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The Leftovers “Gladys” Review (1×05)

28 Jul

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“Doubt is fire, and fire is going to burn you up until you are but ash.”

Fire burns Gladys up until she is but ash. We see that at the very end of the episode, in which her body is slowly consumed by flames in an ATFEC compound, left to be forgotten alongside so many other people. It doesn’t matter what group she was a part of, what beliefs she held, or what disgust or anger she inspired. It doesn’t matter who they were, the bodies organized all around her. Now, the flames devour them whole.

The Leftovers is simultaneously a very intimate show and a show that attempts to cover a broad expanse of characters, to place an exploration of the reverberating effects of the Sudden Departure on society right up against personal suffering and personal loss. “Gladys” seems to find a middle ground of sorts, cozying up somewhere between the scope of the pilot and the scope of Matt’s story, and what we get is a flawed, but intriguing, look at the difficulty of dealing with pain, destruction, and moving on.

Director Mimi Leder doesn’t shy away from the suffering ever present in the episode; for example, she takes care to note the man with a compound fracture, lying next to Laurie in the hospital and moaning in pain. She even touches on the idea of suffering with regards to varying perceptions of the same incident: the stoning of Gladys at the beginning of the episode. Yes, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t be disgusted and horrified by an act like this, but then again, the camera pans over to several cops laughing as the body starts to fall off the tree. The increasingly desperate and isolating situation the Sudden Departure has led to is continuing to turn people on each other, so much so that the “us vs. them” mentality has become a way of life.

In fact, the only one who, as so eloquently stated, “gives a shit” about the GR is Kevin Garvey. That’s, of course, due to his wife, but there’s no denying the fact that he’s been the main person reaching out and trying to keep his town safe, trying to implement a curfew but getting rejected. Interestingly enough, he hands out whistles to the GR, one of which is later used to emphasize his wife’s commitment to that very group, and we later see that he’s going to officially divorce her. It’s a significant step for him, and as much as holding onto a sliver of hope for Laurie helped motivate him, it also hurt him and sent him on downward spirals. At the end of it all, even after a drunken trip to the dry cleaners in which he nearly breaks down a door, he finds some common ground with Jill, a mutual understanding that his wife leaving him isn’t his fault and that he and his daughter love each other.

While this is happening, people like Matt and Patti are attempting to distribute their messages, and whatever mutual understanding the former hopes to create is blown down by a whistle. Matt’s conversation with Garvey in the car is strikingly similar to the one Patti has with Laurie in the diner, and here we have two people whose perpetual clash will further the divide between the various groups of people that populate this society. At first, Patti’s offer of talking seems like a genuine extension of kindness, but it becomes slowly evident that it’s essentially a sales pitch. It works, and when Laurie blows that whistle, you get the sense that the ultimate sacrifice–her family–has been made.

“Gladys” in general is about sacrifice, and we see it with Meg as she truly becomes a member of the GR; we also see it with Gladys as she’s stoned to death. One leaves, one enters, and the cycle continues as the one who leaves is shipped off to that ATFEC facility. Gladys had loved ones and Gladys moved on and Gladys wanted to live, but in the end, she’s nothing but ash. As she’s dying, she speaks, a futile attempt to bridge the divide of humanity between her and her killers. As Laurie’s losing interest, Patti speaks to her in the same way she spoke to Gladys in the past. One is convinced to stay, and the other one who was convinced to stay all those years back is now leaving.

However, even if the GR grows stronger or larger, that would only pour fuel on the fire. To society as a whole, they’re all “infestations”, animals who need to be eradicated. They’ve found their own form of living, but it’s viewed as death from above.

And death? Well, death will be slipped into the next furnace, and the flames will grow hotter by the second.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Hey, no Tommy and Christine, which is good, because those are two characters that I’m not really interested in.

-We can debate whether or not the GR orchestrated Gladys’s death, but I believe there’s more than meets the eye here.

-Going off of Glady’s death, it’s fitting that the stoning, a punishment Biblical in nature, would come back around to be used against the GR.

-The diner scene is easily Ann Dowd’s best scene thus far. The range of emotions that cross Patti’s face seem genuine–and they’re certainly rooted in some type of truth (Neil)–but we also know that underneath, she has an agenda.

-Ha, Patti has leftovers.

-Dean, you enigma, you.

– “I say ‘fuck’, too.”

-Kevin and Nora will be doing things soon.

-Man, that stoning is graphic, even for HBO. I had to look away a few times during that scene.

-I feel kind of bad about the “it rocked” addition in the poll.

Photo credit: HBO, The Leftovers

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2 Responses to “The Leftovers “Gladys” Review (1×05)”

  1. 13mesh July 29, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    Very well-written, indeed. I like this episode too. Not a strong one but it got me hooked. I know the show isn’t for everyone but I am curious, what do you think the show is about? For me, I think it’s about faith and humanity.

    • polarbears16 August 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

      I definitely agree there: faith, or lack thereof, in the face of loss, and how we cope and why we clash with each other.

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