UK TV review: The Leftovers Season 2, Episode 3
Unexpected character relevance7
Ivan Radford | On 01, Nov 2015
Already seen Episode 3? Read on at the bottom for spoilers.
“Who wants a hug?” asks Tommy in Episode 3 of The Leftovers Season 2. Yes, the Garvey that nobody cared about in Season 1 is back and he has a whole episode devoted to him. But if the first season of Damon Lindelof’s show struggled to stop him feeling like an irrelevant waste of time, this hour suggests that the problem was actually that we didn’t spend enough time with him.
That’s the real strength of The Leftovers: its ability to identify with every single character on screen, whether they’re protagonists, antagonists or potential cult leaders. It’s not just ability, either: it’s a willingness to do so. So far in this second run, we’ve had three episodes following three different people. The result retreads old ground, but from a new perspective; after becoming bogged down in Kevin Garvey and co’s struggles and mysteries, each fresh outlook on the universal uncertainty following the departure proves just as engrossing.
It’s no coincidence that Tommy and his mum, Laurie, have had their roles re-jigged slightly in the post-Season 1 finale world: gone is Laurie’s mute obedience to the Guilty Remnants cult. In its place? A desire for revenge. And so mother and son pair up for some vigilante action. They’ve transformed from wayward tangents and loose ends into a single, coherent unit.
Chris Zylka seizes the chance to have more screen-time, going undercover to infiltrate the Guilty Remnants cult himself and rescue people from its grasp. It’s a difficult task, requiring him to undergo the group’s oath of silence, only to have to break it to recruit members to their movement. But as we found out last season, the GR may be mute, but they’re not dumb: Tommy soon comes face-to-face with Liv Tyler’s Meg, who was once under Laurie’s wing, but finds a cruel way to put him under hers.
Zylka gives Tommy a conviction that’s really quite unsettling: he moves between loyalty, fear and, finally, happiness, with you believing every side of his personality. It’s the kind of quality that’s essential for people to believe and follow him – even if his undercover attempts aren’t always successful.
Every action, though, is not just a mark of devotion to his mum, but also a sign of just how ruthless she is: Kevin, who is always concerned with keeping a tab on his son’s movements, would never let his son go into such danger, something emphasised by the fact that this is the first episode so far that hasn’t featured Justin Theroux’s cop.
Amy Brenneman is amazing as Laurie, who has transformed completely since the last time we saw her – and not just because now, she talks. Having tried to find a spiritual form of closure through the Guilty Remnants, she’s rebounded in the opposite direction, turning to her experience as a therapist to find a psychological solution. That doesn’t just mean helping others to give her peace of mind: it also means using her training to manipulate others, something that she wouldn’t be blink twice at.
That transformation is absolute: she’s gone from being passive to active, from a patient to a doctor and from a character in a wider narrative to her own story-teller. That’s literally the case here, as she writes up her experience with the GR into a novel for publication – she’s taking control of her own life story.
Of course, the GR aren’t going to let that happen without trying to wrestle control away from her once again. Their insidious, residing influence is seen in Susan, a rescued soul from the GR, who isn’t able to handle being at the proverbial wheel – a fact that comes us a crushing blow to Laurie. But she’s willing to drive head-on at her problems, or even at people, to get her tale out there.
And yet she’s also clutching at straws to some extent. “You never really explain why they made you smoke,” says a publisher during one heated conversation. “That’s because it was never explained,” she retorts, holding back anger with an intensity that’s visible on Brenneman’s face. It’s that balance between passive and aggressive that makes Laurie such a fascinating character: smoking, as Amy points out in this interesting interview, is an act that can be self-destructive or cruel to those around you (another way of the GR toxically infecting people’s space), and, in a way, Laurie is still careening between those two extremes. It’s telling that, whether she’s putting her foot on the accelerator, or pushing her fist into someone’s face, the only time she really expresses her emotion is when she’s silent. Her book, most of all, is a way of speaking out without actually speaking. The result is an engaging and surprising turnaround in both Laurie and Tommy’s lives and their relevance to the show. But even the most drastic changes in direction don’t always mean that you’ve successfully moved on.
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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