Why Does The Guilty Remnant Smoke So Much? Theories — And An Answer

Okay. We took a week off from the main action of HBO's The Leftovers to focus on Reverend Matt Jamison (played by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston), and it was a fascinating tangent. But now it's back to business. And by business I mean the Guilty Remnant stalking people and smoking cigarettes and generally being a giant enigma.

Seriously, who are these people? We know that the GR is (not) a cult that recruits members from the small town of Mapleton to live in subdivisions together and wear white and never talk and generally lead what looks like a pretty drab existence. It's hard to imagine the appeal of such a life... But then again, it's hard to imagine a world where 2 percent of the world's population suddenly vanished into thin air one day. So we'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

We get the whole living-on-a-compound thing. We get the uniforms. We get the vow of silence. These are all fairly common trappings of any cult (or a "grass-roots movement," as they prefer to be called). But why the constant smoking? Instead of waiting for the show to answer that mystery, we acted like the impatient viewers we are and looked up the answer on the GR's "official website." But before we did, we entertained several theories of our own, including:

Because it looks cool.

Isn't that the reason anybody starts smoking? With those boring white outfits the members wear all the time, they need something to help them look fashionable.

Because the GR's founder is a chain-smoker.

Perhaps the founder of the Guilty Remnant was a quiet chain-smoker with an affinity for white t-shirts, and everyone in the cult has to physically emulate him/her. (Speaking of, who is the founder of the GR? Is it Ann Dowd's Patti — or someone we haven't met yet?)

Because their funding comes from Marlboro.

Seriously, somebody has to pay for those fancy houses where they're shacking up.

Because they're trying to kill everyone in the world with second-hand smoke.

They say second-hand smoke kills. If so, the GR could be the most innocuous group of mass murderers in the world, and they're helping speed the rest of the world along so they can all be with their dear Departed ones again. Maybe those giant signs they were holding up at the Heroes' Day commemoration were a warning to everyone to enjoy their lungs while they still can.

Because they kind of look like eyes.

This one's interesting. Since the GR always travels in pairs when stalking the citizens of Mapleton, it's possible that the lit ends of the cigarettes are supposed to look like a set of glowing eyes, staring unwaveringly at their targets.

Because it's bad for their health.

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. It could be that the Guilty Remnant all just have a death wish, but are too cowardly to off themselves quickly. As it turns out, this one's not too far from the truth. According to the novel, the website, and that giant sign hanging in their mess hall, the real reason they smoke so much is...

They smoke to proclaim their faith.

How can smoking cigarettes be a proclamation of faith, you ask? The GR believes that the world as we know it ended on the day that 140 million people simultaneously disappeared. And if the world has ended, why should they care if smoking is bad for them? As it says in the FAQ section of their website, "God's judgment is upon us. We don't expect to be around for very long." Chain-smoking is the GR's way of showing the world that they've accepted this fact, and aren't afraid to face whatever's coming.

Images: HBO (8)