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POP A RECAP: THE LEFTOVERS – SEASON ONE – EPISODE TWO: ‘Penguin One, Us Zero’

leftovers2aThe dust has settled after the impressive Pilot and it’s time to settle into Mapleton but first it’s time for a bit of brutal law enforcement with a police raid on Holy Wayne’s property in the opener.  Two cynical FBI agents discuss Wayne’s criminal history before the Sudden Departure and how Wayne is now famous for being able to hug the pain out of people.  The agents have enough evidence to deem Wayne a threat to national security and really violent raid follows showing that the FBI isn’t afraid of a little collateral damage anymore and the death toll is large.  Wayne isn’t anywhere to be found but Tom Garvey (the police chief’s wayward son) rescues a young woman being kept at the ranch that Wayne uses to recharge his hugging powers with sex; it’s a little icky.

After the action packed opener we get a look at the credits for The Leftovers that’s a goofy execution of a clever idea with animated church murals depicting a Rapture that looks like one of those old Saturday Night Live animated shorts.

Damon Lindelof is one of the creators of The Leftovers so a cryptic dream sequence is where we go next with the Police Chief Kevin Garvey Jr (Justin Theroux) who spontaneously combusts in the woods.  Chief Garvey jolts awake to discover it’s just his neighbour burning a missing relatives possessions in the backyard.  Shortly after we find out that Chef Garvey is in therapy for the dog shooting incident in Pilot and nobody in the police department seems to believe the Chief’s story about the dog assassin in the pickup truck.  The first question mark about the Chief’s sanity begins flashing.

Over at the Guilt Remnant (GR) compound the cult are testing out a new member, Megan Abbott (Liv Tyler), who has fled her fiancé for reasons unknown.  Laurie Garvey (Amy Brenneman) ask Megan to cut down a large tree in the forest with a medium sized axe.  It’s one of those cult metaphors for cutting down your former self that Megan points out in a self-aware fashion before throwing as small tantrum and raging against a tree. Across town there is more tension between Mapletonians and the GR when a man throws red paint at a group of the GR in the street.

In a café we catch up with the teenage adventures of Jill ‘Meh’ Garvey who becomes obsessed with a lady sitting at a nearby table who appears to have a gun in her handbag.  Turns out after a little gossiping that the gun lady lost her entire family in the Sudden Departure.  Gun lady milks the sympathy of the townsfolk by nudging her coffee mug off the edge of the table.  The ceramic cup smashes but no one is willing to admit it was done on purpose.  The passive aggressive atmosphere of life in Mapleton after the Sudden Departure is part of the unease of The Leftovers that continues to work excellently.  Jill and her buddies decide to follow gun lady and it turns out she works for an insurance company that’s meeting with people to see if they’re eligible for a ‘departure benefit’.  More intriguing world building follows when the gun lady meets with a man and woman eligible for money to ask them questions about their son who disappeared.  In that scummy insurance agency kind of way the questions are: did he like cooking?  Did he ever go to Brazil? Did he speak more than one language?  Did he ever have more than 20 sexual partners?  The man stops gun lady at that final question by telling her that his son had down syndrome.  This scene was fantastic in the way it approached the Great Disappearance from the perspective of insurance cover and the checklists put in place to try to define the purity of the people who went missing with an impersonal questionnaire.

Back at the police station the Chief puts two bagels in one of those rotating toasters and they go missing; Rapture bagels!  Another flashing question mark over the Chief’s sanity that further questioned when the dog assassin’s pickup truck is found parked in the Chief’s driveway.  Later, the dog assassin appears to tell the Chief he has found another pack of dogs and that he’s there to ‘do the Lord’s work’.  Looks like the Chief is not only head of the police in Mapleton but also Crazy Town.  The big reveal of the episode is when we meet Kevin Garvey Sr (Scott Glenn), the former Chief of police (and the mayor of Crazy Town) who has been institutionalised because he talks to invisible people.  Kevin Garvey Jr replaced his father as Chief when he was admitted.  Kevin Jr goes to see is dad who passes on a message from the invisible people that ‘they have sent someone to help you’.  More puzzling supernatural messages Lindelof and Tom Perrotta have laced into the episode or is everyone just going a little mad?

Kevin Jr decides to put the crazy talk to rest and search out the Rapture bagels.  He pulls about the rotating toaster at police headquarters and discovers two bagels burnt to a crisp jammed in the back of the machine.  Time to hand in your badge police Chief of Crazy Town.

Penguin One, Us Zero was more subdued than Pilot but there were the right amount of polarising moments with the ‘departure benefit’ scene and the mystery of the Rapture bagels to keep you locked into that unreceptive world of unspoken torment. Lindelof and Perrotta have maintained a nice equilibrium with the launch of the series and now we wait to see if the third episode is a charm.

Cameron Williams – follow Cam on Twitter here: @MrCamW

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