One of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen on tv, this was an unflinching, utterly harrowing depiction of a brutal murder, a scene so distressing that I actually whimpered and had to look away. Which was uncomfortable but probably good for me as well: it sounds incredibly patronising to say it but murder is obviously a terrible, terrible crime, and yet it’s a crime that, on tv, is regularly sanitised and stylised. Think of the number of jokey procedurals where the murder is no more than the jump-off point for the wisecracks and the sexual tension, or some of the more self-consciously serious shows where the killings are both routine and multiple, or even the “daring” psychological series where they’re almost fetishised. It’s not that my tv viewing doesn’t include some of these shows – I love The Mentalist and Burn Notice, I even went through a brief phase of watching the supremely unpleasant SVU – and it’s not that there’s anything wrong with escapism, but sometimes a dose of realism can be a healthy thing, I think. So, while I never want to watch that sequence again, all credit to veteran director Mimi Leder for keeping it honest.
Enough of the sermonising, though, and back to this week’s show. As a result of the murder, Laurie continued to struggle with both grief and doubt, the townsfolk and the Council openly rebelled against Chief Kevin and the rising tensions between the GR and everybody else threatened to boil over. Things then took an even more sinister turn when ATFEC got involved and offered to “eliminate the infestation” instead of investigating the crime, leaving the troubled but fundamentally decent Kevin as the GR’s last line of defence; the closing sequence showing ATFEC’s cold, mechanical attitude towards the victims wasn’t quite as difficult to watch as the opening one but it was still incredibly grim. There was a real sense in this episode of a world and a world view deeply, irrevocably affected by the Departure – the GR and the pushback against it isn’t confined to Mapleton, and the authorities’ reaction to it is far from benign.
All of which sounds beyond depressing but, as usual, there was some dry humour to leaven the mix (this week, not only were the townsfolk thumbing their noses at Kevin, but so were his alarm system and his dry-cleaners). And there was a little hope too. In a couple of poignant scenes, Kevin and daughter Jill edged closer to understanding each other, and, on a much lighter note, Kevin and fellow lonely soul Nora edged closer to, er, sleeping together. A ship, you guys! You know how I feel about a ship! Not that I needed another reason to love this show – this episode was terrific.