Are You Ready To Get Left Behind With The Leftovers? Again?
The Leftovers is back! Are you excited about that? You might want to be.
So What's New? Any Garveys In This Thing?
When we last saw our heroes in Season 1 of The Leftovers, Mapleton was in flames, the Guilty Remnant was pretty tore up, and Nora had just found Holy Wayne's baby on Kevin's front porch. The baby scene was key, since it was exactly where the book had left off as well -- despite a season spent working largely outside the events of the novel; it was a subtle sign that while the producers were finishing their first season, they were also ending their reliance on the source material. A less subtle sign is found in the opening of Season 2, which spends ten minutes telling the story of an indigenous woman from Texas circa thousands of years ago, who is separated from her tribe by an earthquake, delivers a baby on her own, and then loses the baby when she's bitten by a rattlesnake. The baby is rescued by another woman -- an echo, one would think, of Kevin and Nora's taking in of Holy Wayne and Christine's baby.
Not that you'd know this right away, since we don't see Kevin and Nora until the last fifteen minutes of this season opener. So what are the other thirty minutes or so of "Axis Mundi" about? They're about Jarden, Texas -- a.k.a. Miracle, Texas -- and the Murphy family. Miracle is so named because it's the only place in the U.S. that didn't have any departures on Rapture day. Miracle is a paradise and a fortress, not unlike The Walking Dead's Woodbury. It's guarded by soldiers (we'll see more of this in "A Matter Of Geography," the season's second episode), and visited by people looking for all the cures to their ills.
So No Garveys? Did You Say No Garveys?
Our focus in Miracle is the Murphy family. John Murphy (Kevin Carroll) is a fire chief whose crew seems to set as many fires as it puts out. John's wife (Regina King) and kids adore him, though there seems to be an unease beneath the surface about the morals behind John's firefighting activities. John's son Michael (Jovan Adepo) feeds the local homeless guy and is friendly with the Baptist minister. John's daughter, Yvette (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is a mildly rebellious teen who runs naked in the woods with her friends and taunts strangers at the local swimming hole -- which happens to be the exact spot where the indigenous woman died with her child in her arms. When there's an earthquake -- these seem to be a regular occurrence in Miracle, with one local muttering something about "frackers" -- John and son Michael race out to the lake, only to find it g-g-g-gone.
There Are Still Garveys, Though, Right?
Now: remember the Garveys? They pull up next door in Kevin's truck, hauling a trailer of their worldly possessions -- and the baby from the porch, whom they've named Lily and are introducing as their daughter. Kevin's original, non-porch-foundling daughter, Jill (Margaret Qualley), is with them, too, and she seems a good deal happier than she did for most of Season 1. (Note: we don't know at this point whether Justin Theroux's Kevin and Carrie Coon's Nora are married.) John Murphy, who seems finely attuned to threats, invites the Garveys to his birthday barbecue, which turns out to comprise just the two families. There's some friendly-yet-tense back-and-forth, and then the Garveys leave and Yvette gets sucked out of the lake. (Or into? We don't know yet.) Flopping fish, boom, cut to black. That's the episode.
Whom Is This Show For?
So: if you're someone who's (a) read the book; and (b) tolerated and then been won over by the first season, how does the new season of The Leftovers feel? Like a damn good start. Miracle is interesting -- I'm a sucker for the closed society with power struggles, and there seems to be one going on between whatever John's agenda is and the more spiritual members of the community -- the Murphys are immediately both likeable and engaging, and it's actually nice to see weird old Kevin Garvey and his clan again. Plus: has Regina King ever not elevated the material around her?
Here's a spoiler, having watched "A Matter Of Geography": we're not done with Mapleton yet, not all the way, and that includes Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), Matt Jamison, and a suspiciously-more-aware-looking Mary Jamison. As someone who genuinely loved Lost, finale and all, I'm interested to see what Damon Lindelof and co. do with the supernatural/sci-fi elements of The Leftovers now that they're untethered from Tom Perrotta's book. (And note that Perrotta, co-executive producer, is listed as co-writer on the screener of "A Matter Of Geography": so if there's any blame to be laid, it can't be laid squarely on Lindelof's shoulders.)
Is This Good Television? Is It Great Television? I Feel Like I Can't Tell Anymore
It's hard these days, because both quality and quantity are up among television shows. I watched the first season of Empire never being sure whether I was watching something weirdly great or a ginormous near-accident. I think The Fall is pretty great, but am I just a sucker for accents and complicated female leads? So I have a pair of new questions I've been asking about the shows I watch: can I see this being my favorite show? Can I see it being anyone's? For me, this is what forms the line between good and great television. I'm not going to answer the questions now, though I guess the fact that I'm asking them kind of tips my hand anyway. But I will be revisiting them throughout the season.