‘The Leftovers’ Season 1 Episode 5 Recap: “Gladys”

At this point, I’ve come to terms with the fact that every episode of The Leftovers — no matter how much I may like it — will be drowning in despair and inevitably leave me with an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness as the credits end. That said, I still wasn’t prepared for the violent cold open in “Gladys.”

The episode begins with a Guilty Remnant member, Gladys, kidnapped and taped to a tree as a group of people throw rocks at her, striking her repeatedly in the face as blood pours out of her head and pools on the ground. It’s a savage beating (and HBO doesn’t shy away from it), one that’s unlike anything that the Guilty Remnant has seen before. She finally breaks her vow of silence and speaks, heartbreakingly pleading for her life. Her cries go ignored and the attack continues until she dies. It’s such a disturbing scene and it’s one that could be a make-or-break for some viewers: When is this violence going to be too much?

To make matters worse, there was a strange exchange with Patti and Gladys early on, and later the crazed dog murder posits the idea that the G.R. could have done this to themselves — perhaps trying to turn Gladys into a martyr for the cause, whatever the cause may be. Five episodes in and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of the Guilty Remnant but it’s as eerie as ever.

But bless this show for following up such a horrific scene with the pleasant site of a shirtless Justin Theroux! I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to sit through most of this show if it didn’t also promise me Theroux. Kevin, as always, spends the entire episode on edge and this murder just makes it worse. But first, his white work shirts keep going missing — I incorrectly assumed it was Aimee who was stealing them — and this small frustration is building and building, another reminder that everything in his life keeps disappearing on him.

Speaking of, Laurie is also having a very strange week (is there any other kind on The Leftovers?) and has a brief stint in the hospital after collapsing from a panic attack. Later, Patti takes Laurie out for a “day off” at a diner. It’s a Guilty Remnant cheat day of sorts and Laurie is temporarily allowed to speak to Patti. Even with Patti’s urging, Laurie can’t seem to bring herself to talk or enjoy/indulge in the cheat day but instead freezes when it comes to something as simple as ordering breakfast. By the end of the meal, she has eaten but still refused to talk.

Patti opens up about Gladys and explains that once Gladys found out her son had died, she began to “feel again,” meaning that she was crying and moping everywhere — not just in her Guilty Remnant house but outdoors, too, when she was supposed to be an emotionless watcher following around the Mapleton citizens. It’s also seems to be a warning to Laurie.

Gladys’ death doesn’t just throw the G.R. off guard, but the rest of the town, too. It definitely throws Kevin for a loop. He’s worried about the safety of the town but also worried about his wife because she’s in the G.R. and therefore could be a potential target; just look at the way Jill immediately assumes the worst when Kevin shows up at her school. Kevin spends the episode frustrated at everything: his curfew idea is shot down in a public vote, he can’t seem to figure out the alarm code (or even, at the very least, convince his daughter to set it at night), and he still can’t find those damn shirts.

Reverend Matt becomes the main suspect in the murder — the G.R. did buy his church and paint it white — but denies any involvement. In a telling scene, he explains “Killing these people is pointless. They don’t care because they’re already dead.” Matt would prefer to bring them back to life so Kevin relents and takes him to the morgue but Gladys’ boddy is missing. It seems that in Mapleton, not even death is a guarantee that you won’t just up and disappear. Matt continues his quest to “help” the G.R. by giving a sermon outside of their window, only to be interrupted by Laurie who, showing her faith is unwavering, repeatedly blows the whistles that Kevin gave to everyone.

Kevin’s inquiry about the body leads to an agent to basically offer to kill all the Guilty Remnant if Kevin gives them word; he pauses far too long before declining the offer. But this phone call piled on top of everything else is enough to send him into a drunken tailspin that results in him angrily freaking out at the dry cleaner employee and getting his shirts back — or any white shirts, it seems. Likely, the shirts aren’t actually his but he’ll take this small victory because he can’t get anything else.