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THE LEFTOVERS Recap: The Bludgeoning

You know what the biggest failure of all was in the wake of October 14th? Humanity. Let’s be honest: some days the rest of the world makes it really, really hard to care about your fellow man — so it’s no wonder that care, compassion, and empathy were the first things to go in a post-departure world. The Leftovers‘ fifth episode of the season showcased a many terrible thing about how people and things changed — mostly by being set on fire (metaphorically speaking, natch). For some, they came out bruised and burned but hopeful about the future — like Matt. For others, their senses were charred and emotions dulled, revealing a so-called “harsher truth” about our reality. But don’t they see that harsher truth is, really, all just man-made?

Man oh man, this one was a toughie, wasn’t it? First we’re hit head-on (sorry) with the death-by-stoning (hello, the Dark Ages — ye have returneth to earth!) of Gladys, at the hand of some unknown assailants. Because of this, Kevin wanted to put the whole town on curfew until everything was figured out. Mapleton the town, though? They’re less than keen on it — in fact everyone save the mayor and Kevin are against it. Why should they all ‘be locked up like animals when we didn’t do nothing wrong?’ Dean the Killer Dog Man, protests. Nobody cares — especially because it was a member of the Guilty Remnant.

Perhaps the most fascinating and telling detail came at the hands of Gladys’ death, though, was to see just how far this loss of humanity has reached. After October 14th, at some point the ATF — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — became ATF+C, or AFTEC. And yes, that “C” stands for cults. They are as just as potentially deadly a weapon these days. And there are more than just the GR, or the Barefoot People, or Holy Wayne’s brigade of who-knows-what. That’s why the ATF went in and started shooting up the ranch… or at least what they claimed in order to exterminate the problem.

Yeah: there’s a government agency out there that’s quietly ridding these United States of each and every faction of perceived nutter groups simply by barging in and declaring that they fired shots first. In fact those services were even offered up to Kevin who, thankfully, declined.

But the tension at the heart of all this is a telling one even in today’s world. As we discussed in last week’s recap, religion is a highly divisive issue. A lot of it stemming from people’s desire for reason and understanding.

Religion the institution can be an oft-terrifying thing. The fringes of it, even more so. But does that excuse other people’s abusive, terrifying treatment of these people and their beliefs?

Therein lies the inherent tension in this post-departure world — to believe or not to believe (in anything). That is the question. And it’s one we’d be afraid to try and answer, because there’s never going to be a right one. The best we can all hope for is a return of compassion: not just for a select few, but for all the people in the world regardless of their beliefs. Humanity has lost sight of that thanks to its newfound, victim-y outlook on life and the world at large. And that makes them animals in a cage, backed into a corner and ready to attack out of fear.

Making the Guilty Remnant’s moment of compassion after Laurie’s panic attack particularly conflict-ridden. On one hand it was exactly what she needed: sleep and a brief reprieve from silence (even if she didn’t take it). On the other hand, it was a reminder that their purpose is to ignore your feelings because “Doubt is fire. Feelings are bad,” as Patti so eloquently stated. (Sidenote: what was the deal with that bag full of Neil?) Fire will come from the rocks and devour you if you let it. But so will ignoring what you need to get through life. Which is exactly what made Laurie’s whistle-based assault on Matt so heartbreaking: she was staying silent but also screaming out for help, so clearly in pain. She wants her life back but for some reason is too afraid to ask for it. Why won’t she let herself live?

The people in the world of The Leftovers are living in a prison that is wholly man-made. All this in-fighting, all the anxiety, all the anger and frustration. It’s all because people cannot seem to cope with the fact that something bad has happened and we may never know the reason for it. It may never have a higher connection, and it just might be one of those everlasting worldwide mysteries that, outside of the day, has no real bearing on the future. Whatever the reason, is it really worth wasting your one life searching for an answer that may never come or satisfy?

And even worse, to stay silent and bully others in your search for meaning — is that really all its cracked up to be? Or are you just killing yourself before you’re even dead?

Other Moments of Note:
- Meg’s fully converted now: why? I’m so sad about this!
- Kevin’s sadness at the announcement to Jill that he and Laurie are getting a divorce? Palpable and gutting.
- A+ use of a Hall and Oates song with the use of “Private Eyes” in the GR mobile.
- More than anything we’re relieved that Dean the Dog Killer is no figment of Kevin’s imagination.
- We are still leery of him, though.
- Those “missing” white shirts that Kevin retrieved and the “black market” on which they’re sold — there’s no way we’ve seen the end of all that, have we?
- Need to know the backstory behind Patti’s bag.
- Also who is Neil?
- I would also like a flashback to when “everything changed” for Laurie, please. I’m so curious.

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