UK TV review: The Leftovers Episode 5 (Gladys)
Ivan Radford | On 14, Oct 2014
“I lift up mine eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? It comes from the Lord.”
A spoiler warning for Episode 5 of The Leftovers: it starts with a stoning. The gruesome, barbaric murder of Guilty Remnant member Gladys is a horrific opening, one that marks Damon Lindelof’s series taking a turn from the mysterious to the very dark.
“Please stop,” Gladys says, as the rocks are pelted at her – in brutal, bloody, unflinching detail. It’s not the first time we’ll see a Guilty Remnant follower breaking their vow of silence. What’s surprising is who the other person turns out to be.
In the wake of the even, police chief Kevin goes into full breakdown mode. If Justin Theroux’s wild eyes and erratic moods haven’t concerned you already, here he goes one step further, losing his rag at a dry cleaner’s because they can’t find his white shirts. But The Leftovers is busy sowing seeds of substance beneath Kevin’s frustrations: not only is his concern for his ex-wife’s safety (now that Laurie is in the cult) very real, but even the crazed man (Dean), who was shooting dogs earlier, has graduated from possible figment of his imagination to 100% real person. At the same time, there’s hints of possible happiness in the future, as Kevin keeps bumping into formerly-gun-toting stranger Nora (Carrie Coon) and swapping flirtatious remarks. Maybe our impression of her was wrong too?
It’s become a pleasure to watch these lost, left behind people interact in evolving, surprising ways. It’s reassuring to see The Leftovers demonstrate at the halfway point in its first season that its characters are going somewhere. If Episode 3 suggested that a standalone approach would be best for the series, giving each person room to develop, Episode 5 extols the virtues of its current path. (It also proves that the show is much tighter without the subplot involving Kevin’s wayward son, Tom.)
Liv Tyler’s Meg, for example, is quietly changing from a GR newbie into a chain-smoking veteran. But the biggest transformation is found in her leader, Patti. Ann Dowd demonstrated in Compliance that she was a formidable actress. Here, she reminds us once more with a bravura display of nuance and versatility. Deciding to take Laurie for a day off-campus, she shacks up in a pancake house with Kevin’s ex-wife, going from serious advice to silly jokes with an unsettling ease; just like that, Patti becomes a person more than a threatening facial expression and a preachy notepad.
“There can’t be any doubt,” she tells Laurie at one point, “because doubt is fire. And fire’s gonna burn you up until you are but ash.”
It’s a beautiful line, its archaic wording adding to the ongoing stream of Biblical references – each one given more potency in the wake of Gladys’ tragic demise. Elsewhere, Reverend Matthew (the still-sublime Christopher Eccleston) gives the Gospel of Thomas an airing, a story which depicts Thomas learning the secret of Jesus’ identity, only to warn the others that to tell them before they’re ready to hear it would prompt them to stone him – and that the stones would then erupt into flame and engulf them all.
Is doubting one’s commitment to the GR the cause of “fire”? Or is it knowledge? And what does that make Gladys’ death? As Kevin learns secrets from the ATFEC, the script (written by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta) adds a new layer of more practical questions to the existing metaphysical and philosophical enigmas. Despite this being the most overtly Bible-related episode to date, that grounding gives the narrative enough drive to overcome the malaise that forever looms over the town.
Into the collision of people, rock and fire steps the reverend, who takes it upon himself to recite Psalm 121 to any mourners who will listen. As he lifts his eyes to the hills, The Leftovers feels more down-to-earth than ever.
Season 1 and 2 of The Leftovers available on Sky Box Sets. Not got Sky? You can watch The Leftovers online on with NOW, 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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