The Leftovers: “Penguin One, Us Zero” Season 1 Episode 2 Review

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Did anyone else just find this hour of television hopelessly exhausting?

The Leftovers kicked off last week with some world building and a lot of depression. The second episode took the mysteries be began with and essentially doubled them. Each member of the Garvey family had an hour of things the show isn’t ready to explain. But one would hope that when we’re left this much in the dark the characters can takeover and drive the show. Since they don’t, HBO may have bungled this one.

Kevin is on the hunt for the man he killed dogs with at the very end of the pilot. He also visits his father and loses a bagel in the toaster. Ironically, the most interesting of those ends up falling the flattest. The mysterious dog murderer eventually just shows up on his door and asks Kevin to join him again. What doesn’t make sense is that you can tell he kind of wants to even though it could lead to him losing his job.

The scene with his father, however, was pretty clever. Kevin walks into a home for the elderly and we see his boss speaking with a jovial man. His father gives Kevin a logic lesson but then starts talking to some invisible person. The scene was cleverly enough laid out that you felt something for Kevin by the end of it.

Meanwhile, he also lost a bagel in the toaster. This subplot was a tad ridiculous, but I can buy that people would probably go a little nuts when things seemingly disappear in this world. Some fair world building at work here.

But the second most significant plot of the episode was Laurie’s training of Meg for the Guilt Remnant. Liv Tyler doesn’t do the character of Meg any favors, giving us a bland, unconvincing storyline that felt as forced as it gets. Meg’s motivations haven’t been laid out clearly enough for us to latch onto her achievement of sorts at the end of the episode.

Then there was Tom’s travels with Christine after a violent shootout where a number of college students are gunned down. They meet up with Holy Wayne, who says a bunch of weird stuff and implies that Christine is going to fulfill some sort of prophecy. This plot line exhibits everything wrong with The Leftovers so far, giving us question after question without a character we care about enough to bide our time while we wait for the answer.

Finally, Jill and her friends skip school to follow Nora after seeing a gun in her bag in a restaurant. Nothing comes of this except a glare that the two share that implies future connections between the two.

So The Leftovers is kind of a mess. Kevin and Laurie appear to be the most interesting characters, but there surrounding storylines don’t do them too many favors. The show is best when it’s building its world, not asking questions about it. There are too many leaps in logic in who is following who and why. We as an audience are just getting used to the world, yet the show wants to question almost everything in these characters’ lives. I’m all for ambitious television, which this certainly is, but this seems to be a case of our eyes being too big for our stomach. Grade: C

By Matt Dougherty

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