We have to be honest: We thought that season 1 of “The Leftovers” was somewhat of a disappointment. We had huge hopes going in as longtime fans of Damon Lindelof, but the show spent the majority of its time wallowing in misery. We never questioned the strength of the writing or the acting, but there was nothing about the story of Mapleton that felt appealing. You want to believe that things could get better, and through most of that season, there was never that sense.
For this reason, we were more than fine that the second season began with a sequence that could not be more different than what we’ve already seen on the show. Granted, there were a few moments during this prehistoric(?) scene where we started to feel like Lindelof had spent too long with the smoke monster, but the significance of it, at least from our vantage point, was that this was a representation of sacred ground. The call of the hawk gave us that feeling. It was a sign that some things cannot be explained, but even through the most unusual circumstances (a natural disaster separating a mother and her child), anything can happen to provide the slightest bit of hope (another woman sweeping up said child).
Another intelligent move for the show this week was to actually start the premiere away from the Garvey family and on John Murphy, a firefighter and family patriarch in the town of Jarden, Texas. This is a town nicknamed “Miracle” for its lack of departures, and he fashions himself almost as a vigilante, taking down people who seek out vulnerabilities in the town in order to take advantage of some of its mythos. This is precisely what we saw him do with Isaac, the psychic who warned him that dark times are coming in this life. We saw a better reflection of said dark times at the end of the episode with his daughter Evie, a young woman who may have fallen victim to a separate natural disaster … even though with the show’s premise in mind, she could have disappeared in thin air.
We spent so much time getting to know John and his family, Kevin Garvey, Nora Durst, and Jill were an afterthought until the final third of the episode, where they attended the Murphy household for the most awkward getting-to-know-you dinner ever. This was really John’s way of ensuring they were not evil, something that he tried earlier in the episode with Matt.
With the main mystery now being what happened to Evie, “The Leftovers” has something new to explore, while also not forgetting at the same time where it’s come from. Thanks to the performance of Kevin Caroll as John and the slight change in tone (a tad more optimistic; maybe it’s the music), what we will say for now is this: This is a vast improvement over season 1. We are thoroughly immersed in this particular tale, and cannot wait to see where we travel next. Grade: A-.
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