Chickens are coming home to roost.
With their weird ways, stoic appearances and controversial messaging – “There is no family” – the Guilty Remnant cult in Mapleton came under heavy fire on Sunday’s episode of HBO’s The Leftovers.
In a gruesome, hard-to-watch opener, we learn just how much the local cult is loathed. And how barbaric some in town have become since the disappearances.
The episode starts with a pair of cult members on their usual stalk walks through town. When they go to a gas station so one can use the restroom, the pit stop proves costly. The waiting GR member Gladys (Marceline Hugot) is kidnapped, dragged into the adjacent woods and duct-taped to a tree. Then her masked assailants commence to stoning.
It’s not until she’s struck multiple times and gushing blood that she breaks her cult-sworn quiet, begging painfully, “Don’t, please stop.” But a final blow recommits her to silence.
It’s Chief Garvey’s estranged wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) who finds Gladys bloodied and bowed in the woods. GR leader Patti (Ann Dowd) contacts the police and when Garvey (Justin Theroux) shows up, she promises to cooperate. But his own staff disobeys, calling on the feds to investigate the murder, against his wishes.
Test of Faith
Laurie has a panic attack after witnessing the gory scene. Like any good boss, Patti notices and steps in to give her a break. The two take a drive and spend the night in separate motel rooms. Laurie relaxes for what seems to be the first time in years.
Laurie awakes to normal clothes and meets Patti for breakfast in a diner. Patti speaks to the waitress and urges Laurie, who hasn’t spoken in eight months, to do the same. It’s a good thing she doesn’t as it quickly becomes clear the trip was a test of Laurie’s strength and loyalty.
No Justice, No Peace
Chief Garvey starts to get his suspects together and calls in Father Matt (Christopher Eccleston), who lost his church to the GR, for questioning. The chief also tries to issue a town-wide curfew – a move that gets defeated by the city council on the strength that no one has sympathy for the GR, alive or dead.
Garvey pays the cult a visit to let them know it’s hunting season and there’s nothing he can really do about it, offering them whistles to use in the event they’re attacked. After asking Meg (Liv Tyler) where Laurie is, she lets him know, “She’s not your wife anymore.”
Hoping to keep jurisdiction over the murder, Garvey contacts the feds to ask that they stand down. The agent makes it clear the GR is just one of many troublesome cults in their post-disappearance era. Unbothered by the murder, he offers to send agents to eradicate the GR. It’s an offer that Garvey, for personal reasons, has to refuse.
Back in Mapleton, Laurie’s allegiance is shored up, as her charge Meg decides to become a full-blown, white-wearing, nonspeaking, chain-smoking member of the GR. Later that night, when Father Matt shows up outside of the GR home to pray via bullhorn for their deceased, Laurie thwarts his efforts using the only voice she has: one of the whistles Garvey left.
Next we find a distraught Garvey seated in his room. When daughter Jill enters he tells her the news he hasn’t wanted to accept, that he and her mom are getting a divorce. The news breaks Jill’s ice momentarily as she tells him she loves him, before heading out the door, leaving him to his tears.
The episode ends with the GR’s dead member being cremated. But there’s a feeling the real fire hasn’t even started.