The Leftovers, S1E2 – Penguin One, Us Zero

Welcome to episode two of The Leftovers. We know now that the Amy Brenneman character is Laurie Garvey, a member of the Guilty Remnants and, more importantly, Kevin’s wife. To Kevin, that’s another form of loss, hardly better than a disappearance. And we also know that Meg Abbott has joined the Guilty Remnants, at least provisionally.

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An organisation called AFFEC has some inside skinny on Wayne, and our worst fears are confirmed: he has lost a kid, has recruited his mainly young followers in shopping malls and on campuses and claims to be able to hug the pain out of people, but needs to recharge his batteries by using teenage girls of preferably Asian descent. What a bastard. He is wanted for statutory rape in another state. No wonder that the AFFEC raids Wayne’s retreat by shooting on sight. It’s a bloodbath, although Wayne, Tom Garvey and his latest victim Christine are able to escape. I don’t think the AFFEC are a governmental organisation, so who are they? A special force to deal with the paranoid aftermath of October 14?

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We get to see the intro to the series, which looks like a modern version of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. That intro gives the whole disappearance issue a religious streak which, for some of the characters, is precisely wrong, but at least the segment looks haunting, if only because of the slighty weird nudity.

Kevin Garvey might see people who aren’t really there and ask stray deer if they broke into his home, so it’s hardly surprising that we see him on a shrink’s sofa. That shrink is not really worth his money, so Garvey does not tell him about his latest dream: he is woken in his bed by a half-naked Aimee, his daughter’s best friend, who leads him outside into the wintry woods, where the dog-shooter has upgraded his game and now shoots at little children. Then Garvey discovers that his feet are on fire. He wakes. Captain, you have more problems than you might realize. Get a new shrink. (There is also a toy penguin in the shrink’s practice, but that doesn’t fully explain the episode’s title. Maybe it means that rage wins every time against any other feeling.)

We also learn more about Nora Durst. Jill and Aimee discover that she has a gun in her purse and uses her sad popularity to get free coffee. The two teens follow Nora to a house where she is ringing the bell. She works for an insurance company and has to conduct interviews on camera so that the leftover people qualify for “departure benefit”. There is an abyss of pain in that seemingly simple scene where Nora is interviewing that elderly couple whose son has disappeared. Nora (Carrie Coon) is intriguing: she could have left Mapleton, but is still around, and even conducts interviews that must bring back the pain of her own family’s disappearance. Why is she still doing this? I want to know more.

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This episode is full of surprises. The first surprise is that we get to see Kevin Garvey Sr., former police captain until his meltdown and now an inmate of the psychiatric ward, played by Scott Glenn. He insists he is sane, but hears a voice from someone who isn’t there, telling his son that help is on the way. I’m sure Junior will keep that in mind. Another surprise is that the Mayor (Amanda Warren) is his girlfriend. The surprise is not that she is much younger than he is, but that the Mayor still visits the ward so she can see her boyfriend, the former police captain. You would think that a political high-flyer would choose her partner more carefully, if only for PR reasons, but no. That Mayor Lucy Warburton doesn’t care if anyone sees does make her rather more sympathetic in my eyes.

Next surprise: The dog-shooter’s car turns up in Garvey’s driveway. Then the dog-shooter turns up on Garvey’s doorstep with a six-pack, wanting to be Garvey’s friend and stating that they are doing God’s work. Garvey sends him away, but is relieved when he realises that Jill can see the shooter, too. You realize life is brittle when your sanity depends on the existence of two bagels.

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I might have lost count of all the surprises, but there are lot of them. Another good episode, but I am expecting somewhat more. Three moments that stand out: Tom refuses to be hugged by Wayne who has just killed, kissed and licked a guy (in that order) who looks like his former bodyguard, and Wayne’s reply that Tom is “all suffering and no salvation.” Did Wayne shoot him? Garvey almost slips on the false teeth of his neighbour’s missing brother, and I surprised myself by thinking that it is somehow very touching that people disappear, but may leave their false teeth behind. And the Mayor tells Garvey Jr. that she never should have told him “to watch the fucking Wire” when she sees his elaborate info-boards about the Guilty Remnants. Shieeeet – HBO, I even know what y’all are talking ’bout.

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