The Leftovers' Ann Dowd on Patti's "Triumph" for the Guilty Remnant
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday’s episode of HBO’s The Leftovers. Read at your own risk.]
The members of the Guilty Remnant are dropping like flies on The Leftovers.
On Sunday’s episode, the white-clad cult’s leader Patti (Ann Dowd) found herself tied up in an upstate New York cabin at the mercy of increasingly unstable police chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and his dog-killing “guardian angel” Dean (Michael Gaston). But was it all by design?
Although a blacked-out Kevin apparently assaulted and kidnapped Patti with the intent to bring his war with the G.R. to a bloody end, he eventually “woke up” and wanted to abort his plan. But Patti was having none of it. Not only did she seem to welcome death (and confirm that she pulled the strings behind fellow G.R. member Gladys’ murder earlier in the season), but Patti clearly wanted her demise to come at Kevin’s hands. When he wouldn’t oblige, however, Patti grabbed a shard of glass and plunged it into her neck, taking her own life.
So, why was Patti dead-set on dying? And what’s her obsession with Kevin? TVGuide.com chatted with Dowd about playing out Patti’s final moments. Plus: Is Laurie (Amy Brenneman) going to take Patti’s place as the Guilty Remnant’s leader?
Did you know from the beginning of the series that your character would meet an early demise?
Ann Dowd: No. I did not. I found out just before the beginning of shooting [Episode 7]. [Executive producer Damon Lindelof] communicated this to me, and I didn’t see it coming.
What was your reaction to the news?
Dowd: I laid down and cried. Damon communicated this to me exactly the way I would have wanted. He wrote me a very lovely, beautiful e-mail. I would never have wanted to have been called and say, “Ann, I have something to tell you,” because I can’t talk under those circumstances. I loved the email. It was beautiful. I love [Damon] to bits and I trust him. He’s a man of immense integrity and huge talent. So, I trusted his gut. I understood why he went there. [So] I laid down and had a cry, one of many, and then as one does, hopefully I let go of that and moved into the thrilling and life-changing shooting of that episode.
Beginning with Gladys, Patti seems to be introducing martyrdom into the Guilty Remnant. Why?
Dowd: The full conviction of the G.R. is that life, as we know it, is over. The event of the departure is cataclysmic. It’s a full-out catastrophe, which to say there is no going back and the sooner we accept this in its entirety, the quicker we can move to it where we need to be. Death is not something to be avoided. I think [they’re] preparing to die. The Departure presents the chance to let go into the chaos, let go of the control. I think that death to Patti is triumph, a position of strength, an act of joy.
Patti tells Kevin that Laurie’s time is coming soon. Does Patti believe all her fellow G.R. members will ultimately follow in her footsteps?
Dowd: That’s the thing that’s great about this. It makes this unlike other “religions.” It’s new, so we’re putting it together as we go along. We don’t say, “OK, so you’re going to die and you’re going to die and you’re going to die. And we’ll all go here and jump off this cliff, and we’re going to go to the vat of Kool-Aid and take a sip.” It is a personal evolution, the goal of which is to drop, in its entirety, denial.
What’s Patti’s obsession with Kevin? In her mind, is she trying to free him from his denial?
Dowd: I think that’s very true. Patty recognizes that Kevin is ready to make the shift. This chaos that’s unraveling him internally to Patty is a good thing. That’s the beginning. Kevin is one of those extraordinary figures in life. He’s a good man. He’s trying to do the right thing. He’s trying to keep the peace, and, therefore, he is the enemy of the Guilty Remnant because he is allowing the people who are living in denial to continue that way of life. And he’s also protecting the Guilty Remnant. The Guilty Remnant does not want or need his protection, and that’s why they’re at odds. He believes in supporting life as we knew it, that’s the way to move forward. But that’s not what Patti wants.
So, Patti’s final mission is to try to finally break Kevin down?
Dowd:. They’re natural enemies and therefore they’re natural lovers, if you will. In the depths of that fight, [there is] intimacy, and when there is intimacy, there’s a chance for the truth between two people. That’s what happens. I think she’s saying to him exactly what she believes: “Let go. Commit to what you already know is inevitable.” And of course he hates that.
When she jabs that shard of glass into her neck, is she trying to force Kevin’s hand?
Dowd: No. She’s committed to her own life, her own process. Whether he’s going to come along or not is one thing, but she’s not going to leave that cabin alive, period. I think if he could have assisted there, wow. Kevin Garvey, this man of decency, if he’s the one that ends her life that’s a huge thing. That would be pretty fantastic. But he can’t.
The Guilty Remnant is a non-violent group, but they seem to do plenty of harm to themselves! How does Patti justify that?
Dowd: You’re right. But the Departure changed all the rules. Life is chaos, and chaos has its own violence in it. So, our not attacking others is very different from surrendering our own lives. The ending of life is violent, even if it’s in your sleep. There’s some part of you fighting to stay alive and there’s another part of you saying, “Time to go.” So, there’s a violence inherent in death, no matter if we see it or if we don’t. For Patti, it is an act of strength not to surrender in a weak way.
When she wrote “Ready?” to Laurie earlier in the episode, was Patti signaling that she was leaving Laurie in charge?
Dowd: No, I don’t think there’s any of that in there. For Patti, I think they live each day knowing that this could happen. It’s always a personal check, meaning, “Am I ready?” But I think there needed to be leadership in the Guilty Remnant because it was new. That’s why Patti is there. She has an understanding and a commitment that is very necessary for this group to move forward. Whether there needs to be someone else in charge, I don’t know. With Laurie, there’s a connection there. I think Patti is drawn to her and she’s guiding her a little bit. But for what, I really don’t know.
Will Patti’s death create a reaction from her fellow G.R. members or others? Or do you think Patti perhaps has overestimated the impact of her death?
Dowd: Well, death is the triumph for Patti, for sure. The understanding with the Guilty Remnant is that life is over. So why are we here? Our job is to let go, strip ourselves of attachment, strip ourselves of the untruths that we live by day-to-day, take off the blinders, surrender to the truth that it is over, and prepare for whatever is next. The way through is death. I don’t think she gives lectures on that. I think that in her actions, we see. … When you don’t speak, the silence is the teacher.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 10/9c on HBO. Watch This Tonight — See why Dallas is our editors’ pick: