Everything that Remains

Everything that Remains

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 Leftovers e02s01

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 The Leftovers

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.

Justin Theroux The Leftovers Season 2

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.

More than just Leftovers

More than just Leftovers

The Leftovers starts with the premise that 140 million people have vanished from Earth. Going into the show, knowing this, one wonders why such a rapture event has taken place. It soon becomes evident that the people left behind are the focus, not the event itself. The stage switches to one small area, the fictional Mapletown, New York. Their loss creates our philosophical gain. It’s not a case of why the souls were taken, but how those that remain cope.

It should be pointed out that The Leftovers may dangle the mystery of the missing people, and furthers the unknowns by various presumed supernatural elements, however, the show doesn’t exist to answer these things. The missing 140 million is a plot device, a side issue that requires no further explanation. To do so would undermine the journey the characters take. There have been criticisms levelled at the lack of resolution, these viewers have missed the heart of the tale.

Some of these disenchanted voices have probably readied the Damon Lindelof put downs. These are the ones that hated the Lost finale and how questions remained throughout that show’s six season run. Other than his input to both shows they bear no comparison. Lost required closure on the great unknowns, The Leftoversnever promises this. This show is about examining the human condition. Any show that is dealing with existentialism doesn’t need to feed the mainstream gimmick of dropping clues and offering weak replies. It can leave that to Under the Dome (great book, bad show).

Mentioning another popular show from a literary source, it should be noted that the author of the original novel (also entitled The Leftovers) Tom Perrotta, worked alongside Lindelof to create the show. The first season covers the entire novel so season two will be new material, and again, he is heavily influencing this. It’s refreshing to see the source material being used extensively.

The depth in the writing is brought about by an excellent cast. Christopher Eccleston once again proves his vast range as the town’s man of faith who attempts to prove the people taken in the sudden departure were sinners. Watching him wrestle with faith compliments the show’s main centrepiece, the cult named the Guilty Remnant. They are silent watchers, heavy smokers, and easy to despise pests. In forming this opinion it makes one wonder about the real world situation the metaphor represents. Why do we hate the unknown element? Some of their actions appear unforgivable but nobody is coping with the loss the world has suffered.

Leftovers

Justin Theroux plays the shows lead, and town Chief of Police. His wife has left to join the cult and his son is running errands for the Peep Show’s Johnson, who is a spiritual leader of sorts. His already full plate is further filled by a rebellious daughter and a father, the former Chief of Police, that has been committed for mental illness. This in turn makes him fear his mind is also on the slide. He starts to date Carrie Coon’s character, Nora Durst, a mother of two whose whole family was taken in the disappearance. Her character centric episode reveals the great depth she has as an actress and the writers’ efforts to layer her.

These are just several standouts of a stellar cast. Each keeps the show rolling forward with grit, pain, and precision. They aren’t used to answer the question of why the rapture event took place, we just accept the Pope and J-Lo were taken as easily as the select members of the town, they do make us examine where the world is heading. Hopefully season two will continue to explore these leftovers rather than explain the ones that departed. There are some mysteries that should remain beyond man. All we can do is look internally to see what we find there.