You'd almost be forgiven for watching the first scene of last night's Leftovers and deciding to throw in the towel. The biggest hit on this show so far is how it's such a bummer, and who settles in on a Sunday night expecting to watch Kathy Geiss (Marceline Hugot, playing the titular Gladys) get stoned to death against a tree? The dramatic opening is building to a powerful twist: she finally breaks her Guilty Remnant vow of silence to plead for mercy. But, no use, she's dead, and the opening credits begin. I'd bet a hundred bucks that half the Leftovers audience watched those first few minutes, exhaled, and changed the channel.
But "Gladys" was a welcome return to strength after last week's meandering hour. It helps that the most fascinating thing The Leftovers has going for it thus far is the Guilty Remnant, and this is the most time we've spent with them yet. This week, Patti (Ann Dowd) takes a day off from GR activities, dressing in normal clothes, talking, and taking Laurie (Amy Brenneman) out to breakfast to try and gauge how much Gladys' death, and the whole GR lifestyle, is getting to her. Dowd has done so much with her character without talking at all, and at first I feared that the show was breaking its rules too quickly, but by keeping Laurie silent through its day off, it felt like it was staying true to the spirit of the law, if not the letter.
Gladys' death is horrifying, but the pushback against the GR feels like it's been a long time coming. They are so cruel in their commitment to silent disruption and non-participation (that opening scene where Gladys steps around someone who's fallen down), that even their presence in sleepy Mapleton has been loaded with tension. With Patti talking, we get a little bit of backstory on the GR's origins, and Gladys' own struggles abandoning her family, but mostly we just get the vaguely chilling shock that Patti is a real person too.