A stone-cold murder puts Mapleton on edge and everyone is a suspect.
The Leftovers Recap
Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO

“They weren’t going to leave us alone, right? It was only a matter of time.” —Meg

The Guilty Remnant cult’s passive-aggressive campaign to educate the people of Mapleton to the error of their evil ways finally encountered some real blowback. Silently stalking townsfolk was one thing, but breaking into their houses in the middle of the night and stealing their family photographs may have invited some retribution. Gladys, the bespectacled GR member, was brutally stoned to death, and her murder presented the Garveys—Chief and Laurie—with independent spiritual tests. Each was tempted to abandon the path they’ve chosen, to relent and take an easier way out.

Gladys and other GR had been targeted before. She herself had been doused with red paint or red slushy by a driver-by, and other GRs had been injured by hooligans throwing rocks from a Jeep, the same gang that had nailed Rev. Matt in the skull. But this was an escalation: While her GR partner used a gas-station restroom, Gladys is kidnapped in the shadows, dragged through the woods, taped to a tree trunk, and violently, mercilessly stoned to death by multiple assailants. The camera captured every blow and blood literally pours from her wounds as she pleads, “Please don’t.” And then the final death blow smashes her face in. Cripes, HBO.

The crime was so unflinchingly savage—and yet, there’s something suspiciously disturbing about the pre-attack meeting between Gladys and Patti. In silence, of course, it was just an exchange of serious stares, punctuated by a single compliant nod from Gladys. What did she agree to? Is it possible that Patti is sacrificing Gladys for the cause, to provoke a more direct confrontation? Should the GRs be suspects in the murder, in addition to Rev. Matt, who’s reeling after they took his church? Patti acted shaken by the murder, appealing to Chief for help, but she’s demonstrated an aptitude for deception and callousness that makes her capable of just about anything. “How do we even know these people didn’t do this to themselves?” says crazy dog-killing Dean, who apparently is not a figment of Chief’s imagination after all and is not so crazy about most things.

Chief is taking the murder seriously, though—if only because his wife might now be one of the next potential targets. He’s essentially on his own. “Don’t investigate too hard,” says one indifferent citizen, and his own clumsy officers aren’t exactly respecting the crime scene. The town council votes down his curfew proposal, and one of his police subordinates even jumps the gun and makes arrangements to hand the investigation off to a federal agency, ATFEC. Even the GR seem indifferent when he presents them with whistles to wear in case of another attack.

NEXT: Another missing body

Laurie is one of the first GRs on the scene of the crime, and the horror rattles her, so much so that she requires medical attention for a panic attack. In general, she might be wavering in her commitment to the cult, even as she’s moving to finalizing her divorce. She’s prone to sneaking away at night to look over her family’s house, and she interrupted Operation Grinch to try and retrieve the Christmas gift—an engraved lighter—that her daughter had given her and that she had tossed into the sewer. Her behavior attracts Patti’s attention, who spirits her away from the hospital to a cushy hotel overnight. It’s a day off from crazy cult life. When Laurie awakes, she’s instructed to wear conventional clothes and meet Patti in the restaurant for a feast. Patti invites Laurie to talk, to order food, to unburden her mind, but Laurie can’t or won’t speak. Apparently, Gladys went through a similar phase of weakness, Patti explains, when her son was killed in a helicopter crash in Yemen. “She became distracted and she began to feel again,” she says. “But there can’t be any doubt, Laurie. Because doubt is fire, and fire is going to burn you up. Until you are but ash.”

Chief is similarly flustered, not only by the vagaries of the investigation but by mundane everyday BS. He can’t solve the burglar alarm at his house, and he’s completely run out of clean white shirts for work. When he swings by the dry cleaner to pick them up, he’s given the run-around by the jocular manager because he doesn’t have his ticket. If the shirts aren’t there, where could they be? Maybe they’re hiding in the office toaster oven? As for the frustrating burglar alarm, might Laurie be sneaking into the house at night to observe Jill up-close?

Chief’s relationship with Jill is becoming increasingly distant, and stepping into the breach, in an inevitably improper manner, is Aimee. She’s making herself comfortable at the Garvey place, offering to make Chief coffee while still dressed in a skimpy nightgown. When Jill bolts from breakfast another morning, Chief is left to ask Aimee if his daughter is okay—as if she were her mother and his wife. There’s an uncomfortable comfort growing between them.

Rev. Matt is a prime suspect in the murder, but he has an alibi. He might have motive, but the biblical method of the crime points to the same people who skulled him with a rock. He even wants to see the body, once he’s cleared of suspicion, in order to pray for her soul. “Killing these people is pointless,” he tells Chief. “They don’t care because they’re already dead. What I want is to bring them back to life.” Chief relents and brings Rev. Matt to the morgue. But wouldn’t you know it: another missing body. Turns out Gladys was shipped to the ATFEC in Virginia.

NEXT: Laurie blows the whistle

When the ATFEC investigator finally calls Chief back, he’s apologetic but cites procedural red tape for delaying the investigation and preventing a return of the body. Forensics and follow-up won’t be available for four to six weeks. But… he’s happy to send some agents by the end of the week to “eliminate the infestation.” The infestation? The ATFEC is the trigger-happy group, you might recall, that cleaned out Holy Wayne’s compound. “Chief, this s— spreads if you let it,” counsels the investigator. “Just say the word and everything can go back to normal.”

Just say the word, Chief, and we’ll send some fascists up there who will gun down those chain-smoking wackos. Like ordering a pizza. “No thanks,” says Chief, after a lengthy pause. “We can handle it.” Will that be the end of it? Or will Mapleton now be in the ATFEC’s cross hairs?

A drunken Chief ends up at the liquor store to pick up more beer, when he decides it’s the perfect time to pick up those elusive white shirts from the dry cleaner. He frightens the dry cleaner, who hands over eight white shirts. Were they the actual eight missing shirts that Chief had dropped off, or were they just any eight white shirts the dry cleaner could find in order to get this armed madman out of his shop? I suspect it was the latter, and that Chief will find eight pressed shirts in his office closet next week.

Patti and Laurie return to the cul-de-sac after their pleasant retreat, bookended by the apocalyptic tunes of Hall & Oats and James Ingram & Michael McDonald. But not before dropping off a doggie-bag for someone named Neil—the person Patti named presumably as someone she left behind to join the GR. I’m befuddled. There were no leftovers, as the waitress pointed out, and Patti took the empty bag with her when she excused herself from the restaurant table. So who is Neil and what’s in the bag?

Back at the cul-de-sac, Meg announces she’s ready to take the next step in her induction, but any celebration is interrupted by Rev. Matt, who’s doing his Christian duty to mourn the loss of Gladys with a sidewalk vigil outside the GR’s homes. As he sermonizes with a megaphone, inviting any GR to join him in the ceremony, Laurie breaks with her group, comes outside—and blows the emergency whistle in Rev. Matt’s face. Over and over, she tweets, interrupting his message of goodwill. Patti watches from the window with glee: Laurie is back on the reservation.

Somewhere in Virginia, though, the forensic investigation into Gladys murder is underway. It’s an open and shut case, and by that I mean, they’re dumping her body into the fiery furnace without any investigation. She’s lifted on to a conveyor belt in some industrial factory and fed to the flames. “Doubt is fire,” Patti had preached. “And fire is going to burn you up. Until you are but ash.”

Was Gladys a martyr or a willing sacrificial lamb?

Episode Recaps

The Leftovers
A “rapture” drama from Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, whose book of the same name served as inspiration for the series.
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