Matt Jamison and Police Chief Kevin Garvey try to track down a dead body. (Paul Schiraldi/HBO) Matt Jamison and Police Chief Kevin Garvey try to track down a dead body. (Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

A common complaint about “The Leftovers” is that it’s too grim. So you critics will be glad to know that instead of just gloom and misery, this week’s episode starts with a grisly murder! How fun.

The first five minutes are brutal as Gladys, one of the older members of the Guilty Remnant cult, is stoned to death. (Sidenote: Can you look at Marceline Hugot, the actress who plays Gladys, and think about anything except that she played unicorn-loving Kathy Geiss on “30 Rock”? No? Okay.)

Anyway, Gladys is minding her own business at a gas station when two masked creepers grab her; tape her to a tree in the woods; ignore her pleas for help; and throw rocks at her head until she dies. Thanks for all those shots of blood pouring out of her skull, “Leftovers” producers — that seems necessary.

Somehow, Gladys’s G.R. partner notifies leader Patti and everyone back at the house that Gladys is missing — and even though they’re still not allowed to talk, they all gather in a van to search. While combing through the woods, Creepy Mystery Man Who Shoots Stray Dogs (his name is Dean) joins them to shoot some dogs and help. It’s police chief Kevin Garvey’s estranged wife, Laurie, that stumbles upon Gladys’s corpse. She promptly, understandably, goes into shock.

The rest of the episode is dedicated to the investigation of the murder, but not really, because the Mapleton Police Department is fairly incompetent. Fearless leader Kevin has to remind one of his deputies not to mess with the evidence until they photograph it, and it all goes downhill from there. Gladys has no family, and while there was plenty of motive from people who hate the G.R., there’s no trace of the criminals. Though Dean was a witness, he’s little help, and just wants to know when the cops will give him his gun back.

Laurie is still badly shaken by the whole incident. Meg, the G.R. member still allowed to talk, seems unfazed. “Are you surprised?” she asks Laurie, in re: the G.R. having lots of enemies. “We want them to remember something they want to forget. They’re not going to leave us alone…it’s only a matter of time.”

This seems like a good time to ask again: What exactly does the G.R. want? So far, we’ve established that they have decided that the rapture-like event means life is meaningless (which is why they dress in white, eat slop, chainsmoke) and want everyone else to accept this fate as well. Maybe that is their overall goal.

Laurie knows all this, but as Meg goes on about how of course some people will want to kill them due to their message, Laurie collapses. She winds up in the emergency room, where a skeptical doctor asks how many cigarettes she smokes a day — when she doesn’t respond, he tells her she had a panic attack and gives her some pills. Laurie exits and runs straight into cult leader Patti, who orders Laurie to get in a car without explaining where they’re going.

Kevin’s investigation into the murder stumbles along as he makes a stop in Jill’s chemistry class at school to tell her about the attack, so she will hear it from him first. The plan backfires when she hysterically bursts into tears, assuming her father is about to tell her something awful happened to her mom. Later, she feels bad that she got so upset. “I shouldn’t have cried,” Jill says. “She wouldn’t have cried for me.”

Rattled, Kevin heads into work to scream at a detective who notified the feds at ATFEC (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives and Cults) that there was a cult-related homicide in Mapleton. The detective argues that it’s protocol, but Kevin insists that it doesn’t matter. Indeed, Mayor Lucy comes in and takes Kevin’s side. When did Lucy join Team Kevin? She even agrees to call a city council meeting when Kevin demands that the city start to enforce a curfew in the wake of the attack on Gladys. He promises he won’t be influenced by “his family situation” (a.k.a. Laurie) and will focus on keeping everyone safe. 

Filled with a newfound confidence, Kevin calls up Agent Kilaney from ATFEC and tells him they don’t need federal assistance and can handle the murder investigation by themselves. He then takes a six-pack of beer and parks outside the G.R. house to “guard” it — and winds up drunkenly passing out until a guy approaches his car with a group of violently barking dogs. The guy asks what Kevin’s doing, brings up the killing and then tells Kevin “Don’t investigate too hard.” People really hate the G.R.

Rumors are already flying around town about what happened to Gladys — when he gets home to find Jill and Aimee eating breakfast, Aimee asks if it’s true that Gladys was dragged behind a truck and crucified. Kevin just shakes his head as Jill walks out. He then asks Aimee (who is being a little too flirtatious these days with “Mr. Garvey”) if Jill is okay. Aimee’s unsettling response: “She’s Jill. She doesn’t really do ‘okay.'”

But Kevin has no time to parent because he’s slowly losing his mind. Taking a break from the investigation, Kevin has to solve another mystery: What happened to his white button-down shirts? He started searching for them in the beginning of the episode, but then gets proactive and confronts a dry cleaner. The man at the cash register swears that they haven’t seen Kevin’s shirts, and if Kevin doesn’t have his ticket, there’s nothing they can do. Frustrated, Kevin storms out, but not before stopping to flirt with Nora Durst. Foreshadowing!

Kevin heads back to the station to do his job, and brings in Reverend Matt for questioning — after all, he got hit in the head by a rock aimed at a G.R. member a couple of weeks ago. And instead of thanking him, the G.R. stole his church. Matt claims he was home all evening when Gladys was killed and his study group members can confirm it. Then he turns the tables by asking Kevin if there’s any chance he can see Gladys’s body — he frequently saw her standing around the church and would like to pray for her. Kevin is visibly taken aback and says “no way.”

A couple things happen, though, that make Kevin change his mind. First, the town meeting where he’s supposed to demand a city-wide curfew at dark is a total disaster. People think it’s unfair that they have to change their lives just because of events brought on due to the G.R. Even Mystery Man Dean pipes up, saying that no one else did anything wrong and it’s the G.R.’s fault anyway. “With all due respect chief,” Dean asks. “How do we even know these people didn’t do it to themselves?” Kevin starts yelling at him, but Lucy interrupts and asks for a vote: The council unanimously rejects Kevin’s request for a curfew.

Furious, Kevin tries another way to keep things from getting worse — he goes to G.R. headquarters and begs the cult members to settle down, even giving them safety whistles. He reminds them if they keep following people and breaking into houses, citizens will retaliate. The silent members just stare at him, so no word on whether that impassioned speech did anything. On his way out, Kevin miserably asks Meg where Laurie might be — Meg has no idea, and Kevin is convinced she’s lying. “She’s not your wife anymore,” Meg reminds him, in re: the divorce papers from last episode.

So yeah, where is Laurie? Oh you know, just a hotel upstate with cult leader Patti, who gives her a comfortable bed, normal clothes and a big, delicious breakfast at a local diner. Laurie is extremely puzzled at this treatment, especially when Patti starts talking — Laurie, who hasn’t spoken in eight months, is either too confused or stubborn to say a word in response.

So Patti tells her a little story. “Gladys sat right where you’re sitting right now,” she explains. Apparently, Gladys got word last year that her son died and didn’t take it very well. As a result, she lost her commitment to the G.R. and started doing things like “crying” and “moping” and “caring.” So, Patti gave Gladys the same hotel/real clothes/big breakfast treatment, so she could talk about her troubles out loud: But Gladys refused to say a word.

That’s when Patti turns even more serious and starts glaring at Laurie — she can tell Laurie is troubled too these days, but she can’t be like Gladys and start to care again. “There can’t be any doubt, Laurie,” she says. “Because doubt is fire. And fire is going to burn you up until you are burnt ash.”

Whoa — does Dean’s theory about the G.R. killing off their own have some merit? Because that’s certainly what it sounds like. Patti also writes the name “Neil” on a paper bag, gets up and walks away, and later drops it on someone’s porch. No clue why.

Back to Kevin: After his disastrous town meeting and trip to the G.R. house, Kevin visits Matt and tells him, you know what, who cares: Let’s go visit the body, because this is the closest thing Gladys will get to a funeral. They head to the morgue, but the guy there tells him that the body is gone — it was shipped to Virginia, ordered by ATFEC Agent Shawn Kilaney. Kevin loses it and leaves Kilaney a screaming, expletive-filled voicemail, reminding him that he wanted the feds to back off.

Later, a bored-sounding Agent Kilaney returns the call and sounds very sorry-not-sorry: He didn’t get Kevin’s message in time, but once a body is taken to the ATFEC Processing Center, it’s too late. Kilaney tells Kevin that a field agent will be in touch in four to six weeks. But in the meantime, if Kevin’s really worried that the town is about to boil over thanks to the G.R., they can send some guys to “eliminate the infestation.” That translates to vans of armed guards who will storm the Guilty Remnant compound and “get you the results you’re looking for.”

Kevin doesn’t quite know how to respond. “Just say the word,” Kilaney says. “And everything can go back to normal.” Kevin tells him “no thanks,” but looks like that response could change — especially when his next stop is the liquor store. After pressuring the store employee to sell him more beer even though he’s obviously drunk, Kevin decides to storm the dry cleaners and get his shirts — the owner is so terrified that he just gives Kevin random white button-down shirts just so he’ll go away.

Shirts in hand, Kevin stumbles home, only to run into Jill. He decides this is the right time to tell her that he and Laurie are getting a divorce. Then he breaks down weeping.

Things end in similarly cheery terms over at the G.R. compound. First, Laurie and Patti come back from their road trip to see Meg, wearing all-white and not speaking: “I’m ready now,” she writes on a notepad, fully invested in the cult. Then, the members hear a strange sound — outside, Reverend Matt and a band of followers are praying for Gladys. Laurie storms outside, and at first, we think she’ll join them. But really, she just gets up in Matt’s face, blowing a whistle as loud as she can repeatedly, in lieu of screaming in frustration about the state of her life right now.

Then, Gladys meets her true end: “Processing” at the ATFEC Center is code for “incinerating,” as a group of workers send her body down a conveyer belt into a fire. And clearly, on this show, it’s might just represent the burning flames of hell.


Episode 4: Who had the most miserable Christmas?

Episode 3: The most interesting character? Not one of the main ones

Episode 2: Only two breakdowns, and that’s impressive

Episode 1: After a Sudden Departure, things are grim