“Now get me a fucking cigarette.”
That’s Patti to Kevin Garvey in Episode 8 of The Leftovers, an episode that sees the Guilty Remnant cult leader strapped to a chair in the woods.
Who by? We suspect the police chief, but Kevin can’t quite remember. Flashbacks to a kidnap with local dog-shooter Dave seem to confirm it, but even he might be a figment of Kevin’s imagination, so we’re still not certain.
When? On a night leading up to… well, we don’t quite know what. The episode opens with a glimpse of Matt’s former church (seized by the GR) being filled with clothes of disappeared children from the town’s families. “There’s trouble all over this world,” sings a gospel choir in the background, but this is The Leftovers doing what it does best: taking that global state of emotional limbo and scaling it down to a small, personal tale.
Why is she tied to a chair? What could be a one-sided hostage situation soon becomes more complex than that, as Patti opens her mouth for the second time this season. The pair’s verbal tussle is as tense as you’d expect, thriving on that uneasy balance between knowing and not knowing. While Kevin doesn’t have a clue why Patti is tied to a chair in the woods, she is only too sure. And the question becomes another one entirely: what exactly does she want?
“You to fucking commit,” she spits at him. “To finish the job.”
It’s all a bit much for poor Kevin, who, when he isn’t being tortured by his inability to torture, is facing an equally awkward interrogation at home. Nora, after last week’s spark of romance, comes round for dinner – much to daughter Jill’s displeasure. Here, finally, is where Jill really develops beyond that initial cliche, holding onto the past with increasing intensity. “Why don’t you need a gun anymore? How’d you get better?” she fires across the table at Kevin’s smiling girlfriend, but the blow comes later, when arguing with her friend. “It is possible for some people to be OK,” Jill is informed. In case there was any doubt, it’s now clearer than ever: Jill is not OK.
Her pouty baggage is the perfect contrast to her mum, who has left hers firmly in the past to join the chain-smoking GR. In Patti’s absence, Laurie appears to step up to the vacant role of authority, displaying an imperial silence that doesn’t hesitate to control outbursts from a scene-stealing Liv Tyler.
And yet, the GR’s mission is the opposite of closure; to force everyone around them to confront the vanishing afresh every day. Once again, it’s that conflict between moving on from trivial trauma and holding on to past pain that makes the drama so satisfying; a nation’s struggle that can be easily related on a domestic scale.
There are dark hints, though, that things are neither forgiven nor forgotten peppered throughout this hour. Memorial Day is mentioned in passing. What could be planned for then? What is sure is that between the estranged offspring, the new partner, the powerful ex and the local meddling priest, Sheriff Garvey will be caught right in the middle of it.
“I want you to commit,” repeats Patti, dictating the subject of her inquisition, as well as its threatening tone. But what she really means is understand – understand the need for Patti to do what she does. With our mysterious dog-shooter fleeing the scene, it’s just her and Kevin talking it out. And Ann Dowd nails it, doing everything from taunting to reciting poetry to spill some moral blood on the floor. If the entire episode was just these two going at it, shattering the windows between them and their problems, this could be the series’ best chapter so far. But the building momentum outside of the shed only adds to Patti’s conviction. In a town of uncertainty, this is a woman who, scarily, seems to know more than anyone else. By the time her kidnapping’s up, you’ll need a f*cking cigarette.
Season 1 and 2 of The Leftovers available on Sky Box Sets. Not got Sky? You can watch The Leftovers online on with NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription that includes live and on-demand access to Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, FOX UK and more.
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