With the season 2 debut, titled “Axis Mundi,” The Leftovers moves to Jarden, TX, aka “Miracle” — a town where no one departed. But don’t worry, the town’s just as nutty as what happened to the rest of the world on the 14th.

The Leftovers, remember, is not a show for everyone, but boy do I wish it was. This show makes you feel things deeply. Heck, I teared up over the new opening credits (especially when I’m reminded that the Guilty Remnant stole and cut up people’s photographs of the Departed). The Leftovers is a show about moving past tragedy and that’s not something most people want to deal with on Sunday nights. That’s why we watch The Walking Dead. I kid, I kid.

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In all seriousness, The Leftovers is really beautiful storytelling that veers into experimental and unfamiliar territory, pushing the medium’s limits. It often feels like a book exploring isolated stories of characters interacting within one another, which is fitting since one of the show’s co-creators is a novelist. That translates into character-heavy episodes like season 1’s foray into the life of Matt and Nora and this season’s introduction of the Murphys. 

It’s one of the show’s greatest strengths thus far — this ability to keep us guessing as to what will happen next. And who could have foreseen The Leftovers eschewing TV protocol by dropping half of its cast and locations by moving to an entirely new one, only to have the first episode center on a new family that seems just as complex as the Garveys and almost infinitely more intriguing.

The Leftover

Previously on The Leftovers, thousands(?) of years before, a pregnant cavewoman steps out of her cave for the night for some fresh air when a rock slide traps and kills all of her companions. Moments later, her water breaks and she gives birth, alone in the world except for a baby, struggling to understand why something like that happened. She’s just another leftover, trying to rationalize the irrational.

While trying to gather some food for herself, her baby is attacked by a rattlesnake and the mother is fatally injured trying to protect it. And yet the baby is saved when another cavewoman — who looks an awful lot like Nora (or is that just me?) — comes along and leaves the mother’s corpse by the lake. And it’s the same lake and river located in the town of Jarden (“Miracle”), Texas. Coincidence? Knowing Lindelof, probably not, but he did give us Lost, so who knows? Just kidding; of course it’s there on purpose.

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Welcome to Miracle

Population 9261. Departures: 0. Miracle’s kind of the anti-Mapleton, which is nice because the Murphys — the POV characters for this episode — are kind of the anti-Garveys, or at least mirror versions of them. There isn’t that sense of irrational loss and grief in the Murphys, but something is still off about them and the town. 

John Murphy and his wife, Erica (played by Emmy winner Regina King — I didn’t have to type that, but I wanted to type that), have two beautiful children, Evie and Michael. 

A rundown of our new family who eerily resembles the Garveys: there’s John, the skeptical fire chief who is at once frank and unnerving. There’s his wife Erika, a doctor who runs an urgent care clinic and is hearing impaired. Evie’s a free spirit with her friends (the kind of girl who flirts with strangers and runs naked through the forest) and a good choir girl and doting daughter to her father. Her brother, Michael, is a compassionate Christian, the kind who gives food to the local hobo/patron of Miracle, who lives in the center of the square at the top of a landmark, and the kind who sells spirit water to the town’s flood of visitors. 

Everyone’s normal, right? Wrong. This wouldn’t be The Leftovers then! While these mirror-Garveys aren’t grieving like the rest of the world, they (and their town) have some weird issues. It’s a casual thing to see a man bring a goat into a diner and cut its throat in the middle of the room, after all. 

So what are their secrets? John and his fire department moonlight as town enforcers to keep the status quo at peace. To show they mean business, they light up a local palm reader/preacher’s home and rough him up. I’m not sure if this is related to the town’s strict visitor policies and the town’s “We Are Spared” motto, but this should be revealed in some time, especially as the Garveys move in next door and are invited for John’s birthday bash.

Things don’t go great. Sure, they’re neighborly and getting along well, but it’s pretty clear that John invited them over to snoop about the family. The Murphys are a bit puzzled by the Garveys’ weird mixed family, or lack thereof in Nora’s case. John and Kevin have thinly-veiled and tense conversations, sizing one another up. Though there’s the drama of Evie having an epileptic seizure after not taking her pills, the affair is civil enough and we’re sure to learn about the Garveys’ day in the next episode.

Later that night, during the town’s semi-regular raptures/earthquakes, the family is woken by a particularly strong one, only to find that Evie isn’t home. John and Michael track her down at the lake, the one where that cavewoman died long ago, to find an abandoned and locked car and a lake without any water. Was there another departure? Where are these people? And what is going on in the town of Miracle, Texas?

Maybe it’s in the water. Maybe it’s in the Kool-Aid. But whatever it is, it doesn’t seem long until the Garveys are swept up into it.

Other Thoughts

  • Yes, Kevin Garvey has met his match with John Murphy, but the question I want to know is, why do they keep losing stuff? Last season, it was Garvey and that toaster. This year, it’s Murphy and the spoon.
  • It’s just like Lindelof to use the image of a good ol’ wholesome American pie to instill fear and paranoia into all of our hearts. That pie had to be poisoned, right?
  • Does anyone miss the Guilty Remnant? A slight part of me does, but I’m happy to be rid of them for a little while. 

The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.

(Image courtesy of HBO)

Emily E. Steck

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV