Television: The Leftovers, "Gladys"

I don't really mean to go into the details of this episode; I'll give you the bare bones. Gladys, a member of the G.R., is duct taped to a tree and stoned to death, and the episode weaves through the aftermath of that crime, highlighting the town's general hatred of the G.R. and Kevin's duty to protect these people even as he despises them.

One has to be amazed at how bad the police in Mapleton are at their jobs. I mean, Kevin must be the worst police chief ever (late for everything), and yet he's still better than most of the guys working under him. Watching this show, one has the feeling Mapleton is pretty much fucked.

I've read a lot of online grumbling that nothing seems to happen on The Leftovers, that they're no closer to figuring out what happened when all those people disappeared or why. But—and I've said this before—I don't think this show is meant for that. I haven't read the book, but The Leftovers seems to me to be, at its foundation, a story about what people do when they have no answers. Apparently they create meaning in the form of religion/cults . . . At its core, The Leftovers is largely an anti-religious tract showing how beliefs will cause people to behave erratically, irrationally, and even dangerously, and how that behavior not only effects the people directly but their extended families as well. Religion/belief in The Leftovers is a kind of disease, the byproduct of something happening that no one can explain—it is used to stop up the holes left in people's lives when they have no answers.

In short, this isn't Lost, and I don't think the goal of the show is to tell us (the viewers) what really happened or how to fix it. I'm not defending the show or saying it should or shouldn't do that, I'm only stating my understanding based on what I've seen thus far.

I'll admit I was sort of lukewarm about The Leftovers (ha, lukewarm leftovers . . .), only half paying attention, but the show seems to be getting better and more interesting in small increments. But again, this show is not going to satisfy the kinds of people who are looking for the intense plotting and action of something like True Blood or even Game of Thrones; there's something very psychological about it, even when plot points are emphasized. And while GoT has psychological elements as well, those are generally based on strategy and manipulation, while The Leftovers explores something a bit more primal and less higher consciousness. Maybe it's my psychology minor that keeps me interested, but one can look at the characters in The Leftovers (and none of them are anyone you'd really cheer for) and wonder: If the Sudden Departure had never happened, in what ways would these psychoses have eventually manifested for these people? Because the Departure was clearly just a catalyst. It triggered something in all these characters, but that something was always there, under the surface.

They say you see a person's true colors at times of intense stress. Well, in The Leftovers we are seeing everyone's true colors. Which may be why there is so little to like about so many of these characters. At their most base, few people are truly good. (Or were all the truly good ones taken? Despite Jamison's assertions to the contrary?)

I think I like this show. I didn't at first, but it's the kind of show that, once you start to think about it, gets better for having been examined. Which is probably why so many people don't enjoy it. On a Sunday night, they just want to sit down and not think at all. But on the surface, The Leftovers is not very satisfying; it takes some digging to really appreciate it.

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