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Review: 'The Leftovers' Season 1 Episode 5, 'Gladys,' Paints a Clear and Terrifying Antagonist

Photo of Ben Travers By Ben Travers | Indiewire July 27, 2014 at 11:00PM

What we know, what we don't, and what we think is coming next after Episode 5 of "The Leftovers."
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Ann Dowd and Amy Brenneman in "The Leftovers"

The fifth episode of the confounding and captivating first season of "The Leftovers" started with a bang and ended with a burn, but at least we know what the episode title means. After four weeks of perplexing episode titles (other than the pilot, which was simply that), "Gladys" was very much about Gladys, the Guilty Remnant member best known thus far for looking like a female version of The Penguin (I think it was the white gloves).

READ MORE: Why Hasn't HBO Picked Up 'The Leftovers' Yet? (Because It Should)

Played with nasty verve by Marceline Hugot, Gladys was an unlikable second in command until she met her gruesome demise at the start of this Sunday's episode -- anyone complaining about Damon Lindelof's tendency to be a little too on the nose after last week won't find any relief here. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Below you'll find the facts, questions, and theories we have from Episode 5, along with any meaning we can discern from each. Take a look, and get ready for next week's episode -- with what looks like another (deceptively?) simple title -- "Guest."

Facts:

1) The Guy With the Truck is real!

One of the biggest mysteries surrounding "The Leftovers" through its first four weeks has been the sanity of our lead character, Chief Kevin Garvey. Did he lose his bagel? Were the dogs evil? Is he talking to an imaginary man? Does his Dad somehow know this imaginary man? Is his Dad crazy? Some of these questions have already been answered (the bagel didn't disappear!), and a big one was resolved this week: The Guy With the Truck is real. 

Discovered in an unlikely location -- out in the woods where Gladys died -- the bald man who's been mysteriously plaguing The Chief's life these past few months actually found the body of the dead GR member. Not only that, but while the Chief was still questioning his legitimacy, a fellow dog hunter walked by and said hello to the man, as if on cue, to assure Kev he's not as crazy as his pop. Phew. What a relief. Kevin's not crazy. Or is he...(see Question No. 1)?

2) Mapleton citizens like their photos; don't like being robbed.

The simple explanation for Gladys' death is retaliation for the home invasion/photo stealing from last week's episode. While a nonviolent response would have been more appropriate, hurt family members aren't known for abiding by the 'ol "eye for an eye" rule. Instead, they exacted their revenge on the GR in general by stoning one of them to death, taking her away from a group who has taken so much from the Mapletonians. That's the simple explanation -- it's not what we believe. (For that, head to Theory No. 1.)

3) Those aren't The Chief's shirts.

Perhaps the most obvious Fact of the Week is that those weren't the Chief's white dress shirts his panicked dry cleaner randomly pulled off the rack. Chief Jr. may make himself believe they are, so as not to end up like Chief Sr., but even he knows the truth deep down inside. He robbed a dry cleaner. He stole from the citizens he swore to protect. He is, basically, a criminal acting out just as many others have post-October 14. What does it all mean? That's for section two.
Justin Theroux in "The Leftovers" on HBO
Paul Schiraldi/HBO Justin Theroux in "The Leftovers" on HBO

Questions:

1) Okay, the Guy Who Shoots Dogs is real (hooray!), but is The Chief still crazy?

Even though we're now 99 percent sure the Guy With the Truck is real (never believe something wholly when Damon Lindelof is involved -- otherwise, you'll be convinced you're not watching an "Alien" prequel when you are watching exactly that), it doesn't mean Kevin is off the hook for the nuthouse. First off, where are his shirts? Obviously, the dry cleaner didn't lose them (though if he did, the Chief's frustrations with technology after Bagel Gate 2014 would be hilarious). Did someone rob him? Is his daughter messing with him? Did his Dad's imaginary friends have something to do with it? Are they "not his shirts" anymore and thus must be burned? Or, in a clever bit of marketing foreshadowing art, is this the central mystery of "The Leftovers": What happened to Kevin's shirts

While not as fun to discuss, we also still don't know how Kevin Sr. knew about Jr.'s "visitor." We're also not entirely sure what's up Kevin's butt regarding the Guy With the Truck, who he became excessively angry with during the city council meeting. Really, Chief, your curfew plan wasn't great and I doubt it would've been even if you had been given enough time to prepare a better speech. Next week, when Kevin begins to cope with his divorce, we'll probably see some extra fireworks go off -- at least in his brain. Hopefully he can handle the added stress better than he has so far.

2) The GR has the emotional capacity of a bunch of middle school thugs: Mess with them, get a bag of shit on your doorway?

That's what that was, right? When Patti asked the diner waitress for a doggy bag without any leftovers (ooo -- does it represent the GR's conflicting beliefs about those who disappeared?), she then went to the bathroom by herself. Next we saw the bag, she was leaving it on the doorstep of some unlucky soul named Nell. Honestly, I expected her to light the bag on fire and ring the doorbell before sprinting back to the van with Laurie. 

So who is Nell? Did she piss off the GR somehow, or leave the cult before Patti's plans for her could go through? Is she just another citizen in need of a vague reminder "There are no leftovers"? And what was in that bag if it wasn't poop? Never mind. Ignore that last one. It was poop.

3) Is Meg now beyond hope?

We didn't know what was to happen of Meg until this week. She may still turn away from the dark side toward the light, but it's going to be much harder after two telling statements uttered in this week's episode:

1) "She's not your wife anymore."

This one hurt. When the Chief pulled Meg aside in the hopes of speaking logically to the newest and thus most reasonable GR member, his innocent targeting was met with personal scorn as Meg sided with her mentor in the cult rather than her own basic human decency. It left a mark on the Chief, who later came to terms with the development within himself and told his daughter the depressing news. But it also was a turning point for the viewer. Meg is quickly plotting a path toward Patti, our lead antagonist (especially if you believe this week's first Theory). She's siding with the wrong people and, without a proper backstory explaining her inner turmoil post-October 14th, she'll soon be on equal footing as her despicable leader. 

2) "Are you surprised? We want them to remember something they want to forget. They weren’t just going to leave us alone, right? It was only a matter of time."

This one was just wrong. These were Meg's first words, her first thoughts even, after learning of Gladys' grisly demise. A human being she knew was dead in the woods, her body still warm in the cold night, and Meg was only thinking about the cause. The GR. Patti. Her humanity is disappearing as quickly as her color palette. If she's not beyond hope now, she soon will be.

"The Leftovers" Season 1 Episode 5
Paul Schiraldi/HBO "The Leftovers" Season 1 Episode 5

Theories:

1) Patti orchestrated Gladys' murder.

The Guilty Remnant is officially the antagonist of "The Leftovers." They're evil and they must be stopped. Patti in particular proved her evil cunning this week, carefully manipulating everyone around her to do exactly what she wanted. At the episode's beginning, we saw Gladys meet with Patti in a silent exchange with reverberating results. A nod was all it took for Patti to send Gladys out to her death, perhaps even with Patti as one of the masked attackers. 

Gladys will forever be remembered as a martyr for the cause. What better reminder is there of what we've lost than to lose someone else? Her death will invigorate the GR and draw more attention to their cause (which works perfectly because it's all about getting attention). It certainly impassioned Laurie, who went off with Patti on a little "vacation" where the cult leader spoke (!) and Laurie listened. She sucked up every bit of Patti's garbage, and Patti reveled in it as she watched Laurie blow her whistle in the disheartened Reverend's face. 

Nothing Patti did in the episode rang true. From her cooperation with Chief Garvey to her little diner vacation, every move was part of a larger plan just like everything else she's done. She is a ruthless, demented, maniacal leader who's about to get even more power. Nothing and no one on television is more dangerous or terrifying than a crazy old woman named Patti (and I never thought I'd be saying that with so many horror shows on these days).

2) The Chief did not sleep with Aimee, but he might sleep with Nora. 

Thanks to a few key exchanges with his daughter's friend Aimee (as well as some helpful fan-made gifs), it seems pretty clear Lil' Chief didn't sleep with an underage high schooler. Despite theories floated previously, it just doesn't seem likely. Neither of them act awkward or overly engaged with one another. The only bit of evidence supporting their theoretical affair was a repeated bit of moaning in the pilot. It's not enough, and we're therefore abandoning this theory.

That being said, the Chief is showing some serious chemistry with Nora. She's lost her whole family, literally, and Kevin is losing his figuratively more and more each day. They're a match made in the most depressing heaven imaginable. It's impossible to picture them happy, but that doesn't mean they won't try.

3) Laurie has lost her mind, and she may lose her life as well. 

With the simple blow of a whistle, it was over. What hope we had left that Laurie would be rattled to her senses by Meg's emotionally ignorant questioning and Patti's bullshit prophesying disappeared when she interrupted the Reverend's sincere desire to help in the rudest, most destructive manner possible to the vocally inept GR disciple. 

One of the most fascinating dynamics of "The Leftovers" comes in Laurie's choice not to speak. It makes her hard to read (through no fault of the excellent Amy Brenneman, who thus far has given an awards-worthy turn in a purely physical performance), and thus makes us question whether she's doubting what's told to her or investing in it even more. Sadly, it was the latter when it came to Patti's disgusting spew of cult-like vitriol aimed precisely to make Laurie do what she did at the end of the episode. 

Laurie will soon have to choose between her cult and her family, a choice she's seemingly made already but will have to reevaluate under more dire circumstances. Despite her husband's acceptance of her desire for divorce, their story certainly hasn't ended. Call it a gut feeling; call it a writer's instinct; call it utter nonsense, but a showdown is coming between the GR and Chief Garvey that will decide the fate of the family, the town, and possibly much more. Kevin had the chance to end the Guilty Remnant's minor reign with a kind, if illegal, offer from the FBI, but he couldn't pull the trigger on his own wife. Will he live to regret it? Perhaps, but as of now there's not a predictable member of the Garvey family. No need to start now.

Grade: B+

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





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