The Leftovers recap: Beating a dead dog

Chief Garvey might be killing the town's dogs; he's not so sure
Ep. 02 | Aired Jul 6, 2014

Out west, Tom and Christine escape the compound and meet at the rendezvous point, an out-of-the-way gas station. One of Wayne's bodyguards (Peter Berg) arrived first, but lies dead in a pool of his own blood. Wayne finally arrives via the trunk of a car. Christine is thrilled to see him, which breaks Tom's heart just a bit. But Wayne knows what Tom did to protect her, and he offers him a magical hug. "You don't have to feel this anymore," Wayne says, referring to the weight of killing someone. "Come on in." But Tom resists, feeling either unworthy or conflicted. "You're the one motherf---er I can't figure out," says Wayne. "You're all suffering and no salvation."

Wayne sends Tom and Christine off together and gives Tom a special novelty cell phone adorned by a yellow happy face. The happy face echoes the whipped cream pancakes that Meg was served at the GR house—put a smile on any cult and unhappy people will find it. Meg is struggling through her pledge period, which requires giving up her material things and apparently chopping down a tree with an ax. Laurie is her mentor, and their only thing in common is Kevin, who meets Meg during one of his routine house inspection searches for citizens who have been reported as missing persons. Her fiancé doesn't want her back, in turns out, but there was a spark between Kevin and Meg. Maybe it was just the pretty damsel-in-distress charge that cops feel, or maybe it was something more. (For Liv Tyler's sake, let's hope it was something more. Her character needs more, not a fate of silence.) Later, she describes Kevin as the "hot cop" to Laurie, so she at least took notice.

When Lucy and Kevin met at his office, amid GR wall-art and missing bagels, there was more of that unusual tension that was on display at the pre-parade planning session. It was almost like they were either siblings or ex-lovers. Their last conversation ended with Lucy saying cryptically, "I'm visiting tonight," and in the final act, the links were revealed. Mayor Lucy is romantically involved—perhaps even married—to Kevin's father (Scott Glenn), the former police chief who was institutionalized after going crazy and running through the town naked. Fresh off his encounter with the Mystery Man, Kevin decides to visit his father, too. At first glance, his father seems lucid and wise, acting paternal both as a father and as the town's former police chief. But Kevin came for a reason; he's worried that what happened to his dad is now happening to him. And Kevin's dad hears voices. Right now. In the lounge. "They're sending somebody to help you," he says. "Whatever it is, you might want to keep it to yourself."

So we're on the fence about Kevin and the existence of the Mystery Man. His father suffered the same mental breakdown and the man's truck sits in Kevin's driveway. But Jill clearly saw the man on her doorstep, yes? If only there was some way to clear things up. For Kevin, that means going back to the station and tearing the bagel machine apart. If the missing toasted bagels are there, clearly he's sane. If there are no bagels, then he's slipping into the abyss. He rips off the back of the toaster with a power screwdriver and... the burned bagels are there. So, he's not crazy?

It's too early to push away The Leftovers, but the second episode did closely echo the premiere in particular ways, with the payoff being a surprising link between characters. In the premiere, Laurie's relationship to the Garveys was only revealed near the end, and the second episode relied on Lucy and the crazy ex-chief's relationship to provide some oomph. It's a trick that gets less impressive each time—and, in theory, it shouldn't be necessary after the first few episodes—but future installments will need to focus more on the present and future instead of dwelling on the past.

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