This The Leftovers review contains spoilers.
The Leftovers Season 2 Episode 10
I’m ready to declare The Leftovers my favorite show of 2015. In a year that’s been full of great television, The Leftovers has been consistently thought provoking and engrossing, with each episode layered with emotional performances and evocative meditations on mortality, faith, grief, and love. Season one flirted with the same themes, but in a dour, hard to watch manner, whereas during season two, I could never look away. Few shows get to reinvent themselves like The Leftovers, and even fewer do so with such confidence and skill, garnering heaps of praise from old fans and former detractors alike. Damon Lindeolf is a polarizing figure in Hollywood, but what he’s created this year is truly special and should earn him plenty of goodwill, so he can continue making enigmatic, original art.
Even if last week’s promise of an explosive conflict never-quite came to fruition, I still am weak over this episode. Like most episodes of The Leftovers, I was completely wrapped up in the little details and callbacks to earlier moments in the season. It’d be easy to complain that Meg’s big plan was really just “everyone rush the gate at once,” but I couldn’t be bothered with that criticism when I think about the little wave that Erika gives Laurie, and then John gives Kevin at the end of the episode, that callback to this season’s premiere, or the fact that Evie’s gift to John was a cricket.
My notes are littered with these seemingly insignificant moments, like Jill cringing as Laurie puts her hand on her shoulder when she’s answering the knocks of cops and John at the door, or the look on Nora’s face when she notices Mary is awake. These small details are what make a great TV show, and The Leftovers has been lovingly paying attention to the miniature moments all season, peppering Miracle with little oddities that are all explained in due time.
And just like the season at large, the performances were top notch tonight; the jubilance that Matt experiences when he realizes Mary is awake, the excitement they share when Mary learns of her pregnancy, every single interaction between Kevin and John, from the tense and tearful conflict in the kennel, to the bizarre warmth they share as two former adversaries laughing in the face of their own desperation and confusion. Then there’s Nora’s horrific sprint to recover her child, Meg’s terrifying sweetness, Erika’s flabbergasted heartbreak and bewilderment, and Jill’s single tear cracking through her hardened exterior. Each one of them could be the top standout scene if it weren’t for Kevin’s return to Hotel Purgatory, where he’s forced, “stupidly,” to sing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound,” all out of key, teary-eyed and deeply longing. It’s odd, affecting, and appropriate – I couldn’t tell you what it’s supposed to mean, I just know that it got to me.
There may have been something left to be desired in the way that Nora was handled. As my favorite character, I believed that the finale would contain more of an end of her season’s arc, where she struggled with the idea that maybe she was the cause of her family’s disappearance. I also would have liked to see more resolution in Jill, Laurie, and Tommy’s stories, especially the latter, who spent the episode looking like he was about to do something important at any minute, but in reality, just provided Nora with some shelter from the chaos. On the other hand, I liked that the Murphys were the primary focus. We started season one with our new characters, and it’s fitting that we ended with them and their incongruous family drama. With a volatile father, a trapped mother, and a banished grandfather, Evie’s life certainly didn’t feel like a Miracle, but every day there were tourists in her town insisting that she lived some charmed, blessed life. To date, Evie’s indoctrination into the Guilty Remnant may be the best example of the cult’s purpose.
So even if the episode was weak with plot points, I still adored the ending, which was a perfect callback to the end of season one. Once again, Kevin has the day from hell and returns to find his family, but this time, everyone is there waiting for him. Kevin doesn’t have to gather what’s left of a family unit and start over, he’s found his home, the people he loves, and it doesn’t matter if the world outside is burning. It’s sublimely beautiful.
If that’s The Leftovers’ final shot, it’s not the worst note to go out on. I know the ratings aren’t there, but it would just feel truly criminal if The Leftovers did not get to come back for a third season. Hopefully word of mouth over this incredible season will build and people will find the series over the coming months. I rarely get emotional watching TV, but several times this season, especially with that last scene this episode, The Leftovers leaves me all choked up, deeply reflecting on what I just saw, appreciating all that I can derive from its meaning and marveled by everything I’ve yet to comprehend. That’s what good art does.