'The Leftovers' Recap: 'Penguin One, Us Zero'

By Vincent Lia,
The Leftovers returns with a much more cohesive episode

Looking back, now that we have more than a single episode of The Leftovers episode to evaluate, the clunkiness and ham-handedness of the premiere was somewhat necessary. The creators could have been more methodical and taken more care in presenting the characters and their circumstances, but it likely would have taken us a third of the season to get things really moving. Instead, we went into last night's episode with a decent grasp on who the major players were and their individual plights, and now probably have a much better idea of what to expect on a week-to-week basis.

We start by learning a little more about Wayne. Unsurprisingly, he's got a pretty seedy background that involves a serious penchant for teenage Asian girls. He's been on the authorities radar for some time due to statutory rape charges, and now the Feds are after him for peddling his "healing hugs" to politicians.

Wayne's Nevada compound is paid a visit by a SWAT team that takes out every male they come across, while detaining the plethora of young Asian girls. When one of the SWAT members corners Christine, the girl Wayne employed Tom to protect, Tom shoots him through the back of the throat. "Sorry," Tom says to the agent as if he expects him to understand, "She's important."

When the dust settles Wayne returns to the ranch. In one of the more unsettling things last night's episode gave us, Tom finds him gently kissing the body of one of his henchman, something Wayne claims he'd never let him do when he was alive. Wayne thanks Tom for saving Christine, and informs him it's too dangerous for her to travel with him, and Tom would still have to take her with him. Wayne reminds him the value of her life, saying "She is everything." There's something more to be learned about Christine and why she's so important to Wayne.

Back in Mapleton, Chief Garvey speaks to a psychologist, presumably mandated by Mayor Warburton, about his dog shooting incident. The psychologist refers to Kevin's shooting partner as the "mystery man," as nobody has ever been able to validate his existence. Already wrestling with his psychosis, Garvey is further alarmed when a bagel he put into the department's toaster mysteriously goes missing in the machine.

Kevin goes to visit his father at the mental facility he resides at, and we learn his father is linked romantically to Mayor Warburton. Kevin's father, who once held his police chief position, begins giving him advice before he breaks into an argument with himself.

Kevin's fears about his own sanity are relieved a bit when another officer locates the mystery man's pickup truck in Kevin's driveway, and his daughter briefly acknowledges the man when he shows up at their door, inviting Chief Garvey to join him for some more dog shooting. Even further, Kevin takes apart the toaster to find the missing bagel.

Over at the Guilty Remnant, Laurie is in charge of mentoring Meg, but Meg isn't subservient and asks too many questions, which causes Patti, Laurie's boss, to insist she Meg walk. After exercises such as one-by-one removing personal items from Meg's past and having her attempt to chop a tree down, she is paid a visit by Chief Garvey, who informs her that her fiancé has filed a missing persons report on her. After discovering this, Laurie is certain this is the last straw, and Patti wakes one morning to find Meg gone. She assumes she's left for good, but we learn she went back to the woods with her axe to complete her task.

Jill and Aimee come across Nora Durst, the face of The Sudden Departure victims in Mapleton, and some strange behavior on Durst's part leads to the girls, along with the Taylor Lautner doppelganger twins, to play hooky to do some reconnaissance work on her. They don't learn much, but they certainly gain the attention of Durst. "She's a bad influence on you," one of the twins says to Jill, in reference to Aimee. It's pretty clear that the pair have plenty of trouble ahead of them this season, and hopefully (for them) it doesn't involve the huge gun they saw in Nora's purse.

In all, it felt like we're past the Introductory period and fully into the swing of things now. Episode one was broad and overwhelming. It was burdened with juggling the tasks of bringing viewers up to speed while still giving them a gratifying television experience. "Penguin One, Us Zero" was much more focused and honed in on storytelling, which bodes very well for the series.

Photo courtesy of: Roger Wong/INFphoto.com

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