Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Leftovers, Season 1, Episode 5: Gladys

It looks like a Guilty Remnant episode, with Patti (the boss) focusing on Gladys before sending her out on the usual GR activities – including vandalism with white paint (in public and broad daylight – seriously, how come the police do so little about the GR? Kevin rumbles and rants about the GR holding demonstrations but they stalk people, break into people’s houses, steal and paint over windows and newspaper dispensers and get no consequences?)

We see more hostile reactions to their stalking and even Gladys walking around an old man who falls in the street and begs for help.

While they separate to shop, Gladys is alone when a gloved man grabs her from behind and drags her into the woods. They tie her to a tree then brutally and horrifically stone her to death, not stopping even when she begs. It’s a horrendously graphic scene.

Patti gathers the GR and tries to stop Meg joining but she insists she wants to help. They go to the petrol station where Gladys vanished then search the woods where she was taken. While they’re looking, some dogs run past, chased and shot by the random-dog-killing-guy. Lauren finds Gladys’s body.

Over to Kevin, waking up and starting his day while the news reports of another cult being raided by an agency. He finds a number of his shirts are missing and the burglar alarm has been turned off (though he assumes it’s Jill). And Aimee stayed the night again. He opens the door to find Patti holding a sign saying what happened.

At the GR neighbourhood/headquarters/base, Laurie is visibly shaken, but not Meg who isn’t surprised – she points out they’re pushing people to remember something everyone wants to forget. She considered it inevitable – and that she’s oddly unscared; she says as she takes one of Laurie’s cigarettes. But Laurie has a full blown panic attack.

Kevin leads his team investigating and correcting any half-assed jobs people are doing. He tells Patti he needs the GR to stay off the streets because he can’t protect them, fully expecting her to tell him no – but she agrees. He also interviews dog-killing-guy who is called Dean (a park ranger goes past and identifies him) who complains about Kevin avoiding him for their fun dog hunting expeditions.

Kevin decides to see Jill at school who naturally panics because she assumes something has happened to Laurie. He just wanted to tell her the person who was attacked wasn’t Laurie so she doesn’t panic or worry – well intentioned but his execution was somewhat flawed. When she stops crying she gets angry – she says she shouldn’t have cried since Laurie wouldn’t have cried for her.

At the police station he has a huge argument with one of his officers who contacted the office of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Cults (I would say those things don’t go together – but since when have tobacco and firearms?) because the GR fit their criteria. Kevin, as is his wont, completely loses his temper and lunges at the officer but Mayor Lucy is there, the only one who can talk sense into this man (and should probably be looking at how to fire him/replace him/something). But Lucy is actually pissed at officer Lou for calling ATFEC and demands he call to take it back. That sorted Lucy asks if Kevin needs anything and he asks for a curfew to give an impression of a response and so he can force the GR to stay inside. She agrees and needs him to attend a meeting to make it happen – but is also concerned because Kevin has obvious bias when it comes to the GR

Kevin spends the night in his car watching the GR house; he’s woken the next morning by a man who tells him “not to investigate too hard” into Gladys’s death. Because that’s just the right thing to say to a police officer who spent all night watching over the people you attacked. He calls Dennis, one of his officers and asks him to bring in Rev Matt (having just been reminded that the GR bought his church).

He goes home to Jill and Aimee (does Aimee actually live with them? And if she is, you’d think they could be a little less formal) and Jill is her usual sunshiny self and Aimee helps Kevin to navigate the maze of Jill’s endless grumpiness.

Laurie is checked out at the hospital and released with pills, outside she’s picked up by Patti. As they drive, Patti turns on the radio and even dances a little to the music which seems very non-GR. She takes them to a hotel and they get two rooms. Laurie settles in (and wryly notes she can’t smoke in the room)

When she wakes up Laurie finds clothes laid out for her – which aren’t white. She puts them on and goes to meet Patti in the restaurant – and Patti talks to her (not with notes) and encourages her to try the all day breakfast. Laurie’s all kind of confused by Patti explains after 8 months without talking, she’s due a day off. Laurie seems quite stunned by the whole thing, so Patti orders her a big breakfast. She tells Laurie that she once took Gladys for a mini-holiday like her as well; when her son died Gladys began to “feel again” and even show that feeling around others, apparently a big no-no (there’s an edge of rebuke there for Laurie’s panic attack in public). Laurie still hasn’t spoken a word – so Patti continues to be sympathetic and understanding before passionately telling Laurie that she cannot doubt; she gets extremely emotional.

They head home, dropping off a paper bag with “Neil” written on it on the way – and Patti turns the radio off. Holiday’s over

Over to Kevin who is, again, missing his shirts (but he looks damn fine without one) which calls for a visit to his cleaners to see if they’ve got them and forgot to return them – still no shirts. Nora is there to offer general goodwill and connection with the frustrated Kevin. He also keeps trying to call the ATFEC and only getting voicemail.

At work, Kevin interview Rev Matt who seems more bemused than anything about being considered a suspect, instead asking to see Gladys’s body so he can pray for her. Now it’s Kevin’s turn to be bemused. This makes him a little late for the curfew meeting – which is completely overwhelmed with concerned (well, irritated) citizens. Kevin tries to explain himself but there’s pushback about them having to inconvenience themselves because of the GR (with added victim blaming); Dean joins in on the same vein. He even suggests the GR did it to themselves. Kevin quickly loses his temper and swears at the crowd because he’s Kevin. Lucy has to take over – but the council won’t support a curfew in the face of the angry crowd.

Kevin goes to the GR to, again, try to demand they all stay in their houses. Failing that he’s gathered some whistles for them – if they can’t shout for help at least they can blow a whistle. But he also criticises them for how they’re annoying others – he does partly have a point (the GR are stalking people, after all), but it does carry a whiff of victim blaming as well. Kevin also talks to Meg to try and find out where Laurie is – of course she doesn’t know. She just says “she’s not your wife any more”.

Kevin goes to see Rev Matt where he’s holding a prayer group in his house and agrees to let him see Gladys and pray over her. Matt also has an additional insight on the GR – killing them is pointless, because they’re already dead; he wants to bring them back to life. But when they get to the morgue, the body is missing because the ATFEC agent who won’t return Kevin’s calls has had the body shipped to him. Kevin has one of his classic temper tantrums into the agent’s voicemail.

Just to finish off his day, Kevin goes home and his burglar alarm is finally active – only he’s forgotten the code – the alarm goes off just as he gets a call back from the ATFEC agent. He tries to get Gladys’s body back but the agent says he can’t but he also doesn’t want any other evidence they’ve collected – it all sounds either very slap dash or very shady.  An agent will get to Kevin in 4-6 weeks – but if he wants it quicker they will just send a few vans full of armed agents to shoot the GR. Kevin is stunned and manages to gasp out a polite “no thank you”

He then goes out, gets drunk and attack his cleaners looking for shirts. Yup, barges his way in and threatens and menaces the man until he gives Kevin several shirts. The cleaner, unsurprisingly, refuses payment.

Kevin goes home and he tells Jill about the divorce. He’s tearful but she’s calm – she tells him it’s not his fault. When she leaves he collapses in tears.

Back at the GR, Laurie and Patti return to find Meg, dressed in white and now not speaking – using a writing pad to tell Laurie and Patti that she’s ready. They’re interrupted by Rev Matt and his flock holding a prayer vigil outside their house and Matt uses a loud speaker to euologise Gladys. He invites them to come out and join him and starts praying by loudspeaker at them. Laurie goes out and blows her whistle in his face, interrupting his prayer. Inside, Patti smiles.

At the ATFEC, we see Glady’s body is just one of dozens, maybe hundreds, disposed of with no real effort of processing – just cremated.

In some ways I actually like that this episode didn’t shy away from showing the GR are pretty unpleasant people, including Gladys. We saw her stalking people. We saw her painting over the newspaper seller. We saw her step over the old man who fell and was begging for help. We saw all that but the attack on her was still presented as brutal, evil and utterly inexcusable. I think that’s important – too often we have a habit of presenting victims as saintly; and this especially applies to hate crimes where there’s still a pervasive idea that the victim has to meet an almost impossible standard of behaviour to be considered a legitimate victim.  Gladys was not a nice person and she did some not very nice things – none of which justified what happened to her.

An added element to that is the way Kevin, basically, turned round and even when having some sympathy for the GR (and demanding a better performance from his police at the crime scene), still turned to the GR and expected them to restrict themselves and he considered them a nuisance. Of course, this is personal to him but still has some obvious elements – even while condemning a hate crime the powers that be would rather the victims just keep their heads down and hide rather than be an ongoing “problem”; it’s easier to keep the victims scared and hidden than it is to protect them. We see the same pushback at the meeting, the GR are attacked, but the curfew is “because of them”. The victims of the hate crime are not to be protected, they’re to hide or suppress their difference and not inconvenience the “normal” people.

I’m not even sure how to unpack Patti and Laurie – on the one side it’s very human but on the other it feels very coercive. Possibly both

Of all the characters on this show the one who interests me the most is Lucy – perhaps because she’s not the only one wallowing in angst yet is still managing to hold together the town and get things done while literally surrounded by people who are hurting, distracted or otherwise not focused on the task at hand (whatever the task is), while still managing to be classy and competent.

Unlike Kevin who is rapidly getting on my last nerve. His endless rage and lashing out with no consequence is getting old. Yes, there’s a lot of crap in his life – but if there’s one thing this show has made clear is that the Departure has done terrible things to many people, that’s the default here, sadly.

One of the more subtle forms of world building we’re seeing is the introduction of a proliferation of cults after the Departure – which is an understandable response; we’ve seen hints for a long time but now it’s really cleared – and the ATFEC’s way of dealing with it is even clearer and adds a lot of context to what happened to Wayne’s group

And let’s finish with Rev Matt’s actions and why I cheered Laurie for blowing that whistle at him. Yes he’s well intentioned but ultimately this is a religious leader from a different religion presuming to insert himself in the funeral customs, eulogy and loss of a group that does not follow his faith; he openly says he’s trying to change what they believe and he is using the death of one of them as a way to do that. He went to their house in the night accompanied by his church to insert himself via megaphone with his church’s payers. His actions are as invasive as the worst of the what the GR do – and I very much appreciate that his arrogance was so harshly countered