Well, it seems that this show is finally building toward something. Though I hoped that was the case all along, I’m glad to know that this season’s arc is about to reach its climatic reveal. It was hinted at last week with Garvey Sr. and his urgent manic attempts to get Kevin to wake to his purpose. But it was this week’s episode of this dark and oddly gripping show that really makes me believe that there is method to all of this season’s madness and profound sadness. We actually got quite a few answers to some of the mysteries that had viewers asking: WTF? However, we still don’t know yet what everything is building towards, but after this episode I pretty much feel like I have to find out or I will always be wondering if I ever understood what the hell was happening. That kind of mystery can’t live in my head with no resolution. This episode is driven by the theme of purpose and I, like many viewers, am trying to understand the purpose of the GR’s master plan, Holy Wayne’s prophecies, Garvey Sr.’s rambling proclamations, Kevin’s psychotic breakdown and more than anything else – why I keep watching.
The opening sequences of this show are phenomenal. In “Cairo” we got to see the parallel and intercut scenes of both Patti and Kevin preparing for something. Kevin is preparing his home for Nora to come over for dinner and met Jill and little orphan Aimee. Patti is meticulously laying out clothing, and knowing the Guilty Remnant (GR) we can only assume that what she is preparing to do with said clothing is probably totally dickish. The song that was playing that seamlessly interlaced these shots was a spiritual tune called, “I’ve Been ‘Buked and I’ve Been Scorned” which seems oddly fitting for both these characters. The final lyric of the song is, “There is trouble all over this world.” You don’t say? Not to mention the gun that Jill finds is hidden in a game of “Trouble.” Sometimes these interconnecting elements feel a bit too on the nose, but I’m a sucker for the synchronicity of it all.
Dinner does not go well. While Nora and Kevin make an effort, and even Aimee does her best to ease the tension, it is ultimately Jill who injects the scene with her one note angst that is rather tiresome. I also love that the whole dinner is scored by the angry barks of that dog that’s still tied up outside, it was a nice touch. Jill brings up the gun she spied in Nora’s purse in the earlier part of the season. Nora admits to having carried a gun because it made her feel better. To prove she no longer carries the gun, she allows Jill to search her purse. And this is what digs at Jill, who is locked inside her own misery – how did Nora get past needing the gun? She’s the most grief stricken woman in Mapleton, how does she get to move on? It’s this question that motivates Jill for what comes next with her usually subpar subplot.
Did anyone else note all the inverted shots of Jill in this episode? I thought it was a nice touch considering how upside down her world has become and is still becoming. It’s obvious in the scene in the park that Jill can’t let go of her own grief and anger. When Aimee tells her that her unwillingness to accept that people can just be “ok,” Jill snaps at her friend and asks the question we’ve all been wondering: Is Aimee going American Beauty on Kevin? Aimee answers yes, but I honestly believe she does this out of spite because she is so hurt that Jill would ask. Aimee has been the one looking out for her, she’s been a pseudo-positive force in the Garvey household considering how glum Jill and Kevin both are all the time. Jill, still trying to understand how Nora was capable of letting go of her grief, and by extension her gun, breaks into the woman’s house. It’s in the box with the game Trouble that Jill finds the gun. And then she cries, and for a second I thought she might kill herself. But she doesn’t, and when she goes home she finds that Aimee is moving out and moving on, and yet again Jill is faced with forward momentum that she herself does not possess. So when she ends up on the steps of the GR at the end of the episode, it seemed like Jill finally decided to make a move. It’s shaping up to be an awful decision considering what we find out from Patti, but Jill has moved forward into something.
Meanwhile, Kevin is basically Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Tyler Durden from Fight Club depending on your realm of cultural references. Come to find out, those black out sessions that have been hinted at in previous episodes are a growing problem. The most recent black out occurred after dinner when Kevin closed his eyes and then wakes up in Cairo, New York. Remember that National Geographic cover and the mention of “Cairo,” and also the radio emitting the word “Cairo” in one of Kevin’s dreams? Well, here we are in Cairo where Kevin and Dean, the dog shooter, have abducted Patti from the GR.
The abduction occurred during Kevin’s blackout when his alternate personality was at the forefront. I kind of think of this part of Kevin as the wild animal caged within, and we’ve seen many representations of that throughout the course of the season. Kevin must now decide what kind of man he is and what he’s going to do with Patti. Dean actually refers to himself as a guardian angel at one point, and yet all his advice for Kevin seems a bit more like he’s the devil on Kevin’s shoulder. We’re also left wondering if this is who Garvey Sr. was talking about when he told Kevin that someone was coming into his life to help him. But what is killing Patti going to help him with? I don’t think we are going to understand Kevin’s purpose until we can look back at the whole season and see where he ends up.
In an attempt to get his mind straight Kevin wanders out into the woods and we start to get some answers to some of the mysteries surrounding Kevin. He finds all of his work shirts pinned up on trees in a circle, he also finds a bunch of boots which seems weird, and when he tries to call Nora his message cuts in and out of reception which is consistent with all the communicative devices that Kevin comes into contact with. Also, when he returns to the cabin we see that there are deer etched into the wall of the cabin. The deer and the dogs have been consistent animal symbols in Kevin’s story. The drawings and the shirts made me think that this is Kevin’s place of unraveling – this is where his other half lives.
What he also finds upon returning to the cabin is that Dean has taken matters into his own hands and has taped a bag over Patti’s head. This is what Kevin saw in his dream last episode, and in this scenario he fights Dean in order to save Patti. He succeeds in saving Patti and driving Dean off, and on his way out Dean says to no one in particular that “he tried.” Is he talking to the same voices as Garvey Sr.? Are these the voices Kevin could be hearing if he would only embrace his purpose instead of rejecting it? Would he permanently morph into this other version of himself when he awakens to his purpose, when he truly understands?
Kevin, in probably the most sedate and vulnerable position he’s been in thus far, sits facing Patti and shit gets real. Or, at least sort of real, because in order for it to be completely real we’d have to understand what the hell is actually happening. Despite the GR’s tilted and at times incomprehensible logic, I loved this scene. The tension between Kevin and Patti has been mounting all season and now he has her here and he is battling internally with trying to be a good man, but also with trying to understand Patti’s motivation and the GR’s purpose. Pattie tells Kevin that Laurie didn’t leave him because of his infidelity; Laurie left him because he couldn’t offer her “purpose.” In this post Sudden Departure world, these cults are all the rage because they offer people a way to match their psychological and emotional reaction to the departure to an external organization that has adopted a means by which to cope, thus providing purpose in moving forward.
In an off-kilter interrogation, Kevin actually gets some answers from Patti about the GR when she tells him, “We strip away attachment fear and love and hatred and anger, until we are erased, until we are a blank slate. We are living reminders of what you try so desperately to forget: that we are ready and we are waiting. Because it’s not going to be long now.”
Something is coming. The GR believes it. Kevin’s dad believes it. Holy Wayne believes it. What the hell is it? It’s more than just the GR’s Memorial Day stunt. That stunt by the way, is going to create an explosion of emotion for the people of Mapleton who have lost someone in the Sudden Departure, because those pictures that were taken on Christmas were used to create those look alike figures being advertised, and the GR are going to dress them. It’s messed up, and it will be emotionally jarring for everyone who comes home to find $40,000 likenesses of their departed family members.
Then Patti reveals the nature of Gladys’ death. It is suggested the GR is responsible for the stoning and that Gladys had agreed to the plan. I remember the nod shared between Gladys and Patti at the start of that episode. I assume that’s what that nod meant, and it eerily echoed the nod between Laurie and Patti at the start of this episode when Pattie asked if Laurie was ready; ready to be the next martyr or the next leader? Patti hints that the fate of Gladys will ultimately be Laurie’s fate and her own, and that is why she is pushing Kevin’s buttons.
Patti wants Kevin to kill her, and because every police man is likely versed in the sensitive nature of poetry she recites some Yeats to only further confuse him, “O vanity of sleep. Hope, dream, endless desire. The horses of disaster plunge through the heavy clay. Beloved, let your eyes have close and your heart beat over my heart. And your hair fall over my breast. Drowning love’s lonely hour in deep twilight of rest. And hiding their tossing manes and tumultuous feet.”
Again this hinting at “sleep” with the insinuation being that everyone must wake up. Patti is trying to force Kevin to understand what this all means. But he doesn’t understand, and while he now sees that they are involved in some sick martyrdom all in an effort to keep the people of Mapleton locked on the significance of the Sudden Departure, he’s not willing to kill Patti and feed into their cycle. Kevin cuts Patti loose and that crazy bitch stabs herself in the neck and dies in his arms with the last words, “You do understand.”
I really don’t think he does Patti, and frankly – I don’t understand either. While I may know more now about the objective of GR, I still have so many questions. How deep does the organization go? What is the big ominous thing that is coming that makes murder and martyrdom justified through the lens of the GR’s purpose? What the hell is Kevin going to do now? Once again, he was on the precipice of finding out what his purpose is in all the events unfolding, but he is rejecting this other part of himself in an effort to remain a good man. I’m so interested in finding out more about this.
I thought the episode overall was really interesting, and for the first time I found that the camera shots actually added another visual element that heightened some of the intensity in the scenes. A lot of the shots of Patti were through broken window panes which reminded me of the layered perspective of all she was revealing. The scenes between Kevin and Patti were truly the highlights of the acting in this episode with their exchange of dialogue being engrossing if not wholly comprehensible. The pressing idea of purpose was evident from the opening sequence; everything everyone is doing seems so filled with purpose. From Reverend Matt Jamison’s new mission, to the next GR reveal, the stoning of Gladys, Patti’s martyrdom, Dean’s guardian angel role, Laurie’s decision to join the GR, Holy Wayne’s prophecies, Garvey Sr.’s desperate attempt to awaken his son’s purpose, Jill’s behavior leading her to the GR doorstep – all of these things have been building. And poor Kevin, he’s still a clueless bloke. There are two episodes left in the season and The Leftovers was just renewed for a second season. So I’m predicting that the big thing that is coming will be revealed at the end of this season and the roll out will be the focus of the second season. I really hope all of these storylines intersect somehow and that the reveal is worth all of the mystery.
Amanda Lowery lives, writes and studies in Baltimore where she is held hostage by potholes, stray cats and rats that make her watch way too much TV and rhyme unnecessarily. You can find her book reviews and pop culture thoughts at amandasthinkingoutloud.blogspot.com.