“Gladys” is the latest assault/episode from HBO’s The Leftovers.
There’s still this overwhelming sense that something bigger is at play in this show’s universe, something that’s waiting to be revealed, so I’m still onboard, but it’s gradually becoming harder to remain that way. With this fifth episode, I’m starting to feel far more punished for watching than entertained.
“Gladys” opens with a horrifying segment, one that first takes the time to establish, once again, just how awful the Guilty Remnant is growing in Mapleton. They pester public events with slogans that provoke, they break into people’s homes and steal their family photographs, they’ve stolen Father Jamison’s church, and spend this episode painting newspaper vending units white. Mapleton’s community has been close to a full fledged mob rule on the GR, and we see the first volley in this here as shadowy assailants grab an elderly member and pull her into the woods. It’s a hard scene because we’ve been conditioned to view these silent, chain smoking cult members as villains, so for a moment I feel simultaneously sickly elated and terrified at what is coming. That we linger so long on the violence that ensues, her being duct taped to a tree and stoned to death, is nearly unwatchable, but I still watched it twice to be sure of what went down. So now Chief Garvey has a hate crime on his hands, running interference between federal involvement and a growing division in his community. He can’t get a curfew posted in town, it gets voted down by the city council. The prime suspect is Father Jamison, but no one truly believes the man had anything to do with it. In fact, Jamison has the best scenes of the episode, wanting to pray for the victim.
On the Garvey end of things, it’s beginning to look like the theory of the dog hunting Dee is an actual person and not a delusion. Dee’s present at the crime scene, as he was in the woods doing what he do, when it all went down. He also pops up in the town meeting, pushing back at Garvey’s curfew so hard, he might have actually kept the motion from passing. So, the Garvey is losing it theory received another hole, but I’ve seen too many of these tropes still play out. We’re going to but this one in the “Maybe” column.
This isn’t to say Garvey isn’t losing it, though. His drunken tirade at his dry cleaners, his crazed obsession with the house alarm, and his swear packed message to a federal agent isn’t a sign of normalcy. Thankfully, when he finally gets in touch with the agent, he has the sense enough to pass on the offer to send troops in and storm the Guilty Remnant compound. We do learn that these types of cults are everywhere, only with different names, and our government seems to have a violent way of dealing with their discord.
On the GR side of things, they’re dealing with the loss in their quiet, smoke filled way. Laurie gets taken on what is either a sabbatical or a test of her faith, given the opportunity to wear regular clothes and have a conversation. Gladys’ death shines a light on how devoted she was to the cause. Laurie never cracks, for good or ill, but when Jamison pays a sweet evening visit to the GR houses for a public prayer, Laurie heads outside. We think she’s going out to share the moment in her own way, now a stronger devotee to the GR, but we see just how strong she is with the group, blowing a whistle so loud it drowns out Jamison’s words.
“Gladys” is well acted and scripted, even if it only adds a small but of new information. We already know this is a hard world, rocked by the Sudden Disappearance. I’m still a devoted Lindelof fan boy, and I’m trusting this is heading somewhere. But the heaviness of The Leftovers is becoming harder to bear.
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