The Leftovers: “Gladys” Season 1 Episode 5 Review

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Gladys was a big step in the right direction for The Leftovers. Simply by juggling less stories and depressing events (go figure), this episode featured the best storytelling aside from Two Boats and a Helicopter.

Naming this episode after a character the world refuses to mourn is darkly ironic. The opening scene of Gladys shows Gladys, an older member of the GRs, getting brutally murdered in the woods behind a gas station. It’s one of the most horrifying scenes of television this year as the usually silent woman starts begging for her life with blood pouring out of her head. I have a pretty high tolerance, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to look away.

But that’s a testament the sporadic successes of The Leftovers. I cared enough about Gladys to look away.

The rest of the episode smartly stuck to the aftermath of Gladys’ death. Kevin’s investigation and Laurie’s little “vacation” were both strong meditations on loss and dedication. At this point, the GRs are the most fascinating group on the show. Gladys breaks down their sacrifices and goals in the face of tragedy, and it does so in a way leaves you with more of an understanding. Prior to this, The Leftovers had been afraid to give us understanding of just about anything. This is proof that when it does the opposite it can be very effective television.

After Gladys’ death, Laurie has a panic attack and is sent to the hospital. Upon leaving, Patti picks her up. Patti became a much stronger presence on the show in this episode. First when she agrees with Kevin that the GRs should stay off the streets, and again when she gives Laurie nonwhite clothes and starts speaking to her at breakfast.

Patti gives Laurie so many opportunities to speak, but she doesn’t budge. What’s amazing is that as Patti says “you deserve a vacation”, I found myself rooting for Laurie to stay silent. While the GRs actions can’t always be justified, there is something to be admired about their resolve. Once it comes out that Patti is testing her, it’s difficult not to find their path a tad inspiring.

It leads to another incredible scene later in the episode when Matt tries to hold a vigil for Gladys in front of the GR’s house and Laurie runs out and blows her whistle, supplied by her ex-husband, at him to silence him. The GRs are grieving in their own way and, like just about any family, want to handle the situation on their terms.

But Matt and the rest of the town don’t understand that. Just because they don’t speak doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering from this tragedy.

Meanwhile, Kevin’s investigation hits a roadblock when Gladys’ body is mysteriously moved to Virginia. Something fishy is going on there, based on the phone conversation toward the end of the episode.

Other than that, he mostly dealt with his daughter and worsening alcoholism for the bulk of the episode. The dry cleaners incident shows that while his temper needs work, he is capable of seeing the error in his ways, which is what attaches us to Kevin.

The episode ends with Gladys’ body slowly going into a crematorium. The camera follows the body inside until the flames engulf her body like Hell is stealing her from Earth. Morbid, but effective.

Gladys was an incredibly strong addition to the first season of The Leftovers. It showed the full range of emotion this show can achieve while not jumping between too many storylines (the last thing an hour this great needs is Tom’s storyline). From beginning to end, Gladys was a stirring meditation on the grieving process, and damn good television. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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