The Leftovers has been very coy for most of its first season, but big revelations came tumbling out of last night's episode. The usually plot-light show made some major changes to the status quo while finally revealing the purpose behind the mysterious Guilty Remnant.
This week's episode really hit home the show's major theme: the tension between wanting to move forward from the Sudden Departure and the compulsion to ruminate on it and figure out what's next. An awkward Garvey family dinner highlighted just how strange that attempt to move forward can be. Nora has dinner with Kevin, Jill, and Aimee, making pleasant small talk about the snapping, snarling dog tied up out back. If that wasn't strange enough, Jill feels the need to bring up the gun she once saw in Nora's purse.
When Nora tells Jill that got rid of her gun because she no longer needs it, she sets Jill off on her latest obsession. Nora couldn't just magically be all better, could she? While she debates the matter with Aimee and the brain trust, we see Aimee's cheerful mask slip at last. One of the more subtle mysteries of The Leftovers is the question of why Aimee lives with the Garveys. Did her guardian vanish in the Departure, or is there a non-supernatural reason for her apparent parentlessness? Whatever has happened to Aimee, it's the implication that she's not okay—and Jill's need to prove that someone else isn't moving on—that finally drives a wedge between the two friends.
As determined as Jill was to find the gun, when she discovers it hidden in a Pop-O-Matic Trouble box (Nora, you're a bit on the nose), it becomes clear that part of her hoped she wouldn't find it. Jill weeps over the gun, and we get a sense of what Meg meant all those episodes ago when she said she was "tired of feeling this way." Nora isn't fine—at least not fine enough to get rid of the gun forever—and maybe there is no moving on from the Departure, even if everyone tries to convince themselves they should. Nora won't get rid of her gun. The dog won't become re-domesticated. The quiet desperation in Garvey household won't go away.
So Jill goes where people go when they realize they can't move on from the Departure: to the Guilty Remnant compound. The look on Laurie's face at seeing her daughter is one of what, ambivalence? It's one thing to surrender yourself to the mystery of the universe, but it's another thing to see your daughter recognize that she has no individual future.
It's interesting to see what breaks the GR members from their path of self-renunciation. Meg has a complete meltdown when Matt shows up with a flier about her mother, who died the day before the Departure. Meg's persistent, exhausting feelings aren't just about the Departure itself; they're a complicated jumble tied to her inability to fully mourn her mother in the wake of the Departure. Matt was clearly trying to provoke a reaction (and he's kind of a self-satisfied asshole about it), and it worked. Meg physically attacked Matt and broke her vow of silence, and even after Laurie forced her to apologize to Matt, the words kept tumbling out of her mouth.
Meg hasn't quite internalized the abnegation of the GR, and on the eve of the GR's greatest stunt. I can only guess that they've purchased those burial dolls in the form of all of Mapleton's Departed and are about to prop them up on the church pews as a perverse reminder—because that's what the GR is after, persistently reminding people that the Departure really happened.
That's what we learn when Patti and Kevin have their final showdown. It turns out there's more to Kevin's blackouts than tranquilizers; while his waking self ignores the supernatural call to action, his sleeping self is hanging out with the Dog Hunter and getting violent. Kevin wakes up to discover that he and the Dog Hunter have kidnapped Patti, apparently with the intention of killing her.
We know that the rule against the GR speaking is not inviolable; we've seen Patti speak on a few occasions now, and this episode makes it clear why Patti's speech is permissible while Meg's is not. When Meg speaks during this episode, it is to vent her own personal frustrations. When Patti speaks, it always for another—to instruct, to soothe, or to enlighten. And Patti has a lot of things to say to Kevin while he and the Dog Hunter have her tied to a chair.
The most immediately shocking revelation is that the GR orchestrated Gladys' brutal death—an event Gladys went into willingly. The reason? So that no one in Mapleton would ever be able to forget Gladys. When the GR say "We are living reminders," what they mean is that they are out to remind everyone that the world has changed. The following people around, the unnerving stunts, they are all to keep the events of October 14th in the front of people's minds. The GR don't know what caused the Departure; they don't know what's next. But they are going to meditate on the Departure and prepare themselves for whatever is ahead—and they are going to keep serving as reminders until the rest of humanity leaves behind the distraction of their individual lives.
It's such an appropriate purpose in a show so immersed in nihilism. There is no belief system for people to cling to, only an all-consuming purpose, a sense that they are doing something in response to the Departure. And that purpose, for Gladys, for Patti, and perhaps for Laurie too, means a violent death so that they, and the Departure, can't be forgotten. Patti recites William Butler Yeats' "He Bids His Beloved Be At Peace":
I hear the Shadowy Horses, their long manes a-shake,
Their hoofs heavy with tumult, their eyes glimmering white;
The North unfolds above them clinging, creeping night,
The East her hidden joy before the morning break,
The West weeps in pale dew and sighs passing away,
The South is pouring down roses of crimson fire:
O vanity of Sleep, Hope, Dream, endless Desire,
The Horses of Disaster plunge in the heavy clay:
Beloved, let your eyes half close, and your heart beat
Over my heart, and your hair fall over my breast,
Drowning love's lonely hour in deep twilight of rest,
And hiding their tossing manes and their tumultuous feet.
Kevin thinks he can sidestep this game, just as he refused his father's call to action. He releases Patti, deciding that he will accept whatever punishment comes with having kidnapped her. But Patti doesn't have to die by Kevin's hand to ensure that he will never forget her words—so she dies by her own instead.
Patti's speech feels very metatextual, as if The Leftovers' audience forms its own sort of Guilty Remnant. Maybe we shouldn't expect answers, but we are watching and waiting to see what comes next. If the GR are right, it won't be long now.