TV Review: The Leftovers Answers A Few Questions In “Penguins Two, Us Zero”

If you had unanswered questions after the premiere of HBO’s The Leftovers (spoiler alert: you did), then you’ll be a little glad to know that the show began to slowly dole out answers with last night’s episode.

“Penguins Two, Us Zero” was written by Kath Lingenfelter and series co-creator Damon Lindelof. While I haven’t spoken much about Lost here (loved the show and the finale), I think given Lindelof’s history on Lost, we’re in for another more character driven ride. The show is definitely drawing our focus to its characters rather than heaping on supernatural weirdness around the Sudden Departure.

“Penguins Two, Us Zero” finds us still connected to our proxies the Garvey family, in all their splintered forms. Tom narrowly, although violently, escapes a raid on Holy Wayne’s compound a la Waco, TX. In fact, as long as we’re talking supernatural, Wayne seems to have some connection to something bigger, whether we believe he really can hug the pain out of people. Either way, Tom saves Christine, his gummi candy girlfriend of sorts, and Wayne charges him to protect the girl for what’s coming next before Wayne disappears again.

Chief Kevin Garvey is having a bad day as well. Seems he can just go blowing away dogs in the middle of the street, and his actions land him in psychiatric evaluation. It doesn’t help that the bald dude in the truck has just vanished, so now it looks like Kevin is cracking up. So is the guy real or not? It’s still vague. Jill sees him and interacts with him, but when Kevin visits his dad in a mental hospital, his dad hears voices to tell Kevin someone is being sent to help him. The Leftovers is playing coy about Kevin’s sanity, but I studied those scenes over and over, looking for M. Night Shyamalan style clues, which is probably a terrible name to invoke this early in the show.

When he’s not killing dogs or losing bagels, Kevin likes to “harass” the Guilty Remnant. He stops by on a missing persons case and happens upon the new recruit, Meg. Meg’s been struggling with committing to the Remnant, something that Kevin can see, so he reaches out to her as best he can. Of course, Kevin has no clue Meg’s mentor (or whatever they’re called) is his wife, Laurie.

Laurie’s having her own problems, making headway on Meg’s indoctrination, which includes the almost chopping down of trees or something. Eventually it’s Laurie’s heart to heart “talk” with Meg that wins the new girl over. I feel like the Guilty Remnant is the only place The Leftovers is either being purposefully vague or just downright unclear in motivation. They’re definitely emerging as an antagonistic force despite the townsfolk’s violent gestures toward them.

Jill continues her apathetic streak, as she stalks a lady from the coffee shop with a gun in her purse. Jill and Aimee commandeer the twins and their Prius to follow the woman to an appointment. While she’s inside a house doing an insurance interview for parents seeking recompense for their missing son, Aimee digs around in the woman’s car for hand lotion. We’re spending some time with this woman, so I’m sure she’s going to come more into play as this season progresses. For now, all we really know is she is close with Father Jamison, is armed, and does insurance stuff.

“Penguins Two, Us Zero” gives us just enough new information to keep things interesting. I’m more drawn to the mystical stuff going on with Kevin and Wayne myself, and for my money these are the most engaging characters save for the priest. Much of this episode does retread some of the same emotional ground as the pilot which can make for tedious viewing in moments. I’m ready to learn more about the rich world of this show.

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