How does the world end? Not with a bang, but with a whimper. That’s what happened on October the 14th, the day of the Departure, where the whole world suffered except the tiny town of Jarden, Texas. After Meg’s mwahaha moments from the previous episode, it seemed very likely that she would blow up the bridge leading to Miracle National Park. But the key point is that she didn’t; she merely burst down the door to take over the Park. She’s destroying the spared town of Miracle the same way — and on the same day — as the world was destroyed on the 14th.
But what Meg does not understand is that Jarden, Texas, was never spared from human suffering. As Michael so eloquently puts it, “Nobody disappeared from here on October 14, four years ago. But they did before, and after.” That idea is such a beautiful, unifying theme that doesn’t feel at all depressing, which is impressive for a show that’s built a reputation around being depressing. That’s why The Leftovers‘ second season is some of the most original, beautiful television to appear on our screens in a long time.
Yes, The Leftovers is depressing much of the time — and confusing, riveting, intense, discerning, insert adjective here — but at its core, I believe the show to be a hopeful one. The season 2 finale, “I Live Here Now,” which neatly and not-so-neatly ties the plots and characters of the season together in the town of Jarden, proves that.
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The Guilty Remnant Wants Everyone to Suffer as Much as They Do
I was perfectly a-okay to not get any answers from The Leftovers about the whereabouts of Jarden’s three missing girls, but as we saw in this season’s penultimate episode, The Leftovers is giving away answers. This is not the show’s M.O., but I’ll take it since these answers say a lot more about the show than the world of the show. You understand me?
Why did these three girls — who never experienced the “Suffering” of the Departure — join the Guilty Remnant? Because these girls are suffering in a different way. The Guilty Remnant (and Meg, in particular) exist to remind people of that suffering and that they can never forget that. They want everyone to be in as much pain as they are in.
The opening scene is of Evie handing her father his birthday present before the girls stage their disappearance. One of them cries, Evie intimidates her and they go on like little sociopaths. As we find out when Evie rips open the present, Evie gave John a dead cricket. He’s pleased, but Erika sees beyond that. That wasn’t the cricket that was driving him mad. It was just a dead cricket.
Evie and the girls are still missing in the eyes of everyone, however, and John has just learned that Kevin — back from beyond the grave — is a match for the handprint. They decide to meet in a neutral location to talk this out. John asks for proof, and Kevin explains that he came back from the dead with Michael and Virgil’s help. John asks where Evie is, and Kevin tells the truth, explaining that he saw Evie and her friends stage their disappearance to look like a Departure. He asks why his daughter would do such a thing. Kevin replies that he doesn’t know, but he guesses that maybe Evie doesn’t love her family.
After knowing the gift she gave her father, this is a nice look inside of Evie’s headspace. Maybe she doesn’t love them. Maybe she’s in so much pain and suffering that she’s acting like a sociopath. Maybe it’s more complicated than that. But nothing’s too complicated for John Murphy, who shoots Kevin point blank and walks away.
Elsewhere, to spread the suffering and misery, Meg hatched a plan to ruin the town of Jarden, Texas, by opening its bridge to the Miracle National Park campers. She drives the trailer and car, parks it in the middle of the bridge and waits until the three girls make their grand entrance. A clock counts down and, thanks to a slip of the lip and a rigged countdown, Meg implies that the bridge will blow up.
On the campground, Nora, baby Lily and Mary (who’s awake from her coma, did I mention that?!) look for Matt. It’s a joyous reunion, though he knows it is not safe for Mary and the baby outside of Jarden, Texas.
Up at the National Park, John runs to the bridge, happy to see Evie alive as he tries to force his way over to her, but he can’t. So he runs to find Erika and Michael, who are in church for the remembrance of the 14th. Like I said before, Michael gives a very powerful speech about how the town was not spared from suffering. Erika looks on proudly before John bursts in to grab them. The Murphys then descend to the bridge, where the parks people are keeping them at bay, but Erika sneaks out to run off.
In a soundless exchange (meaning we can’t hear what she’s saying), Erika clings to her baby daughter, Evie, who avoids her stare and can’t hug her back. Erika demands to know what has gone on and says she will stay on the bridge and blow up with Evie if that’s what it takes, but she’s actually just checking for a bomb. There’s no sign of one as she screams to John and Michael.
But it’s too late; the disguised Guilty Remnant dress up and march on the bridge to the Promise Land. It’s a riot of anarchy for the people to march on up. In the chaos, a stranger steals baby Lily from Nora’s arms. Nora races to find Lily, helpless and alone on the ground just waiting to be trampled to death as Nora protects her from the tramplers. Then Tom of all people — in a fitting narrative circle of the season 1 finale — grabs Nora and the baby to hide in the trailer for the time being.
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And then there’s Kevin, being sent back to purgatory after being shot by John. He tries to contact his dad again for another message, but no luck. Instead, Kevin heads to the wardrobe cabinet, this time choosing his Mapleton uniform and heading downstairs to the lounge bar after a phone call tells him that a cop is being killed.
There is no cop there but Kevin. There is, however, the man on the bridge hosting a karaoke session. Kevin explains why he must go back to see his family, and the man tells him to spin a wheel and choose a song to sing. So he sings “Homeward Bound,” and it’s cut up with meaningful moments like that damn National Geographic magazine and shots of his family. And soon enough, he wakes up in the animal shelter, with his dog waiting for him.
Together, they walk to the streets of Miracle and see chaos all around. The dog hears a whistle and runs out of town and Kevin heads to town. He sees that the Guilty Remnant have taken over the National Park, then he chats with a mad Meg and gets the hell out of there.
He heads to Urgent Care all by himself. He may have come back from the dead (again), but he’s still kind of bleeding out here. And wouldn’t you know who is there but John Murphy?! He doesn’t understand anything that happens or is happening. That’s his fatal flaw. He helps clean Kevin’s wound — who’s pretty chill and forgiving toward John for nearly killing him — and John carries Kevin home. Another earthquake occurs and Kevin enters his house to find his family there — all of them. Jill, Laurie, Matt, Mary, Tom, baby Lily and Nora. “You’re home,” Nora says. And that’s all Kevin’s ever wanted since the Departure, so he cries not from despair but from happiness.
- Where to begin? Where to end? The Leftovers just created one helluva season of television. You probably cried at the credits, were incredibly confused and riveted and depressed by all it, but you made it to the end. I hope there are more episodes and beyond, but I am deeply satisfied by the series already.
- The actors and performances were exceptional this season. Everyone brought it. Emmys for everyone, but especially to Carrie Coon, Regina King, Justin Theroux and Kevin Carroll.
(Image courtesy of HBO)