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The Leftovers Watch: Penguin One, Us Zero May Make You Crazy Or Sane Or Both
Another week of HBO’s The Leftovers, another week of me staring at my television as if it’s a malfunctioning piece of random technology. After last week’s premiere, I naively assumed that things would become normal in Mapleton, New York, despite reading other reviewers saying that it wouldn’t. I’m an optimist when it doesn’t count, what can I say?
Let’s focus on Justin Theroux’s Kevin Garvey for a second, shall we? So, audiences (of this episode at least) are made to think that maybe Kevin is kind of crazy. Nobody has seen dog-shooting Tobacco Lip except for him. His bagels all of a sudden disappear as they’re toasting right in front of him. Plus, we get to meet his dad (Scott Glenn), who is being institutionalized after whatever he did to lose his Police Chief job. (He’s apparently boning Mayor Lucy, which would explain the personal turmoil between her and Kevin.) Dad has this whole “I hear voices that are oddly prophetic” thing going on that easily fits into the argument that Kevin is definitely a loony. Or at least maybe he has the same prophecy thing going on. Remember the deer? It doesn’t explain his bagel toasting non-skills, but there may be something vaguely supernatural afoot.
By the end of the episode, though, we see that daughter Jill has seen Tobacco Lip, and the bagels just fell into the back of the toaster oven. So…Kevin…isn’t…crazy? But if he isn’t, then why does Jill have such a problem with him, and why did Tom feel the need to leave home? Plus, what about that dream about fire that he had right before he woke up to his fence on fire?
Now let's segue into Tom, whose story barely deepened tonight, as we found out the magical guru healer Wayne is actually just an underage-Asian smuggler criminal who is apparently aces at making people feel better about themselves. The government is after him, and it’s not to ask questions, as they’d rather speak with bullets. Wayne was hiding out, so Tom had to take the most precious Christine over to him. Wayne is kind of a weirdo, guys. I wouldn’t trust him with my child, even though she isn’t Asian. Does this have anything to do with Tom? No idea. He and Kevin didn’t talk to each other again this week, even though they called each other. Expect for that conversation to mean something big when it finally happens. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe Kevin doesn’t even have a son.
It’s as good a time as any to drift to Meg; the Liv Tyler character, for those who have as much trouble keeping up with character names as I do. The only part of this episode, titled “Penguin One, Us Zero,” that I fully understood was that Meg's tree wasn't getting chopped down properly because she was swinging with all the force of a hummingbird's whimper. This tree-chopping business is apparently her initiation into the Guilty Remnant, who are keeping Meg on amateur hour with Laurie. Meg’s fiancé meets up with Kevin at some point, and then Meg has left the Remnant’s housing situation by the end of the episode. Are they connected? Is anything connected?
Speaking of, what about Jill and Aimee and the Wonder Twins? Jill sees that lone survivor Nora Durst has a gun in her purse and then takes it upon herself to play vigilante non-hero. The group follows Nora to a weird insurance meeting over the disappearance of a couple’s son. Nora asks them questions like “Did he have more than 20 sexual partners?” and about his cooking and potential trips to Brazil. What does this have to do with him disappearing? It’s not AIDS or bird flu. And what does T.O.E. mean? Time of evacuation?
Anyway, Aimee ends up stealing some body cream from Nora’s car, which is interrupted by Jill’s asshole-ish horn-honking, and then Jill looks all pissed off afterward. Why does no one in this show react accordingly to anything? It’s interesting, but frustrating all the more. The Twins are probably the most realistic characters in this seris.
What happens next week? Your guess is as good as mine, especially if you’ve read the book. (No spoilers, people!) I think Kevin may go shoot another pack of potentially killer dogs, since “They’re not our dogs. Not anymore.” But maybe he'll choose to shoot cats this time. It's all up in the air, people!
Before we go, let’s talk about the best parts of the show right quick. I’m loving these musical references, as the sweet, sweet Murder By Death poster from last week made way for a Chipmunks CD this week. (Seriously, everyone go listen to Murder By Death.) As well, how about that little exchange when Kevin's dad says all of the actors from Perfect Strangers left during the Departure? Not Balki! And the greatest performance of the series thus far was Chris Zylka freaking the FUCK out whenever his car doesn’t start; that's aggression incarnate.The last bit with Meg putting her all into chopping that tree down was a nice moment, but was essentially meaningless to me, because fuck that tree and fuck that task.
So, we get no normal conversations and no scenes edited with anyone behind the show striving to make audiences aware of what is going on. Just another week with The Leftovers is all. As a final note, I quite liked the new opening credits, made to look like religious paintings. They didn’t match up to HBO’s greatest title sequences, but it’s another clue as to where this show’s inspirations are buried. See you next week, unless HBO decides to air one on Friday or something. The Guilty Remnant makes people do weird shit.
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