Oh, where to begin. Well, we could go the whole way back to the beginning and the cavewoman, but we’ll save that for later. Let’s more or less preface this review with a few thoughts before jumping into the mystery. Season One teased us with trying to figure out the “why” of the Sudden Departure and realized that we were not going to get it. Many had a problem with that, but I was not one of them. I could accept it and thus loved the season beginning to end. Season Two won’t delve into it either for it is hoped that we are all past it by now. We will seem to delve, however, into a bit of the “how” I think. But being by Lindelof, and with episode one as proof, we can count on many unanswered and odd questions ahead.
Next point to make. They can spin it any way they want, but it still comes across as a reboot to me. What clinched that decision for me was the changing of the tile sequence and musical theme. Oh, the imagery was appropriate with people removed from the scenes of life depicted. The song, “Let the Mystery Be” also has a clear message but is lighter than the darker mood of the Season One sequence. I prefer the older titles, but they do fit the theme of “Why” more than the one of “How” and we are supposed to be moving on. At least we have Max Richter’s Piano Theme surfacing. Which version do you like?
The last point to make before getting to specifics is the heavier dose of humor placed in the show or at least in episode 11. It is as if the producers wanted to lighten up that somber, dreaded tone a bit by offering up cute banter by the Murphy brood including the elusive cricket gag and the Mark Linn-Baker bit. Though its presence helps even out the show it is a beat that startles you when it happens and there are already plenty of quirky & startling moments to go around. Just like Season One we also have to accept the differences that arise for Season Two, but in doing so it changes the show. It is different.
Now onto more episode specific thoughts. The premiere is entitled “Axis Mundi.” It is a term I am familiar with, but not everyone is. To simplify a philosophical belief isn’t easy or fair, but essentially it is the concept that there are points on the planet where the elements of Heaven and Earth dramatically converge and become attuned making them sacred places. If one were to be at those places it is said you are at “the center of the world.” Mounts Fuji and Kilimanjaro and apparently Jarden, Texas are such places.
It seems the magic and mysteries of the ages are present in such places and that is quite evident in our look at Jarden. Of course, the population was spared from what most of the world experienced. It is also believed to have miraculous waters, active forces of nature and most importantly, blessed souls. But there is something unsettled in this central hot spot, isn’t there? In fact, are the people here better off than those grieving over the Departed? They have their own set of issues and struggles that no one else has faced. Are they blessed or troubled in a different way than most?
At the crux of it all is the Murphy family, John, Erika, Evie and Michael. Patriarch John has a nasty agenda for sure. He takes the law into his own hands as is evident with the charlatan Isaac. What does he know or what is he hiding? Does he know what is behind the geologic tremors (which you can be sure has nothing to do with fracking) and what of his tight control of what is talked about? He is setting himself up as the villain of the season I believe.
To the center of the action comes half of the Garvey clan (Rev. Jamison is there as well) and together they witness the slight awkwardness of the place and its people. Jarden is a National Park because of its distinction and flocking to it are all the seekers and searches of truth and the prophets and the sinners. They all come to the Axis Mundi. There is the Pillar Man and Dr. Goodheart and Jerry the goat slayer. Are they incidental players or key ones? And what of the natural environs of the area? Odd instances occur all about; instead of feral dogs and confused deer from Season One we have a little bird buried in a box. We had hints of underground rumblings in Mapelton, but they have really escalated in Jarden. In other words, the series holds up the tradition of the odd and unanswered quirks that Lindelof is happy to dole out. Only time will tell if any of it helps to explain the “how” we now seek.
SPOILER TERRITORY here. Finally we look at the two moments that confound and drive us the most. Evie’s disappearance in the end and the elephant in the room – the cave woman! The crises of the disappearance is tantamount. Evie and friends are gone. It appears that the car, with radio on, is locked and the girls are no where in sight. No, did Jarden just have a Sudden Departure? That is what we are supposed to think. We quickly wrap our minds around the clues and the evidence and wonder. We got a long journey ahead to figure it out.
Some may think the other large perplexing question involves figuring out the prologue of the cave woman. It could take a long journey to unravel that as well. This sequence can occupy our thoughts, but is not a crucial scene in the series really. Nevertheless we ponder. Here is my stab at it. Remember, we are at the “center of the world,” the elements and forces of nature are thin here. They have been for thousands of years. There is life and death; there are sudden departures and new beginnings; there are consequences and there are dangers, but life will go on. Just live as you can, even primitively, but take what comes and move through life no matter how short. You have no choice but to do this as the fabric of the universe is what it is and you can’t change it, just live in it. Like the cave woman did and like the Garveys and the Murphy’s do today.
Our families are at the “center” and things are in motion they won’t truly understand; we as viewers won’t either. Over this second season of THE LEFTOVERS we’ll stumble through trying to figure out the “how” as if discovering it will make a damn bit of difference. Those of us invested in it will be jazzed about the journey.
Equally excited are some critics as this clip attests.
There are a million and one things that could be added here. I glossed over many plot points intentionally because we would rather you watch it for yourselves. Many questions have been raised and we can discuss them in the comments below. All is left is the Sneak Peek at Episode 12. It is entitled “A Matter Of Geography” and seen SUNDAY, OCTOBER 11 at 9:00pm or find all the episodes on HBONow/Go. Come join us at the Axis Mundi.