Monday, January 5, 2015

The Leftovers, Season 1, Episode 2: Penguin One, Us Zero

Government agents are discussing Wayne – Holy Wayne. Wayne lost a son during the Departure and now claims to be able to “hug the pain” out of people (which apparently worked on the congressman). For which he charges a lot of money – and also has sex with Asian girls, with accusations of statutory rape lurking over him but he managed to fall off the radar. Because he has been selling his hugs to politicians the agents think they can name him a security threat – and they assess his group as a dangerous cult.

They attack the compound, guns blazing. Many people are shot, several not appearing to be armed, and numerous young Asian women are roughly dragged out and cuffed – with guns pointed at anyone who runs (along with misogynist slurs). One of the police threatens to shoot Christine unless she tells him where Wayne is, despite her saying she doesn’t know where he is. As he continues to threaten her with death while she screams and cries, Tom shoots him in the back. Tom tells the dying cop that he’s sorry (I’m not) – but she’s important. Tom grabs Christine and they run as more gunfire sounds.

Tom and Christine go on the run to a petrol station where, from what Christine says, they’re supposed to meet Wayne. He isn’t there – and the petrol station attendant has been killed. Tom almost calls his dad when Wayne arrives (looks like he was sneaked out of the compound by one of the initial agents).

Wayne kisses the murdered man, noting the dead man wouldn’t have let him do that while he was alive (what? What? What?) Wayne notes that the agents arrived to kill them all and that they opened fire without even trying to talk to them. He remarks on Tom having killed someone and offers him one of his magic healing hugs; he refuses which Wayne remarks isn’t the first time and that he can’t figure Tom out, why he’s all suffering and no salvation. He plans for Christine to leave with Tom, and neither of them with him.

Instead he gives them a wadge of cash, tells them to keep moving and hiding – and destroys their phones and replaces it with a burner phone he’ll call Tom on. Wayne tenderly kisses Christine goodbye, tells Tom that she’s everything before leaving. Which leaves Tom to have an epic meltdown in their truck. Christine isn’t upset – Wayne told her it’d be ok.

Over to Chief Kevin who has a weirdly inappropriate dream involving his daughter’s friend Aimee, the dog killer guy and shooting at a member of the Guilty Remnant. He’s woken up by his neighbour setting fire to the fence.

From there it’s off to see a therapist, which given the pilot, is probably not a bad idea for Kevin, except the therapist doesn’t sound very reassuring especially since he seems to think the dog-shooting-guy is a figment of Kevin’s imagination. At work Kevin takes out a lot of his frustration by being curt with poor officer Dennis who really doesn’t deserve that, but Kevin’s therapist isn’t the only one with a suspicion that Kevin completely invented the dog killer.

Meg is being mentored by Laurie in the ways of the Guilty Remnant, and this begins with her being taken out to the forest to try and cut down a very big tree with what appears to be a fairly blunt axe. Meg does not have a career as a lumberjack in her future. Meg gets frustrated, she has now been with the GR for weeks (so we’ve definitely fast forwarded) and they haven’t let her join or given answers (though they deny being cult which isn’t very convincing) she refuses to chop the tree because it’s freezing and ridiculous. Laurie holds up a sign saying “ok” apparently that was the response they were looking for (so entry into the GR seems to require you not to be so damn foolish as to try and chop down a tree for no damn reason except for the fact you were told to).

Kevin and Dennis go to the Guilty Remnant to serve a warrant so they can tell Ron Jensen, a new recruit who hasn’t stopped talking yet that there was a missing persons case out for him which has now been closed now he has been found. Kevin introduces himself to Meg and checks that she’s there voluntarily and doesn’t need help. He asks to take a picture of her and leaves her with his card.

Patti watches this and goes to have a written argument with Laurie, telling her that Meg is going to leave and Laurie is too soft on her and if she’s not strong enough they need to cut her loose.

That night Laurie takes Meg’s case – every night she has to give up some of her stuff to the GR. Meg asks for one night where she doesn’t have to but Laurie writes back “surrender.” Meg asks if Laurie even remembers what’s it’s like to care and Laurie points out that Kevin (the hot cop) is her husband (Meg is duly amazed that Laurie is avoiding such hotness). Laurie just writes “I Remember”. Meg says she doesn’t want to feel this way any more – which is eerily similar to what Wayne says before his magic hugs.

Later Patti comes to Laurie with a note that Meg has gone – she’s in the woods, grinning and chopping at the tree.

Kevin is collecting these photos to match to missing persons – it seems people being reported missing and showing up at the GR isn’t unknown, but also feels like he’s keeping a file on them. Mayor Lucy comes in and sees his little board (lovely snark “I should never have told you to watch The Wire”) to make the point to Kevin that maybe he shouldn’t go to the GR to serve warrants after he drunkenly attacked one last episode. Also, Kevin shooting packs of dogs has not encouraged anyone about Kevin’s stability or sanity. Kevin really doesn’t reassure Lucy at all. She also cryptically says she’s “visiting” someone – not who or where; Kevin asks her to pass on a greeting. She leaves and Kevin gets aggressive with a toaster oven which is probably not helping his reputation any.

After which, Kevin has to explain to Meg’s fiancé, Darren, trying to offer the hope that Meg could change his mind. This annoys Darren – he’s already delayed the wedding for three years and now Meg disappeared and joined the GR, he’s not interested in trying to win her back.

From there Kevin gets a call from Dennis to say they’ve found the truck the dog-killer drove – it’s in Kevin’s driveway. Dennis offers to lie and say he found it elsewhere, the implication being he thinks it’s Kevin’s truck and Kevin left it there.

That night Kevin gets a visitor – dog-killer guy. He won’t give his name when Kevin doesn’t embrace him as a friend – but he says he’s found another dog pack and he offers to meet Kevin to hunt them – he leaves Kevin his truck.

Kevin goes to visit a secure home in which Lucy is visiting an older man – Kevin’s father, the old police chief. Lucy leaves, kissing the old man goodbye (on the mouth, it seems far more than friendly). Kevin reduces Lucy’s waning faith in him still further by wondering if Lucy managed to steal his bagel from the toaster that morning. He and his dad have an awkward but pleasant conversation until Kevin finally asks “how did it start for you?” basically asking when did his father become mentally ill (showing Kevin’s own creeping worries). His dad suspects the reason and basically gives him advice on how to get the therapist off his back – which isn’t quite reassuring Kevin that all is ok. his dad cuts the advice half way to argue with the voice in his head – but then adds that “they” sent someone to help Kevin; which obviously brings the dog-killing man to mind. It’s all suitably vague and questionable.

He goes back to the police station to take the toaster oven apart – and finds the missing bagel.

In town we see the Guilty Remnant are still not popular, with a man throwing red paint at Gladys. And Pastor Matt continues to hand out his fliers declaring that the Departed were not nice people. Jill and Aimee walk past them all to a coffee shop, Jill being her usual snarky self; inside the shop is Nora (the woman who lost her whole family) and Aimee notices she has a gun in her purse – she also deliberately knock her coffee cup off the table to smash. When the worker behind the till runs over, he recognises who it is and he’s very solicitous of her.

Jill and Aimee follow her as she leaves and when they see her heading past Pastor Matt they assume it’s going to get ugly (a woman who lost her whole family and a man who spends all day denigrating the Departed) but instead they hug. Jill and Aimee decide to follow her, recruiting the eternally hopeful and sycophantic Frost twins to offer their car.

Nora goes to someone’s house to arrange for compensation since they had someone Departed – as part of that she has to ask them 150 questions on video as part of the department’s attempt to try and find some connection between the Departed. The questions are hard and very emotional and somewhat random.

Outside Aimee and Jill decide to steal hand cream from Nora’s car, because reasons. They finally leave the twins when it’s night time and Jill notes that Nora could leave town, go somewhere where no-one knows what happened to her, but she chooses to stay. They also realise the sweets they stole from Nora’s car are stale because they were for Nora’s kids – who disappeared 3 years ago.

Continuing from the pilot, this definitely seems to be a show focused primarily on a lot of people who have been hurt by the Departure and are all now struggling in different ways. It’s really well done – we’re touching on a big well of issues with Nora, we’re seeing Kevin slowly unravel but also fear just how much he’s unravel. Jill is obviously stew in problems and the whole Guilty Remnant is a massive klaxon of people struggling to deal – I think Lucy stands out as the one person who feels completely untouched by it all, and is almost struggling to hold Kevin together despite it.

I think that would be an interesting drama, but I also think it would be hard to make it original and, personally, it wouldn’t hold me – that’s not an indictment on the format so much as my personal tastes: I like speculative fiction, the weird, the wonderful, the magical – and using that as a brief background for more mundane ongoing personal drama will lose my interest and, quickly, the speculative fiction elements will become forgettable or irrelevant. But then we have things like the dogs and Wayne – there’s woo-woo ongoing, there’s a mystery to add to the drama.