By Ben Travers | Indiewire August 10, 2014 at 11:19PM
Wait. What's that sound? Is that...laughter? No one would blame you if you forgot what it sounded like after six weeks of very serious entertainment (and six weeks of press coverage which has equated watching "The Leftovers" to the actually going through the rapture). But there it was, bookending the seventh episode of what is so far an excellent first season of "The Leftovers." Kevin and Nora, in fifth-date bliss, chuckled their way out of sleeping together until they did the deed, and then had a good laugh the morning after. Ah, if only that was all that happened to the citizens of Mapleton. Best dig into the rest, even if it's not as light and fluffy.
1) Grandpa Garvey is a dangerous man.
Much was learned about the eldest Garvey family member in Week 7, as Scott Glenn returned (yippie!) to portray a man you want to be sane. First, we learned he voluntarily admitted himself to a psychiatric ward after he lit the local library on fire. It should come as no surprise the former police chief can throw a mean left hook, but watching Glenn lay into poor Dennis, even briefly, was still shocking (as was Glenn's 74-year-old ripped physique). But... Why the library? There's much more to discuss regarding Chief Grandpa (see Question and Theory No. 1), yet I can't stop wondering why he's hell bent on bringing down such an innocent institution. I'm sure it's something about the false facts it holds or their lack of very particular National Geographics...or maybe he's just bought into Leslie Knope's convincing hatred of those punk ass book jockeys.
2) Laurie is a dog.
Specifically, she's not our dog anymore. The metaphor alluded to in the series' pilot came full circle, no doubt infuriating viewers who already find "The Leftovers" to be a little heavy-handed. During Kevin's sleepwalking stupor, aka a dream sequence, we see the Guy With the Truck beckon the Chief to a mailbox where he's trapped a dog for his unwilling partner to shoot. On his way to investigate, Kev sees a pile of dead GR members in the back of the Guy's truck, including his wife. After this grisly sight, poor Mr. Garvey can't shoot the dog he still associates with his missus. He's not ready to move on, even if he knows he must. Thank God he bedded Nora, otherwise he might have been pushed beyond hope.
The juxtaposition of Kevin and Nora's morning-after bliss with Laurie's learning of their affair created another interesting symbolic moment. She may have written "So what?" but that was far from the end of this discussion (see Question and Theory #2). After returning home to a less-than-welcoming couple of youths, Kevin is rather proud of himself (it did look like good sex) until he sees the NatGeo his daughter ordered sitting on his counter. The dog has also freed itself and jumps up at Kevin outside the kitchen window after he reaches for the magazine. His father's warning that "they're not going to let you off that easy, son," may have been intended for those wandering unseen spirits. But it also seems like Laurie isn't ready to leave her ex-husband's headspace just yet -- or at least her symbolic stand-in isn't.
3) Tom is in Indiana, and Indiana looks like hell.Unless I missed something, until now we knew as much about Tom's whereabouts as his sister Jill did, at least when it came to a specific place. The press notes provided for Episode 7, though, say Tom is stuck in Indiana. Not only do I have a good friend from Indiana, my mother was born in the great Midwestern state, so it begrudges me to see it portrayed in such a despondent manner. (Though, really, is there any other way on this show?) I doubt Tom will be returning to watch some Hoosier basketball or visit the home town of Larry "Legend" Bird anytime soon, but at least he's moving in the right direction: East, away from his crimes in California and closer to his father in Mapleton.
1) Who in the Garvey family is crazy? Kevin or Kevin Sr.?
It's easy to assume they're both nuts, given, you know, genetics and stuff. But Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof seem to be drawing a line in the sand between father and son, their philosophies drawing them apart at a time when they need each other most. Kevin Sr. is drinking the kool-aid. He believes the voices in his head, or, as he says in Episode 2, "Contrary to the professional opinion of others, I maintain my shit remains intact." Whether he needs an answer for what happened October 14 or the voices are just very convincing imaginary friends, Papa Police Chief is in it -- and wants his son to take the red pill, as well.
L'il Chief isn't about to embrace an alternate reality: He's seen what his father has done because of those voices, and admitted in a heartfelt confession to feeling abandoned by his dad when he needed him most. He's hurt, so much so he can't even admit to himself he's losing his mind (unless you count his laughed off confession to Nora). It feels like one of these leaders of men will be proven right, but it's impossible to predict which right now.
2) Does Laurie know about Kevin's first affair?
Meg thought she was going to enrage Laurie by informing her of her ex-husband's new lover. Instead, she only strengthened Laurie's resolve. Embracing the Guilty Remnant means leaving one's past in the past. The present, too. There is no meaning, no hope, and thus no consequences for anyone's actions. (Again making me believe Patti ordered the killing of Gladys, if she didn't do the deed herself -- why not? It's all for the cause.) So why should Laurie care about Kevin banging his way back to feeling?
Of course, there's an alternative theory. Laurie may have known about her husband's affair. If so, she certainly wouldn't care about him bedding another beauty after their marriage has officially ended. It's doubtful anything in "The Leftovers" would be as simplistic as this, especially when it comes to their increasingly complex characters, but it could be a second layer to Laurie that only adds to her dedication to the GR.
3) How many more pregnant Asians are there?
That Holy Wayne. He sure is something else. I think we all knew what was on the other side of that motel room door before Tom barged inside (dressing Tom 2.0 in the same garb as our original Tom, hat and all, was another example of unnecessary heavy-handedness), but it finally served as the necessary breaking point for a character trapped in a circular plot. While I've never been as frustrated with Tom's story as others have, his time as an errand boy for Hugging Wayne has passed. He needs to be moved to action, rather than merely serve as a marker of time. (Oh, you haven't heard from Wayne in two months? So that's how much time has passed since the last episode? Okay, next scene.) I'm guessing he'll be showing up in the Garvey house before too long, and this time it won't just be in a dream.
1) Chief Sr. is bonkers, and Chief Jr. will be soon.
As much as I'd like to believe there's an explanation out there for what happened October 14 (even if it means Grandpa's invisible friends are real), there simply isn't one. Lindelof may not be great at endings, but even he knows better than to wrap up a meditative study on grief with an ending where aliens were hiding among us and took a random group of people for experiments. This makes it hard for me to believe the former Chief is for real. Yes, he's made some surprisingly valid insights -- how he knew about the Guy With the Truck visiting his son is still a big question mark, though all he said was "They're sending someone to help you," which could have meant anything. Yes, he sounds like a reasonable man when he's not slapping his son and resisting arrest. But it's just not in line with the show's tone.
We've been watching Kevin Jr. grapple with reality in order to better understand how to cope with the inexplicable. This world has been thrown off-kilter, forcing people to adhere to principles once thought inconceivable. Where do you draw the new line once the old has been crossed? What is insanity when sane people witnessed the impossible? These are the questions we should be asking, and it's hard to see how burning down a library and assaulting a cop could turn out to be the right path. Nothing about "The Leftovers" is elementary. It may be heavy-handed with its messages, but they're still there and they won't be discarded. Not now, nor later (if we're lucky enough to see the end).
*Of note: the last episode of the season is titled "The Prodigal Son Returns," which is exactly what Grandpa Chief's first words were to his son in Episode 2. If this is any indication of anything -- and it seems like some titles on "The Leftovers" are not -- Kevin Jr. may be siding with his father quite soon.
2) Laurie knows of her husband's transgressions, but that's not why she left.
I've always had an inkling Laurie knows of her hubby's slip-up(s). Call it instinctual. Call it wanting an explanation, no matter how simple, to justify her decision to depart from her own family. Call it wrong. It may be, but I think she knows. Until she copes with that knowledge in a healthy way -- as in, not giving up on life -- she'll forever be lost. I can't think of anything sadder than that.
3) Tom needs his Daddy, ASAP.
Here's what we know: Tom killed a cop. Tom needs a doctor. Tom doesn't trust Wayne anymore. Tom probably needs money (I'm guessing he'll give his remaining three grand to Christine and her baby). He's reached out to his dad, or at least thought about it, since getting himself into this predicament. Now it's time he goes home. If anyone knows how to help him, it's the Chief -- though I'm not sure if he will. He just put his father in jail, so he may abide by the letter of the law and make his son turn himself in, too. I doubt it, though, especially considering the leniency he's given his daughter (stealing the baby Jesus, harboring a fugitive, being excessively reclusive). Either way, their first onscreen dialogue will be watched with much interest.