By: Jeff Iblings, Contributor
Episode 5 of THE LEFTOVERS focuses on the murder investigation of Gladys, one of the members of the Guilty Remnant, and its aftermath. You may remember her, she was one of the women that popped up all over the place, watching. She stuck out more than any of the others for me. It was probably her compassionless, yet judgmental face. There was something slightly sinister and knowing in all of her glances that rubbed me the wrong way. Evidently it rubbed the people of Mapleton the wrong way as well, only they chose to deal with her with Old Testament brutality.
Gladys is kidnapped, dragged into the woods, tied to a tree and stoned to death. I have never seen a more gruesome scene in a television show, including “Hannibal.” There’s artistry to the carnage in “Hannibal,” but this was pure hate and vengeance. I’ll admit to turning away at one point. She was dealt with such brutality, that in the end she even broke her vow of silence to plead for her life. It did nothing to assuage her captors, though.
Now, I saw retribution coming after last week’s Christmas time raid on people’s homes. You just knew that the people of Mapleton were not going to take that slap in the face lying down. Thematically, stoning a person to death is just a short leap from nailing them with a rock to the head from a moving car. When the Guilty Remnant upped the ante, so did the people they pissed off.
Another surprise in the aftermath of all of this is the transformation of Meg (Liv Tyler). There was an innocence and compassion in her still when she showed up at Kevin’s house with Laurie. Once Gladys is killed, she completely changes. “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. I guess I should be scared, but I’m not.” She symbolically takes a cigarette from Laurie and smokes it. She’s now fully indoctrinated. Later, Kevin goes to talk to the Guilty Remnant to encourage them to stay indoors after dark and give them whistles to call for help. He also wants to see how Laurie is doing. When he asks Meg, she tells him with such cruelty, “She’s not your wife anymore.”
Throughout this whole series, Kevin has compensated for his poor and awkward parenting skills by overworking himself and/or getting drunk. But there’s a breakthrough between him and Jill. We first see it when he shows up at her school to talk to her. Jill loses it and starts crying, thinking Laurie was the Guilty Remnant member killed. It’s the first touch of emotion she’s displayed. Later, there is a touching scene in Kevin’s bedroom. He’s lost Laurie, and he’s finally accepted it. Jill walks in to find him in tears on his bed. He tells her he and Laurie are getting a divorce, and apologizes. She tells him it’s not his fault, and then they both say they love each other.
Between the townspeople not giving a shit about the death of Gladys, and the news reports about other cults, we find out the cult phenomenon is running rampant throughout the country. It’s gotten so out of control that the ATF is now the ATFEC (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and Cults). One of Kevin’s detectives takes it upon themselves to get the feds involved and labels it a hate crime. A later conversation between an agent and Kevin tells us where the ATFEC really stands on cults. He tells Kevin that “This shit spreads if you let it,” and basically offers to send a team to Mapleton to take care of the Guilty Remnant the same way they took care of Holy Wayne’s ranch. It’s driven home even more so, when we see what happens to Gladys’ body when it is sent to the ATFEC’s forensic team. It’s placed in a room with dozens of other cult member bodies, labeled, and instead of investigating what happened to her, the body is cremated. The authorities care as much about them as they care for themselves. Rev. Jamison says it best, “Killing these people is pointless. They don’t care because they’re already dead.”
The other great scene of this episode is between Patti and Laurie. After suffering a massive panic attack, Laurie is taken to a motel by Patti. She’s given a day off from being a Guilty Remnant member. This includes a night in a nice room, mirrors, a bath, comfy bed, real clothes, and being able to speak. Patti does all of the speaking and basically gives her the option to leave. This is a test. Go back to what is easy and comfortable, or stick through the tough times and continue to do the cults important work. Laurie seems on the fence, and it isn’t until the last moment of the show that she shows her true colors.
The departure left rival factions trying to find answers. What does it mean? Is everything meaningless? Who has the answers? Does anyone? Is it possible to carry on and live in the aftermath, or to pick up the pieces of a broken and shattered family and society and move forward? Tune in next week.
Some more tidbits and thoughts:
– There is a cute scene between Nora and Kevin again at the dry cleaners. Things are going to happen there. With that much flirting, something has to come of it.
– Father Jamison wants to save the members of the Guilty Remnant. He wants to take them from the living dead they are, and bring them back to life. I don’t think that’s going to happen though.
– When Gladys’ body is put into the crematorium, it looks as if there is a halo around her head, like a martyr in iconography. Will this play into future episodes? I bet it does.
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
Read Liz Hannah’s review of “Gladys” here.