The Leftovers: 1.02 Penguin One, Us Zero

Episode two of The Leftovers, HBO and Sky Atlantic’s post-Rapture ode to miserablism, is lighter, richer and contains less dead dogs.

Episode 2 of The Leftovers begins weeks later with some people who aren’t miserable, I’m happy to say; that’s because they’re not from Mapleton. They’re FBI agents, planning to take down Holy Wayne, Mapleton’s hug-healing child molester. A brutal dawn raid starts off this episode with a much-needed injection of action. Aided by Chief Garvey’s son’s timely, violent, intervention, Holy Wayne and his favourite young lady escape to hug another day.

The Chief’s dream sequence kicks off the events of Mapleton proper, a conflation of sex and fire, violence and allegorical wildlife. This is the inner life of Mapletonians, the microcosm to the macrocosm of the town’s supressed emotions.

Liv Tyler’s Meg, now initiated into the Guilty Remnant, starts to adapt to her new life. She is taken as protégé by Laurie Garvey, the chief’s not-quite-ex wife and they have a tree to cut down in the Forest of Metaphor. Afterwards she meets our Chief Garvey, and the chemistry of an eventual emotional entanglement is established, to the disgust of the GR. Her fiancé might have some issue with that too.

Garvey is obsessed with the Guilty Remnant and his investigation is complex, causing the Mayor to regret recommending he watch The Wire, a nice line delivered a little flatly. She does however get a bit more animated when she tells him off for shooting dogs ‘like a crazy person’ and he’s in mandatory therapy because of it. It seems when you start shooting dogs it’s a difficult habit to break.

Overall the themes of guilt and redemption, cults and families continue. Episode two is a less dreary affair than the pilot; the characterisation is getting better and the mysteries, while still not answered, are less thrust in the face of the viewer. Overall this makes it less of a trial to watch, and more compelling as it’s portrayed with greater subtlety.

Stephan Burn

Updated: Sep 25, 2014

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