Season one of The Leftovers was highly regarded here at The Reflective. With the end of the trilogy upon us, it’s a good chance to look back at the second season and recall if it’s worthy of a proper, definitive conclusion.
A fear going into the follow-up season is whether or not the script writers will do the original work justice. The source material of Tom Perrotta’s novel had been exhausted in the first series. It meant those that turned their back on Lost were prepared for Damon Lindelof to undo all the solid foundation the world of Mapleton had been built upon.
They needn’t have worried (or abandoned Lost, actually), for a number of reasons. Lindelof understood the concept and his co-writers added to the mystique each episode, rather than detract from the core essence of the novel; Perrotta himself even penned a few scripts.
Also, the story is one that is moving relentlessly forward. After the Guilty Remnant has been beaten and burnt out of town, there was little need to labour that part of the story. Other shows may have rehashed the first series, spending another ten weeks exploring the after effects in the same bubble.
That isn’t how life works and The Leftovers is an examination of this in its most complex form: the human condition.
Instead they introduce a new fictional town: Jarden, Texas aka Miracle. The moniker exists because this is a unique place, not one single person vanished in the Departure. So, it is seen as a safe haven should a second incident ever occur. A pure place where people can be saved. But wherever there’s people, there’s sin and corruption.
Symbolism and metaphor are interwoven into the events. This is evident from the first scene, where a pregnant primitive woman is seen to avoid death from rockfall, enters labour, but ultimately dies defending the life of her child from a snake. The infant is rescued by a passing female at a watering hole.
That riverbed happens to be the same one in present day Jarden, and we’re away. The events and interpretations begin from that initial element.
The story requires viewers to jump around and become reacquainted with the main players from the previous season. Kevin Garvey and Nora relocate to Jarden to escape memories. Carrie Coon’s character is especially hounded as her house is a favourite spot for investigators. After all, the dining room table did take three people all at once.
The scientists have already formed a theory behind what the rapture moment was but this is complicated by the sway toward something spiritual. Which is why Nora chooses Jarden. Not for the religious connotations, but because her brother, Christopher Eccleston’s Matt Jamison, is doing church work for its congregation.
He is one cornerstone of the probable human choices we see. Another is the Murphy family, they neighbour the new arrivals. The father, John, is an inadvertent mob ruler. They want to keep their little patch of paradise safe from the outside world. When his daughter and her friends go missing, at the aforementioned lake, he becomes a dog with a bone.
The daughter in question Evie, played by the screen-filling Jasmin Savoy Brown, propels the story along without requiring much mention. This is thanks to the screen presence of the actress and the lasting impression she leaves, to the unfortunate fact Kevin Garvey woke at the crime scene, unable to recall any sequence of events.
We do catch up with the Guilty Remnant cult. They are still actively recruiting and we see this alongside Tom Garvey infiltrate them in order to save members and get them to a support group. This is being headed by his mother – and Kevin’s estranged wife – Laurie Garvey. She is now free from its clutches and even attempting to sell a book about her time on the silent side.
The Guilty Remnant is a cornerstone element that represents mankind’s strive for power and control. Many belief systems co-exist in a show where people are struggling to make sense of a world without facts.
The viewer is never taken toward a right or wrong answer but is led down the garden path on occasion. And we also see behind the curtain. Season one was never about giving answers to the Departure, you won’t find a concrete solution here but it’s no longer about just accepting the unknown.
Through Kevin’s experiences, we literally head into the unknown. No spoilers will be given here (which makes this a difficult review to compose) but just as we had to accept the Departure, we have to accept other forces may be at play. Or not.
The highlights of the season will be how groups of people gravitate to differing ideas and then persecute opponents, a representation of humanity condensed into a TV show.
Carrie Coon – an amazing discovery from the first season – also shares a scene with Regina King (Erika Murphy) that is Frost/Nixon like. The tension palpable, the performances beyond anything you’d expect to see outside of a serious theatre play.
And the main mention has to go to Justin Theroux. His character has evolved from when we first saw him as the town’s cop. When he dons that outfit in a late episode in this season, the complexities and sides of his persona become startling obvious. He spends the season in his own personal purgatory, by the end, he is beaten down and you feel every struggle he’s endured.
Even the Max Richter soundtrack – always a powerful and efficient tool – struggles to do Theroux’s turn and Kevin’s plight justice.
In the hands of others, the concept for The Leftovers to return would have been seen as jumping the shark. Instead we are treated to something even more profound than the original. A sign of its true excellence is how the mysteries that remain are less important to solve than the fate of the people involved.