The Leftovers “Off Ramp” Review

*Spoiler Warning: Plot and or ending details follow*

Calling episode three of The Leftovers “Off Ramp” was a wise move. Everything the first two episodes were building towards–a new town, new characters, new problems–has taken a back seat for Lori and Tom, Kevin’s ex-wife and son. I found their brief return in episode two to be an alright send-off for them. It didn’t answer any questions or tie up any plot threads, but the show never needed to. Lori’s main arc wrapped up nicely at the end of Season 1, and Tom was always the least compelling character of the bunch. Let him go off to do whatever again. I certainly don’t mind.

But no, we return to both of them and their dealings with the still-operating Guilty Remnant cult. Lori has now set up a counseling service for ex-members of the cult, trying to rehabilitate them and introduce them back to the families and friends they left behind. Tom is helping her by infiltrating the Guilty Remnant and finding people that clearly want to leave but are too afraid to. The cult suffered a large blow at the end of Season 1, and it seems like it’s almost made them more dangerous. There is a cold air about them now, like they have less of a purpose for society. They still smoke and refuse to talk, but for some reason, I just don’t see the point to it anymore. It’s like they’re all going through the motions and acting like a real, Kool-aid drinking cult instead of a driving force for change.

I’m not sure if this makes them more dangerous or not, but I’m also not sure I care. Let’s be honest, the Guilty Remnant were a big part of Season 1, back when Kevin was a police officer and dealing with them on a daily basis. Well, Kevin has moved to a place where the cult isn’t active. The Guilty Remnant feel like they belong in the past, and watching one of their bases of operation burn to the ground at the end of Season 1 certainly gave me enough catharsis to forget all about them. I get that they’d still be going on, what with them being spread across the country, but those stories are for different places and people. We’re in Miracle now, and we have the Murphy’s to contend with. Let the silent ones stay silent.

Or to put it more bluntly: I feel like this episode doesn’t need to exist, and the plot threads started aren’t as compelling or important as what was going on in the first two episodes.

It doesn’t help that there’s almost a slice-of-life aspect to “Off Ramp.” Lori is going about her day-to-day business, helping the members she’s rescued by morning and writing a book damning the cult by night. As soon as she mentioned the book, an alarm bell went off in my head. She won’t have a backup. It’s a novice mistake to be sure, but since her book is clearly important to her, it’s also the only way for any tension to be built. Someone will either take or break the laptop, and she’ll be forced to do something drastic.

Cue the buzzer when this happens! As someone who has written a book, this was all really unbelievable, so much so that I found it frustrating. Online storage is so easy to come by these days, what with Google docs and Box.net being websites that exist. Hell, you can even just email files to yourself and store the emails that way! I’ve done all of these things (multiple backups people, that’s the key), and she doesn’t do any. Then she has the gall to finish the book this episode, and my it’s a big one when we see it printed out, and I just can’t fathom it. In a series where Patti is a ghost and two percent of the world up and disappeared, this is what killed my suspension of disbelief.

She also manages to score a meeting with a publisher really quickly too, which is also not how that works. You’re lucky to hear back from them in six months. I get that this is a television show and this all had to happen in one episode, but then show time passing or something!

Meanwhile, Tom gets captured–which is tense and interesting–and then has sex with Meg, a returning character from Season 1, while bound for no real purpose that I can see. Meg is probably pregnant now or something, but the whole thing was just bizarre in a bad way.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have much else to talk about. I didn’t like this episode. Lori and Tom have their predictable breakdowns, and they were all executed quite well, but I just don’t see the point. This show already has so many characters to deal with that adding three more seems like a recipe for disaster. Going overboard on plot threads and characters is what really hurt the second season of True Detective, and I’m now worried that we’re in for the same here.

Because damn, we’ll be on episode four next week, and we still haven’t gotten through the cliffhanger in “Axis Mundi!” In a series with only ten episodes per season, there’s very little room for error and only so much room for sideplots and characters. The Leftovers is starting to feel bloated.