It began with a miracle.
It ended with a miracle.
Earning the trust of a viewer is paramount to a successful show. We want to be taken places we didn’t think possible, but have it make sense creatively, while having it make an impact emotionally. Recently concluding what some consider an all-time great season of television, Season 2 of The Leftovers took me there and then some. We watch the show from a fresher perspective this time around, one that the show so successfully employed in Season 1’s ‘Guest,’ by using a single person POV. It narrowed the focus of each episode while sharpening the edges.
(SPOILERS: I will be touching on some plot points of the season, so if you want to watch the show spoiler-free, your eyes need go no further.)
This season began with the Garveys + Nora leaving Mapleton for a place that was virtually unharmed during the Departure—Jarden, Texas, otherwise known as Miracle National Park. This is not a reboot. It’s more a contemplative continuation of the seeds that were planted in Season 1. Their move breathed new life into the series. It instilled the feeling of hope that was there in Season 1, but not prevalent. (Full disclosure: I’m a staunch defender of Season 1 despite it’s issues.)
“There are no miracles in Miracle,” says John Murphy early on. The Murphy’s, long-time Miracle residents, and new neighbors of the Garveys, have a checkered past of their own. We witness their journey from comfortable on the surface—a strong contrast to what the Garveys often present—to confused and lost, just like many outside their sanctuary of Miracle. In the finale, we see Erika Murphy and her husband John in separate scenes make clear that they don’t understand why their world has crumbled around them. Their daughter Evie, who disappeared towards the end of the premiere episode, has reappeared under peculiar circumstances unwilling to even speak to her parents.
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” says John.
“Me niether,” replies Kevin.
There’s a magic to this show, as Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix.com writes. A feeling that every time you watch, something profound is about to happen. We sit on the border of real and surreal, living the show through the eyes of the cast. In those eyes we must figure it out along with them.
Taking a page from The Sopranos playbook, the eighth episode, ‘International Assassin’ forces Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) to navigate his way through a sort of Hell in order to find peace. Or was it purgatory? It doesn’t matter because what we got was one of this year’s finest hours of TV. When he wakes up back in the Hotel Hell in the finale, we’re once again blessed with a moment not soon to be forgotten. Kevin must karaoke Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Homeward Bound’ in order to leave this place. To go back to his family, the people he loves, the life he feels is not yet complete. The gut-wrenching is agonizing; the confusion and pain pouring out of Theroux’s face was something to marvel. In a show filled with poignant musical moments, this topped them all.
The Leftovers is a metaphor for death. What happens when you lose someone? How do you react? How do you move on with your life? Co-creators and writers Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (author of the novel, The Leftovers) are going for maximum emotional impact with this series. Home run.
As Season 2 wound down, it was unclear whether there would be a third. Ratings dropped precipitously from Season 2, and though it was critically acclaimed, that’s no guarantee. The Leftovers has found itself on many year-end top 10 lists, including #7 in the HitFix critics poll (a cumulative poll of more than 50 television critics.) The reviews were not as kind for the first season making it more than apropos that the turnaround seen in the next would take place in a town called Miracle. HBO issued a press release last week announcing that The Leftovers would return for a third and final season next year. The trilogy will be complete. THANK YOU TV GODS.
This is an experience. A show that thrives off insanity. As engrossing as it powerful, as sad as it is beautiful, there are very few experiences that compare. In this age of peak TV, we’re lucky to have a show like this. It takes risks and goes for broke. It grabs you by your heart strings and keeps tugging. Lindelof and Perrotta have my utmost trust and respect. They can take this in any direction and I’ll follow. In the words of Iris DeMent, “I think I’ll just let the mystery be.”
Miracles do happen in Miracle.
Robert is a current student here at CUNY SPS, pursuing a degree in Communication and Media. He is interested in platforms of media, especially those related to digital media; and a fan of serious film as well as this current golden age of television.