The Leftovers: ‘Off Ramp’ Review

 The Leftovers: 'Who Wants A Hug?'

I want a hug. Off Ramp may have been one of the best episodes yet in this insane second season of The Leftovers. Who needs Miracle when we have Tom, right? This episode might have been a series defining moment for one of the most underrated shows on television. We left the Murphy’s and Garvey’s behind in Texas to follow Tom and Laurie around town and it’s the kind of brilliance that only comes around once in a while. The Guilty Remnant is back in the picture and even Holy Wayne seems to have left a footprint. I could not be more thrilled that we get to explore all of this in more detail.

Amy Brenneman was a complete show stopper throughout as Laurie Garvey. You’ll remember that she had minimal lines last season due to her membership with the Guilty Remnant but that feels like it was so long ago. Every scene with Laurie was sheer brilliance. And Chris Zylka was just as phenomenal in his role as Tom with that speech at the end still sending shivers down my spine. If there was one moment from the first season that I will never forget, it has to be Nora’s letter to Kevin. Well, Tom’s speech at the end off Off Ramp is another unforgettable moment and might hold up as the best of the second season, although we still have plenty more to come.

And that’s not all because Liv Tyler returned to reprise her role as Meg and now looks to have taken over where Patti left off with the GR. For me, this was the best episode yet and that is saying a lot because this season has been out of this world. I can’t get enough of The Leftovers and if you haven’t watched it yet, what are you waiting for? Enjoy the review, fellow departed.

GR Anonymous

The opening scene was pretty much genius for so many reasons. First, we had Laurie washing her car and it becomes clear later that this first shot was after she ran down those two members of the Guilty Remnant in the street. Second, I loved how they went back and forth between Laurie and Tom. Laurie is in the process of getting her life back together after leaving the GR behind but the story was really told through Susan, who was also a former member of the GR and was recruited by Tom. I loved the shots of Laurie filling up that jar with Nicorette gum, especially because smoking is such an important part of the GR. I also really loved the reference to Departure Insurance because it’s pretty obvious that insurance companies everywhere would exploit the shit out this situation:

Departure Insurance

Every aspect of this story was emotionally charged and completely unexpected. In fact, I didn’t even think we were going to be exploring what happened to the Guilty Remnant after the tragic events in Mapleton last season so it was a pleasant surprise to have an entire episode dedicated to Laurie, Tom and the GR.

Would You Like To Join Us?

Once again, the theme was all about moving on after a life changing event and Laurie is now trying to help people escape the GR. Tom is now a member of the GR too but the sole purpose of this is so he can recruit people to Laurie’s GR Anonymous group where she is counselling them to move on with their lives.

You’ll remember from last season that Laurie joined the GR after the departure and ended up divorcing Kevin because of it. Susan’s story is similar to Laurie’s as she did the exact same thing and left her family behind. The entire story was so well written because of the similarities to what Laurie went through and now she’s putting all of her energy towards healing people. People she can definitely relate to having been in the same situation herself.

It also became evident that the GR is still alive and well when some of their members show up at one of Laurie’s meetings in an attempt to bring back some of their former members. More importantly, the note they left behind which ultimately led to Susan’s downfall.

We also had an amazing scene with Maxence Cyrin’s Where Is My Mind playing in the background and it was simply beautiful watching Susan reunite with her son. I don’t know about you but this show is full of emotion and it knows how to present that emotion through its characters. Even Susan, whom we just met. You can check out the track below and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye.

We find out that Susan is surprised that her husband just wants to know when she’s coming home even after everything she put her family through by leaving them behind for the GR. She expected her husband to be angry and yet he was just glad to have her back. Seriously show, why do you gotta do this to us? Everyone can probably relate to something like this in the sense that we’ve left something or someone behind, whether it was our choice or not. Some of us will never be asked to “come back home”. Here though, Susan was the one that left and she left for a reason. The only problem is that Laurie can’t seem to provide these people with a good reason to forget the GR and it is ultimately what leads to tragedy when Susan ends up driving her family into oncoming traffic.

Let’s be honest, change can be tough, especially when it’s unwelcome. The departure was an unwelcome change for most people even though the first season presented us with the idea that these people were actually wished away. As it turns out, Susan can’t stand the day-to-day life her family provides her but there is something more at play here. The GR gave her something after the departure, something that we obviously don’t understand yet. When Susan returned to her family, she went back to a life without meaning, and after finding the crumpled up note from the GR…

Any Day Now

…it confirmed that she no longer had any purpose in life. Such a tragic story but necessary to better understand how the GR has affected the lives of its members, Laurie included. And what exactly did this cryptic note mean? What is going to happen ‘any day now’? Definitely something to think about.

Whistle Blower

We also find out that Laurie is busy writing a book about her experiences with the GR but money is tight and her landlord is a complete scumbag. He eventually kicks her out of the building, and steals her laptop in the process, and it makes sense why he wasn’t one of the departed. Hell, he even thinks his own kid is an asshole.

Laurie ends up taking matters into her own hands and, once again, this scene was awesome. Laurie gets total redemption when she finds her landlord’s asshole son playing on her laptop so she scoops it up and gets the hell outta there.

Yoink

And it just got better and better when she comes across two GR members standing in the middle of the road. You could almost feel her rage and anger while watching this all play out. We also had no idea what was going to happen next and I certainly wasn’t expecting her to do this:

Laurie runs down the GR

Every second of this scene was breathtaking from the moment Laurie put the car in park and started revving the engine to the moment she gunned it and never looked back. I was pretty much sitting here in disbelief when this happened because I had no idea Laurie had it in her to do this kind of thing.

Messing with the GR, however, is never a good idea and Tom finds this out the hard way when he tries to recruit another member to escape and she literally blows the whistle on him.

Clean As A Whistle

This all led to another amazingly awesome plot twist when we find out that the GR has a new leader and it’s none other than Meg, played by Liv Tyler. In one of the strangest scenes ever, Meg ends up jumping Tom’s bones for some reason. After the big reveal at the end of the episode, maybe she is trying to get pregnant with Tom’s baby because she knows about his new power that was given to him by Holy Wayne? That’s probably a bit far-fetched but I have no clue why she ended up sleeping with him. Either way, welcome back Meg.

Meg Says Hello

Let Me Just Put This On Silent

Laurie finally completes her book and apparently the publisher loves it…big time! It’s good news for Laurie until she gets a phone call about Susan’s accident. It’s all very depressing but it’s life. I sometimes feel like this show is about mental illness, about how we, as human beings, deal with things that are out of control in our lives and how difficult it can be for some people. This series really makes you think about life and it does so in a way that most other series cannot even comprehend.

The whole scene with the publisher was outstanding because Laurie realizes that it’s all bullshit in the end. She wants to tell her story the way she wants to tell it, not the way some douchey publishing executive wants her to do. How do we feel about it? This is how:

Feel This!

Watching Laurie attack the publishing exec was euphoric in every way but the thing that stuck out for me was when they ask Laurie what the GR really believes and she responds by saying that they believe the world ended. And suddenly Susan’s story starts to make more sense. If the world really ended and Susan really believed this, there was never going to be any hope for her after she left the GR.

Another piece of evidence to support this is when Laurie tells Tom that “she doesn’t want to hurt them but they won’t jump out of the way” in reference to her earlier hit and run. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the GR doesn’t give a shit about life because the world, to them, has ended. And this leads to the big reveal at the end. Laurie and Tom realize that the GR is giving these people something and they have nothing to replace that something with. But it’s what they plan on giving them that was truly a shocker. Tom has somehow inherited Holy Wayne’s power to take people’s pain away and his speech at the end of the episode was just beautiful in every way. It’s just unfortunate that he didn’t use his newly found power in time to save Susan who definitely looked as though she needed a hug.

Susan driving to her death

This is not a show about the departure. This is a show about life. About change. About moving on. About finding a purpose. The people who joined the GR did just that but when they left, they reverted back to their former lost selves. Now Tom can take their pain away and give them a new purpose in life. And while our own lives are never going to be that easy or simple, maybe the message here is that what we all really need is a big hug.

Lastly, what was with that Australian guy they kept mentioning? Apparently, this guy thinks he went to the other side and can’t die. Is this some kind of hint that maybe some of our dearly departed will be coming back? I swear these strange references have been put there for a reason but what is the reason and how does it relate to the departure? I know we’re supposed to let the mystery be but I’ll be damned if I’m going to do that. Any thoughts on this?

So far, we’ve had three episodes that have told three very different stories and this season of The Leftovers is one of the best things I have seen on television in a while. While last season’s finale was one of the best of the series (if only for Nora’s letter to Kevin), Off Ramp was this season’s best so far.

The Verdict

Episode Score: MIKEY LOVES IT (and I’ll take one of those hugs)
Mikey Likes It

Collective group hug to everyone. This was one of the best episodes of the series so far. Susan’s story, while completely tragic and depressing, was necessary to illustrate the point that once we strip away our previous beliefs and purpose in life, it can be very difficult to regain these things. People need a reason to live, a reason to carry on. Without it, we’re left with nothing.

I don’t think I have ever been this emotional or passionate about a television series than I am about The Leftovers. The story asks the viewer some very tough questions and any story that can really make us think as deeply as this show does is something I absolutely want to be a part of. I remember watching LOST but I was always wanting answers to the mystery of the island. With The Leftovers, I find myself not caring so much as to why the departure happened but rather I have become emotionally invested in the stories of our characters, Susan included. And that is what a good story is supposed to do.

Of course, it’s still fun to speculate about why 2% of the world’s population suddenly vanished but this is only one element of an amazingly complicated and deep show. As depressing as the first season may have seemed, at least it has the balls to ask tough questions and for that, I am truly grateful.

So what did everyone think of Off Ramp? Did you need a hug immediately after? Is the GR right? Has the world really ended or are they just a bunch of nut jobs? Let us know in the comments and thanks for reading, fellow departed.

Lastly, we’re headed back to Miracle, Texas next week where we will hopefully get some answers about the missing girls and how Kevin ended up at the bottom of the watering hole. Be sure to check out the promo for Orange Sticker below: