This The Leftovers review contains spoilers.
The Leftovers Season 2 Episode 6
After five episodes setting fuses, The Leftovers started to spark this week. That’s not to say that the earlier episodes have been lacking anything; to the contrary, season 2 has been as successful at remaining fresh and introducing exciting new characters and plotlines as any series’ second year. But tonight, everything seemed to be coming together. We got some answers to questions, a rarity for this show, and also set up some new conflicts, and it all really comes courtesy of Nora and Erika.
I knew from the very first episode that John wasn’t the only member of the Murphy family that was complicated and interesting. Tonight, we finally got to enter the head of Regina King’s character, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but she’s just as confused and conflicted as everyone else on the series, if not more so. In the best scene of the season so far, Nora uses stolen questions from a Department of Sudden Departures employee, a secret new algorithm that is supposed to verify the possibility of second departure, and asks them to Erika. What unfolds is two women trying to figure out what place they’ve played in the disappearance of their loved ones and coming to different conclusions.
Nora wants to believe that she isn’t responsible for what has happened to her departed family members, but new scientists and theories suggest otherwise. When Nora learns about the “lens” theory, that a person can radiate the negative energy associated with making people disappear, she runs through her normal range of rage, denial, introspection, and curiosity until she ultimately settles on a “let the mystery be” attitude (that’s with some help from a totally batshit crazy theory that she’s the walking incarnate of the demon Azrael) and determines that a person can’t be responsible for someone else’s disappearance.
She then coldly relays these opinions to Erika, because as we’ve learned, Nora has to force these opinions on others to help her further convince herself. She tells Erika that it’s “pathetic” to make the departure about herself as a part of some self-hating hypocrisy. But Erika truly believes that she could be responsible for Evie’s disappearance, because of a wish she made involving the burial of a bird in a box, an old folk tale told by her grandmother that eerily came true.
Erika was going to leave John and wished that Evie would be able to be happy with that decision. Evie is gone and now Erika is stuck as an almost unwilling enabler to John’s actions, because how could she possibly leave now that her daughter is missing? Nora resents Erika and the disappearance of Evie because this was the exact thing that she was trying to put behind her, and Erika can’t understand how Nora could be so steadfast and callous in the face of such bizarre circumstance. The two women, being so similar but at odds, will surely add to all of the other brewing drama.
So we learned about the birds tonight, and the goat, the woman in the wedding dress, possibly Virgil’s identity (Erika’s dad), and why John went to prison (shot Virgil). That’s a lot of answers. We also got to see Kevin come clean about talking to Patti, another highlight of the episode. Seeing Justin Theroux look so unhinged, lashing out at the air, really put in to context just how quickly Kevin has slipped back into being mentally ill. It was easy to see that Kevin was a wreck last year, but this season it has been hidden by the support and normalcy that Nora and Jill have brought to him. Kevin notices it too, asking how Nora is taking it all so well. Perhaps she’s too caught up in her own spiraling thoughts to notice Kevin’s. Will the wake up call help Nora realize that she’s just playing pretend with Kevin?
Tonight wasn’t less heavy or emotional of an episode, but it was certainly more satisfying, as it put some mysteries to bed, brought us more information about the Murphys, and showed just where some of these plots may be headed. Add in some knockout acting from Carrie Coon and the always brilliant Regina King, and we may be looking at the best episode of the season.