The Leftovers Reopens Old Wounds
The Leftovers circles back to catch up with our refugees from Mapleton. But is it worth the risk?
After the go-for-broke, clearing-the-decks drama of the season opener, this week's installment of The Leftovers (which my dumb brain still insists on calling The Departed) can't help feeling like a bit of a letdown. Whereas last week we were left to be patient and fill in a lot of the pieces -- which, goddamn it, should be the base-level, default starting point of ALL dramatic television, but don't get me started -- this week we take a big step back from the world of the Murphys (of Miracle, Texas) and catch up with what the Garveys have been doing since, uh, literally the last moment of Season 1, when Nora found Holy Wayne's baby on Kevin's porch. In fact, why don't we start with that very character?
Holy Wayne's Baby
Her name is Lily, and she is legally adopted by Kevin and Nora. So far, she doesn't really have much to do, but maybe she'll disappear or teleport or something.
MIT wants to study Nora's house because of the, uh, statistical deviation that occurred there -- i.e., Nora's whole family disappearing from the kitchen table while she was at the counter. She's listed her house for $600,000, but they offer $2.7 million, proving that nerds can't bargain. This comes in handy later when the house she and Kevin have rented in Miracle turns out to have been torched. (See last week for possible suspects!) Nora, on impulse, heads into an auction and buys the house next to the Murphys', for All The Money She And Kevin Have Left In The World. What could go wrong?
Jill doesn't have a huge part in this second episode (titled "A Matter Of Geography"), but we're largely in her POV as we see Kevin and Nora become a real couple, and then as we see Kevin losing his shit in Miracle. Jill's also there for a fascinating moment as Nora confesses to letting prostitutes shoot her with a gun, while Kevin confesses to kidnapping Patti and watching helplessly as she cut her own throat. Now it's ALL out on the table, right?
Wrong! Kevin is having his "spells" again -- this time with Patti riding shotgun, the role Dean used to fill -- and he's not telling anyone about it. Here's where I'm suspicious about this new season of The Leftovers, because we spent a lot of time in S1 watching this exact kind of thing. Here, it climaxes in Kevin waking up in the now-waterless swimming hole after the earthquake, with the Murphy men shouting for Evie. Kevin has a cinder block tied to his leg. Question: is this new, or has he always had a cinder block tied to his leg and we're only just noticing it, like a Sixth Sense kind of deal? Kevin, as if he doesn't have enough going on, is also approached in Miracle by the older gentleman with whom young Michael Murphy went to pray last week. Between this guy, Michael, and Matt Jamison, this is shaping up to be a real Man of Faith/Man of Science kind of a season.
Tom and Jill have a bittersweet reunion at a Mapleton-area diner. Turns out Jill's not quite ready to see Laurie again after nearly dying in the Guilty Remnant riot. Which: Jill's old enough to make her own choices, and no one made her walk into that cult. Meanwhile, Tom's mad at Kevin because...I'm not really sure why. But Tom's swung clear from the True Believer he was at the beginning of Season 1 to someone who says, "Nobody's okay." Also, he does my most-hated thing in all of television drama, which is to leave a plate of food untouched at the end of a scene. Jill buys him a burger and fries, and he just walks away from it. Who does this?
Laurie is driving Tom around like he's still a sophomore in high school and passing notes to her daughter like she's still a sophomore in high school. Come on, Laurie.
So: Favorite Show? Yes Or No?
Remember last week, when I said I'd be returning to the question of whether I thought The Leftovers could be anyone's favorite show? Well, unlike a lot of things that come out of my mouth, this was not an empty promise. The verdict this week: STILL UNCERTAIN, especially in light of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back approach. It was, I suppose, necessary to show how Kevin and Nora got from Mapleton to Miracle, but it was also a risk -- and not the ten-minute, indigenous-woman-wandering kind of risk. I don't know that I need another season of Kevin feelin' kinda crazy. It's early to tell, of course, so I'm giving the producers the benefit of the doubt here. But if what made Season 1 so promising was its decisiveness about breaking from its source material, Season 2's success may very well rest on its willingness to do the same.