This The Leftovers review contains spoilers.
The Leftovers Season 2, Episode 1
The Leftovers was one of my favorite shows of 2014, but that took me a long time to figure out. You see, when I was reviewing the show while it aired last summer, I was continually baffled and bummed out every Sunday, left scratching my head and wondering what the hell I was going to write about. I found the show compelling, but it was never necessarily satisfying, that is until I started thinking about the show after its run. I couldn’t get The Leftovers out of my head, and I kept cycling back to think about its compelling character studies, the way that it played around with its episodes, shifting from one-offs to flashbacks with ease, and its complete lack of interest in solving its central mystery. The Leftovers didn’t want to satisfy, it wanted to mystify.
Season 2 of The Leftovers begins with a new title sequence, which features lyrics that serve as an almost mantra for the series “Let the mystery be.” In interviews leading up to the premiere, showrunner Damon Lindelof said the reason he joined the project was the pressure of not having to answer the question at the heart of the series, how or why 2 percent of the population disappeared.
Life doesn’t just surrender answers to big questions so neatly, so why should The Leftovers? That logic would all be fine and dandy if the disappearance was the only question season one failed to answer, but we still don’t know who the guy in the truck was, what was up with that National Geographic, that damn deer or that creep Wayne, and I doubt we ever will know. This season of The Leftovers, I’m not going to get caught up keeping track of every unanswered question, instead choosing to take my cues from Lindelof and the new theme and instead focus on the characters while I let the mystery be.
There’s plenty of new characters to focus on, as The Leftovers Season 2 transports us to Jarden, Texas, “Miracle,” the town where no one disappeared. After a beautiful, bewildering, but symbolic opening of a prehistoric woman trying to survive alone with her infant, we spend the next 35 minutes not with the Garvey clan, but with the Murphy family. There are the kids, fun-loving and epileptic Evie, faithful and charitable Michael, then mother Erika, a warm and kind nurse, and finally, John. John, just like Kevin in season one, feels like a loaded gun about to go off right from the get go, the only difference is that John still has his family happily under one roof.
John smiles wide, plays the part of the loving Dad, but there’s something sinister boiling underneath that comes through when he and his fellow firefighters assault and burn down the home of a local mystic who is cashing in on the beliefs of the townspeople, right after that man gives John an ominous reading about his future. The morally dubious firefighter watchdogs give off strong Fahrenheit 451 vibes, and after John receives the unsettling prediction and then lashes out, there’s a palpable tension that builds throughout the rest of the episode, especially when fellow powder keg and new neighbor Kevin Garvey is thrown into the mix.
I can tell that Kevin and John are going to have an explosive relationship, and I’m also excited to explore more of Miracle, the new setting that really seems like its going to become its own character, what with all of the sacrificed goats, birds emerging from buried boxes, and disappearing lakes and what not. The fact that Evie, the most lively of the new fully-formed characters, goes missing at the end of the episode ensures that the drama will escalate quickly, and the worrying way that John eyeballed the other new Miracle transplant, Matt Jamison, spells trouble.
Kevin Carroll is instantly captivating as John Murphy, a guy who jumps right to believing that someone is attempting to poison him when an apple pie is left on his porch. He seems intimidating, insecure, scared, powerful, and charming all in one episode, which is a hard feat to pull off. Honestly, I am really surprised and impressed at how well The Leftovers pulls off this soft-reboot and sets up a season full of new dynamics and new mysteries, though I’m not holding my breath for any answers.
The Best of the Rest
- Ok, so the lake. On the sign we can clearly see that water is not supposed to be taken or drank, and yet Evie does both and then suddenly is missing. Not guessing that’s a coincidence.
- The grasshopper in the house is the sort of symbolism that The Leftovers loves.
- Preserved cracks in the road, random earthquakes, the man in the tower, all things left to discover.
- Hopefully this season has more single-character-focused episodes and flashback episodes, would love to learn more about how John became the town enforcer or what happened with that attempted murder.
- Kevin’s got a mysterious cut on his head, spaces out staring at John’s coach, basically doing classic Kevin stuff.
- Michael visits an isolated man to pray.
- How does Evie’s epilepsy, or Erika’s hearing aids, fit into what’s happening here?