

3) Why do the Guilty Remnant members smoke so much?Smoking is usually taken as a statement of "Look at how many f***s I give?", with the answer being "zero." Yet the members of the GR have a purpose. They are using their own lives to remind others of the lives lost on October 14th. Why would they want to shorten their own, thus voiding their message? Are they trying to prove their bodies are meaningless? Are they saying we could all be gone at any instant, so what's the point of being healthy? Are they all just addicts because their leader has always been a smoker and wanted to live in a pro-tobacco house? I don't know, but I'd sure like to soon.

4) Does Wayne have healing powers?

I'm thinking "no." In fact, I'm pretty sure of it. But not knowing what happened in that room when Buddy Garrity, I mean, the Senator, was unburdened leaves a sliver of doubt I hope is soon resolved.

Theories:

1) The Chief doesn't want to believe in the Rapture because he's ashamed of his actions.

Our lead character is also fittingly the most ambivalent when it comes to a belief system. He seems to be serving the town as a whole, defending all citizens and their chosen opinions no matter what. As much as he hates the GR for taking his wife away from him, he likely knows she left for more reasons than just spiritual unrest. That being said, his defense of the pot-stirring Reverend and his anti-rapture hand-outs seems to indicate he wants to believe at least one thing: it wasn't the rapture. If it were, he could be held responsible for keeping his family from ascending into heaven. We'll know more about his motivations when his family life is filled out, but the guilt inside him -- driving him to drink, protect, serve, and generally be rude to everyone around him -- needs some kind of hope. Not being the rapture is all he's got.

2) The dogs are going to be a problem.

Call it a hunch, but I don't think the dog massacre that ended the pilot will be an unaddressed issue. Those are a lot of gunshots for a small town, and a lot of dead dogs to bury for a Chief proven unreliable in the area. Plus, who's this guy driving around in a truck shooting dogs? Does he do anything else? Or is he "The Leftovers"'s literal version of Dog the Bounty Hunter?

3) Things aren't going to get any lighter. 

For those of you who found the pilot dark, you best steal yourself for what's ahead. Nothing in the 75 minutes of story indicated things would lighten up any time soon. If anything, the worst is behind them -- it's been three years since October 14th, and now we need a new set of problems to motivate the story. Whatever revelations lie ahead, it's doubtful they'll bring closure quickly. While HBO's other freshman series brought about an unexpected optimism in its finale, "The Leftovers" doesn't seem to share any of the mood-lightening humor infused into "True Detective" since the beginning. This is drama with a capital "D." Get ready for more.

This article is related to: The Leftovers, Damon Lindelof, Damon Lindelof, HBO , HBO