The Guilty Remnant, one of the most prominent — and divisive — aspects of The Leftovers ' first season, has so far been nowhere to be seen in Season 2. The premiere took place exclusively in Jarden, Texas, which seems to be untouched by the cult's corrupting influence; and the second episode, while rewinding to show the Garvey family picking up the pieces in Mapleton post-Season 1's climactic riot, didn't spend any time with the cult members outside of a quick glimpse of Laurie sitting in her car outside the diner where Jill and Tommy were meeting. But the chain-smoking cult is back in Season 2's third episode, "Off Ramp," and there's one looming question: Will Tommy Garvey join the Guilty Remnant?
Narratively, it makes sense. Tommy's storyline was the most isolated last year, with him existing in almost an entirely separate spinoff-within-a-show. But with Holy Wayne dead, Christine having fled, and Wayne's baby delivered safely to his father's front porch, there's nothing tethering the character to his Season 1 roots anymore. Tommy can literally do anything this year. Thanks to that scene in the diner last week, we know he's been spending time with his mom; and it makes sense that the character's quest for meaning might lead him to join the ranks of his mother's cult.
And then there's the Season 2 trailer, which featured a quick but conspicuous shot of Tommy dressed all in white, cigarette dangling from his mouth:
Case closed, right? Season 2 will apparently feature the wacky and wild adventures of Laurie and Tommy Garvey, dynamic mother/son GR duo. But before you get all worked up about the world's mopiest cult usurping screen time from the infinitely more fascinating Murphy family, remember that this is a show by Damon Lindelof, aka the man responsible for Lost, and therefore things are probably (read: definitely) not as they appear.
In fact, according to the press release for this Sunday's episode, "Laurie and Tom Garvey's work to rescue lost souls takes a toll on theirs." Is the Guilty Remnant suddenly in the soul-saving business? Not exactly. The synopsis continues: "Laurie seeks to spread the word about the Guilty Remnant's dangers, while Tom's infiltration of the cult uncovers a whole new nest of problems."
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Laurie's preaching about the GR's dangers? Tommy is infiltrating the cult? This is a pretty big departure (pun intended) from where these characters' storylines left off last year. Sure, Laurie was likely traumatized by the fire that almost claimed her daughter's life. But there was little indication that she was so traumatized that it lead her to turn against the Guilty Remnant. She was the one who coordinated the stunt that led directly to the riots in the first place; surely she wasn't expecting a peaceful response from the citizens of Mapleton?
And sad sack Tommy, who was so lost in the show's first season that he devoted his life to a cult leader, is suddenly self-possessed enough this season to actively work against yet another cult? I'm fascinated to see what brought these two characters to this point, and I hope the show eventually fills in the holes of what happened to them between the Season 1 finale and this surprising juncture.
So what is the aim of Laurie and Tom's infiltration of the GR? The press release's mention of "lost souls" and the episode title's allusion to an exit strategy seems to indicate that they're trying to convince members to leave the cult. Is it Laurie's remorse for what almost happened to her own daughter that has led her to work against her former colleagues? If so, isn't it ironic that what drives a wedge between Laurie and the Guilty Remnant is, well, guilt?
Images: Ryan Green (2), Screengrab/HBO