Monday, July 7, 2014

In Which I Reveiw The Leftovers (1x2)

Aggression. If kept unchecked it has a tendency to boil over and cause havoc. When you're so angry about the events in your life that you just want to hit's good to keep a plastic penguin around. In this weeks episode, "Penguin One, Us Zero" the leftover anger of loosing friends and family bubbles up in various forms of aggression--violent and non violent ones. Tiny little indicators that you are just not the picture of mental health. There were a lot of plot strings in this episode, some that had zero to do with the others but are obviously important to the overall narrative. Gun fights, robbery, tree chopping, and man vs toaster oven, all manifestations of aggression that just can't be kept under lock and key anymore. 

 Kevin is still having a rough time. In the narrative of the show, it has been a few weeks since the parade to remember the heroes who were taken. After killing many dogs and punching a member of the cult, Kevin's coworkers are a bit concerned that he's lost his marbles--a distinct possibility seeing as his father lost his own marbles. Kevin is having weird dreams, most of which revolve around violence. In the pilot, he crashes his car into a deer; this week, he is stalking through the woods, scantily dressed I might add, to watch the Mystery Man with the Gun shoot at a member of the cult (my guess is that the target was Kevin's wife). Is Kevin crazy? I'm going to go with YES. In two episodes, he's violently assaulted someone, killed a pack of dogs, had conversation with a Mystery Gun Man who no one else even sees or can find, he's dismembering a toaster oven to find a lost bagel like some crazed drug addict who simply can't rest until the problem is solved, and he seems to have a hard time distinguishing from being awake and being asleep. The worst part might be that those around Kevin keep trying to cover up his obvious psychopathy. The mayor (who apparently is/was sleeping with Kevin's equally mental father) tells Kevin to lie to the therapist about not killing any more dogs; Kevin's lieutenant is willing to cover up the evidence of Kevin's own state of mind; Kevin's own father--who is presented at first as being totally rational and then starts talking to spirits in the air--tells him to pretend to be normal. Why is it so important that we ignore his state of mind? I think the other issue is that the show is trying to present Kevin's obvious tenuous hold on reality as if there are forces greater than him that are interfering in his life--so his mental degradation isn't his fault; it's the work of some metaphysical "Other." In the opening dream, Kevin's feet are on fire (okay?) and then he wakes up to find that his neighbors have set something on fire and when he goes over to help them, he ends up burning his feet in the snow.  It has a decidedly "this was all destined to happen" feel about it, but doesn't change the fact that Kevin is having some pretty odd dreams and waking violent flashbacks.

Last week, Meg decided to up and leave her fiancee and join the Guilty Remnant Cult. Her reasons for that have yet to be explained, or even why the GR was after her in the first place. Do they just randomly choose people they think will come along? Meg is being kept in the pledge house, meaning that she's still allowed to wear color and doesn't have to smoke yet. Laurie, Kevin's estranged wife, is Meg's sponsor. In order to become a full member of the GR, a pledge must be toughened. Which apparently means giving up one worldly possession a night and chopping down trees. I'm sure the chopping down of the tree is supposed to symbolize something--as Meg points out in the show to my amusement--but I'm much more interested in the other practices of the cult, not necessarily how one becomes a cult member. Why no talking? Why smoke? What exactly do they want? Kevin says they want to remind everyone of what happened, but...why? It's only two episodes in so I'm not going to predict that the show won't answer those questions yet, but in this post-LOST age, they can't keep us waiting around forever. The Leftovers is presenting these vignettes of people poorly coping with traumatic events as if there is a deep level of symbolism behind them, but that's not what the show was based on. There are no answers, so trying to wade through the minutia of symbolic meaning feels pointless. The entire bagel sequence from start to finish was one long tortured metaphor for insanity and also the disappearance of 2% of the world's population. Kevin, the tortured hero, rescues the bagel by freeing it from the confines of the toaster reality--the toaster being hell obviously. Now, Kevin, armed with his new knowledge about the inner workings of the toaster can rescue everyone and everything and the world can live as one. Except, again, that's not what this show was supposed to be about. There is no solution, there is no greater mystery to unfold that exists outside of human understanding. People vanished and now we cope. Go with you gut, The Leftovers. Have Kevin be completely mental and killing dogs and talking to invisible friends. It makes more sense than to slowly unravel some metaphysical mystery that is supposed to teach us all a lesson.

In an unrelated side story, Kevin's son and his uh..friend?...Wayne are now on the run. Wayne's compound was overrun with cops who are incredibly bad at their job. In what universe do cops fire on people before they are fired upon, go running into a house to terrorize girls who have been brain washed, and threaten to kill them if they try and flee? The scene failed to give me any kind of context for why teenage Asian girls are suddenly a threat. Wayne himself manages to flee, and Tommy takes one of the girls--who is SUPER important according to Wayne--with him. Wayne is a creeper. He likes to "hug it out." This is how he cures people. He hugs them. I'm sure there is some underage sex going on as well, but it's really about the hugs. Does Wayne really believe he's some sort of Messiah, or is he just a manipulative warlord pimp who is good at being charismatic? He talks a good game, I'll give him that. He manages to make Tommy think that there is some higher level plan and the little Asian girl (Christine?) is a big part of it. Sure. What is Tommy's deal though? He's obviously haunted by what happened a few years ago (good, that's the premise of the show) but is he really so into Wayne's message that he can't see how full of holes it is? The problem with that is Tommy is clearly not into the message! He refuses the magical Wayne hug. There is probably some "I want my pain!" thing going on here, but until we learn more about Tommy, he's just rather a blank box who is trying very hard not to sleep with Christine.

Craziness must run in the family, cause I don't know what Jill's deal is unless she's just a time bomb waiting to explode like her dad. She and her friend, who is doing such a nice impression of American Beauty teenage femme-fatle, spent the whole episode stalking a woman who carries a gun. They seems to think that the gun-carrying woman, who lost her whole family the day of the disappearance, is going to hurt someone. I guess that's the world in which they live now--gun automatically equals a violent scenario. It couldn't just be for protection, because no one and nothing is safe anymore. It's a tortured realization but not one that is unexpected. Is this more of an effort to feel something? Is Jill hoping that she'll witness violence first hand? Yeah...she's her father's daughter.

Miscellaneous Notes on Penguin One, Us Zero

--"I like dogs"
"Then stop shooting them cause that's what crazy people do!"

--Is Mystery Man with a Gun real? He has some obviously not real moments in the show: refuses to give his name, leaves his truck with a dead dog in Kevin's driveway, claims he is doing the Lord's work. He's either real and very strange or dead-all-along and there is something other worldly going on with Mystery Man with a Gun, Kevin and Jill and their various states of mind fuckery.

--"I should never have told you to watch The Wire." Haha. Obvious HBO show reference is obvious.

--I guess Meg has overcome her past life or something. Poor tree.

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