In the season 2 premiere of The Leftovers, we met the Murphys and Miracle, TX. In this episode, “A Matter of Geography,” it’s time to re-meet the Garveys and re-meet the strange world of Miracle, TX. You know, the town that has tighter security than most countries’ immigration.
The second season of The Leftovers is setting itself up quite nicely with these character-focused episodes and a season as a whole. If season 1 asked questions like, “How do I rationalize this irrational thing” and “Can I move on from this unbearable, nearly unexplainable grief?” season 2 is asking the next logical line of questioning: “Is there such a thing as feeling safe post-Departure?” But it’s also still asking, “Are we okay yet?”
Personally, I think The Leftovers is probably my favorite show on television at the moment just because of the volume of questions and emotions it demands from us. This is not an easy show to watch, which I haven’t had in a long time. You know how they say there is difficult, challenging literature and films? The Leftovers is difficult, challenging television. If your premise is that 2% of the world’s population disappeared, it’s difficult not to be difficult.
And it’s for that reason and question — “Are we okay yet?” — that makes the show so engaging to watch this year. Even if you hated, despise, loathed season 1, season 2 has plenty of fascinating ideas to offer — not just in character-focused episodic storytelling, but also in the form of the filmmaking. Episode two proves that.
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Confessions, Part II
Picking up from the season 1 finale, the new Garvey clan — consisting of Kevin, Nora, Jill and new baby Lily — is ready to come clean and start fresh and become “okay.” Kevin admits that he had a sleepwalking problem and kidnapped Patti into the woods on one of his “benders” but also that Patti killed herself and he and Matt buried the body in the woods. Nora, meanwhile, admits that she hires prostitutes to shoot her. No big deal, as the Garvey family sort of laughs off this ridiculousness. And finally, The Leftovers shows a sense of humor!
Two months later, Kevin and Nora officially adopt baby Lily into the family, insisting that “separation” is not an option between the two. Which is kind of weird because as the show and characters point out, they don’t know each other.
Meanwhile, Jill’s in contact with her half-brother, Tommy (recap: he worked for Holy Wayne last season), though she hasn’t disclosed this to her father or Nora. Even as Jill insists to Tommy that they’re okay and that Tommy is welcome to their family, it sounds to Tommy’s (and our) ears like BS. No one’s okay. Jill may have a new family with Kevin and Nora and Lily, but she also refuses to have any communication with her mother, Laurie.
Nora’s seemingly more okay. She’s moved in with the Garveys and has a beautiful daughter to look after. A new family. And then, that sense of safety maybe comes crashing when she gets an offer from a group of students from MIT to buy her house for $2.7 million. They’re not concerned with the ‘where’, but the ‘why’. As we learn from the researchers, they believe the Sudden Departure had to do with geography; Nora’s house is particularly valuable to them since her whole family departed only a few feet away from her at the kitchen table. As the researcher suggest, “Why wouldn’t another Departure occur again?”
Kevin’s not okay, either. There’s a real sense of guilt over his involvement with the Guilty Remnant. He blasts loud, obnoxious music including the most unsubtle Pixies’ song “Where is My Mind” to block out the fact that he’s still losing his. It overwhelms him so much that he digs up Patti’s body in the woods and cuts off a cop so he can get caught. Yet the ATF could not care less about that terrorist. He’s out of luck.
Plus, his dad has been officially released from the psychiatric institute, but Garvey sees through this. Garvey Sr. claims that his good luck is because he listens to the voices now — the very same voices Kevin is still hearing and ignoring. It explains the loud, bad music, but it does excuse it.
After realizing there’s nothing left for them in Mapleton, Kevin proposes a move to Texas.
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The Perfect Realization of Miracle
Part of the reason why I love The Leftovers is because it has thought out its world. If a place like Jarden, TX, did exist, wouldn’t our government agencies completely take over? Wouldn’t it be like a second Jerusalem where travelers from all around the world could visit? Wouldn’t there be quarantine zones for pets and wristbands and gift shops and biddings on real estate? This aspect of the town is just perfectly realized. Hats off to the Leftovers team.
So the Garveys arrive in town and discover that their rental had been set on fire — by John and his squad of nonbelievers, we can imagine — and Nora, ever the impulsive one, bids on the house next door to the Murphys for $3 million. Kevin’s peeved, reading into the signs that their new move spells disaster, but Nora and Jill are happy.
After staying with Matt and his wife for a night in the church’s shed, the Garveys move into their new home, which needs a lot of work. It’s a gorgeous old house but also a pile of crap. Kevin continues his time-honored condition of weird experiences with appliances when he gets a “visit” from Patti, who beats the crap out of him (or, more accurately, makes him beat the crap out of himself) for not talking back to her. This explains Garvey’s cuts from episode one.
Speaking of which, finally the Garveys’ story now intersects with the Murphys. As Patti puts it, “Hard to tell if they’re part of your story or you’re part of theirs.” We witness the birthday party, Evie’s seizure, the firm handshake goodbye and a welcome to Jarden for the second time. Then we witness something new: a fight between Nora and Kevin, who’s pissed that they’ve impulsively jumped into this new town. Jill consoles her dad, asking him to “please, don’t f*** this up,” and he promptly apologizes.
And then we see Kevin wake up again, in a new place, wet and covered in dirt in a pool of drained water next to dying fish. Confused as ever, he follows the headlights of Evie’s friend’s car, locked with their belongings in it. As John and his son, Michael, pull in, Kevin makes the smart decision to hide as John screams for his daughter, who is missing. And, finally, we see Patti next to him. “Uh oh,” she croons. Uh oh, indeed.
- Why are house appliances always attacking/messing with Kevin Garvey? Explain yourself, Lindelof and Co.!
- Where do we stand on Kevin’s sanity? Is he crazy or just having visitors in his head? Or both? I’m leaning toward the last option.
- Jill Garvey was my not-so-secret fav last year, and she’s so great in this episode. She’s grown up and naive all at once. I just want to protect her, but I can’t. Thus, the premise of the show.
- “I could sit around and cry about how the world f***ing ended or I can start it up again.”
- The second episode is by no means as great as the first, but it’s a great catch-up episode, in a way. I bet we’ll see Tommy and Laurie in the next episode, but I’ll admit I’m cautious about these character-focused episodes, if only because I want the plot to move along and dive into the town of Jarden.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.
(Image courtesy of HBO)