Kevin Garvey - Justin Theroux
Laurie Garvey - Amy Brennerman
Tom Garvey - Chris Zylka
Jill Garvey - Margaret Quilley
Nora Durst - Carrie Coon
Patti Levin - Ann Dowd
Meg Abbott - Liv Tyler
Matt Jamison - Christopher Eccleston
John Murphy - Kevin Carroll
Erika Murphy - Regina King
Evie Murphy - Jasmin Savoy Brown
OTHER HEAVEN AND HELL SHOWS
The town of Miracle was the one place where nobody was taken during the Departure. As a result, it has become the most desirable place to live and draconian measures have been taken to keep the population stable. John Murphy is the Fire Chief, but he is also acting as an unofficial police chief, taking extreme actions to keep out the charlatans and those who would exploit the situation. The Murphys have just met their new neighbours, the Garveys.
The first season of THE LEFTOVERS was a provocative, unique show, so the second season was going to have to come up with something exceptional to top it. The opening episode is most definitely exceptional and provocative, though not necessarily in a good way. It opens with a, quite frankly, inexplicable sequence in which a heavily pregnant cavewoman loses her tribe to an earthquake and her life to a snakebite. What this has to do with anything at all remains completely unexplained. Maybe it will be at some later date.
Once the nonsense with the cavewoman is over, we meet the new family who are to play a large part in the new show and we are back on safer ground. There's plenty of off-kilter weirdness to be going on with, but it's the kind of off-kilter weirdness that we are used to in the show and nothing that is not inkeeping with the nature of the town's situation. Now that the Garvey's have finally arrived, perhaps the show can get on with telling its story.
And, who knows, maybe they'll explain the opening somewhere along the way.Top
A MATTER OF GEOGRAPHY
Researchers pay Nora a huge amount of money for her house so that they can study it in case of a recurrence of the Departure. That money proves to be her and Kevin's ticket into the town of Miracle, though the new house is falling apart and their relationship might soon be following. Kevin is seeing the ghost of Patti from the Guilty Remnant and the neighbours, the Murphys, seem to be just as messed up as the Garveys.
This second episode builds on the better parts of the season opener by focusing on the Garveys and the problems that bring them, or drive them, to their new town, backfilling in the holes and providing some new problems for the damaged family to deal with. It's played by the cast with the usual high level of sincerity and skill and yet the situation seems much more artificial than the first season. Without the support of the original novel, the writers have been forced to come up with something completely new and it feels a little bit forced in terms of the plot.
Kevin's mental issues are more pronounced, taking the shape of Patti's ghost, but the guilt gets exorcised by the Highway Patrol in the least convincing of manners. It's less significant, however, because it is backstory.
The main story gets underway with three girls going missing and Kevin waking up at the scene of, well whatever, his ankle tied to a brick and his life spared only by the fact that an earthquake drained the water from the lake. The scary neighbour is the father of one of the girls and you just know that's going to lead to trouble. There's much more of a plot-driven feel to show this time around and that might not play to its strengths.
Happily, though, there is enough going on to keep things moving and the cast are uniformly excellent.Top
Now that she is out of the Guilty Remnant, Laurie is writing a book about her experiences and she is helping others who have managed to escape the cult's clutches. She is being helped by her son Tom, who appears to be having a difficult time with the assignment. The landlord is being difficult and then the computer with Laurie's manuscript on it goes missing.
In a sidestep that is typical of this show, we change focus entirely and follow Laurie and Tom for a while. Unfortunately, what is going on for them is far less interesting than what was happening in Miracle. Laurie has never been the most sympathetic of characters and she doesn't gain much empathy now that she is out, which is surprising considering that she is helping others. This is because of the driven nature of the character, something that hasn't changed at all. Tom, meanwhile, is almost as aimless and disconnected from the rest of the plot as he was for much of the first season. It is only the last moments of the episode that there seems to be some relevance, though it is relevance to the last season's Holy Wayne subplot and nothing to do with what has been going on.
This is much more plot-driven and feels far less natural than the first season. In fact, it is only in the strangest moment, where Tom is all but raped by one of Guilty Remnant's converts that the story feels less forced and more interestingly bizarre as it was last time around.
There is no feeling that this is going to be able to tie into the main plot of the show and that makes it feel more like filler, especially the brief subplot over the missing laptop. This is one of the most disappointing episodes of the show to date.Top
Three girls have gone missing in Miracle and Nora fears that Kevin may have been taken in a new Departure. When that proves not to be the case, they join the hunt for the girls, not least because Kevin woke up at the scene of the disappearance and may have left incriminating evidence. John Murphy, meanwhile, has a bit of a meltdown over his missing daughter.
The Miracle plotlines curl in and around themselves in the best episode of the second season so far. Kevin, whilst trying to avoid being tagged for the disappearance ends up being dragged along Murphy's descent down the rabbit hole. At the same time, he is having to deal with the spirit of Patti, who is refusing to lie in peace. She also seems to know things, but that could just be Kevin's subconscious talking.
Carrie Coon is once again the star of the piece as Nora, especially in the sequence where she is brought face to face with the possibility that Kevin has been taken by the same force that took her entire previous family. Her performance is excellent and it is this kind of quality that we have come to expect from the show. Following that sequence, however, the plot takes over and the characterisations serve the plot rather than the show being about the characters. By the end, we've not got a lot further forward, but a lot has happened.Top
NO ROOM AT THE INN
Matt takes his wife out of town to get a scan, but is ambushed on the way back and loses the wristbands that arec their passports in. He is forced to take drastic measures in the camp outside the town and his situation becomes ever worse.
The writers of this show really don't seem to like Matt Jamison, played by Christopher Ecclestone in one of the show's weakest performances. His wife is near comatose and requires his help every hour of every day. He does this without fail, and has told his sister Nora that one night Mary woke up and it was like it had been before her accident. Now she is back the way that she was, apart from the fact that she is pregnant. The idea that Matt could have forced himself on a woman who is incapable of giving consent lends this episode a very unsavoury undertone. He insists that it is the power of Miracle, but the show never makes it clear one way of the other.
The plot then goes on to dump more hurt and more despair onto poor Matt until, in a single day, he is brought to the lowest point. It is here, however, that he finds his strength. The adventures in the camp are bizarre and never really convince and that's a problem, showing once again the plot-driven nature of this second season and how it is undermining the dreamlike quality of the first.Top
Erika struggles with the loss of her missing daughter on the day of fundraiser Evie and her two young friends. Nora learns of a theory that people might have acted as lenses and caused those around them to leave on the day of the Departure.
Regina King takes centre stage as Erika Murphy, a strong woman in intense pain, and she runs with the opportunity. The scene in which she faces off against Carrie Coon's Nora over a questionnaire is a masterclass in acting and drama as two forceful characters clash with barely a raised voice. The restraint heightens the intensity of the exchange to almost unbearable pitch.
This central moment makes much of what goes before, and after, it seem inconsequential by comparison. The scientist who believes that Nora is a lens seems a complete throwaway plot point and what should have been a pivotal moment, as Kevin admits that he sees a dead person, seems almost like an afterthought. This is either terrible pacing or exceptional character drama, but it is hard to say which.
What is clear is that moments such as Matt's acceptance into the camp outside Miracle and Tom's disappearance out of Laurie's life are plot points that set up future episodes, but are unimportant enough to be given decent screen time.
Still, the memory of Erika versus Nora will linger long in the memory, certainly a long time after the rest of the episode is forgotten.Top
A MOST POWERFUL ADVERSARY
Kevin Garvey sees dead people, or at least one dead person - Patti Levin who killed herself right in front of him. Now her ghost is ruining his life, not so slowly driving him mad. Nora leaves him, unable to cope with that and his daughter Jill blames him for messing things up. One man has a solution to the problem, but it involves Kevin dying.
Kevin Garvey's mental state has never been his strongest aspect. His father struggled with hearing voices and now it seems that Kevin is suffering from the same thing. Sadly, this is also the least convincing aspect of the show. When Patti was alive, the battle between her and Kevin over Laurie's soul was fascinating and provided some of the best verbal sparring. Dead Patti, on the other hand, is monumentally dull. Apart from one speech about an ancient Egyptian artifact, Patti is more an annoyance than the most powerful adversary of the title.
Justin Theroux's performance as Kevin is sincere enough to make us believe that his mind is genuinely unravelling and that he has been driven to the very point of suicide. The arrival of Laurie is a surprise swerve in terms of the plot, but is merely a diversion.
There's at least one nice shock twist along the way, but the lack of the believable core that drove the first season and the lack of focus on the single family and the aftereffects of the the Departure on them has led to the plotline meandering in ways more aimless than the backroad ramblings of the first season.
The plot moves quickly enough, but the examination of character is lacking.Top
Kevin finds himself in a surreal plot to assassinate a Senator called Patti Levin. It's all his afterlife experience in battling the ghost that has bedevilled him. Or is it?
THE LEFTOVERS has never been a conventional show and, for all surrealism poured into this storyline, it is one of the most conventional yet. The vision of a dying man in which all of his demons are worked out so that he can return to the real world renewed? That's been done before, many, many times. The outcome is never in doubt and the plot twists that come along are never as surprising as the writers are hoping and this time around even Justin Theroux's heartfelt performance can't imbue this with more meaning. In fact, in taking up the entire episode, this comes perilously close to filler territory.
Just about the least interesting episode of the show to date.Top
Tom has a falling out with his mother and finds himself gravitating back to the Guilty Remnant, searching for some meaning in his life and all that has happened to him. He meets up with Meg, one of their more rebellious leaders and follows in her wake, learning more about how she plans to 'make everything change'.
With only two episodes left in the season, the plot finally kicks in, though in a swerve that is typical of the show. Changing the focus to Tom and Meg, seems to move completely away from the main plot regarding Jarden and Miracle, but it turns out that this is not the case. Meg is seen to be the most dangerous, even unhinged, members of the cult and the sequence involving her and the school bus incident is genuinely disturbing. The scenes of her challenging the hierarchy of the group robs the Remnant of some of their mystery, however. Providing some backstory as to why Meg might be interested in Jarden and Miracle also takes away from the mystery of the Remnant's plans. The last moment reveal, however, is a nice twist.
Whilst Meg is finally given some detail in this episode, Liv Tyler plays her emotionlessly, either through a lack of acting or ability or giving her a impenetrable mask to ensure that she remains inscrutable. It's hard to say which, but it does keep the character and her intentions a bit more of a mystery. It also makes her all the more dangerous. Chris Zylka's Tom, on the other hand, runs the emotional gamut from angry to confused and pretty much nothing else. This season has given him even less to do than the previous one. It set up a potentially interesting plotline with Tom following in the footsteps of the Holy Wayne, but then abandoned it at the first opportunity. Throughout the season, there seems to have been too many characters for the writers to deal with and they have been unwilling to jettison the old ones whilst being more interested in the new ones. Tom is a character who has suffered as a result.
This is a watchable episode, but there is certainly a feeling of rushing through it to get to the plot for the finale, which has been languishing through all of Kevin's ghost-seeing and afterlife-languishing nonsense. At least we are there now and all can be revealed, maybe.Top
I LIVE HERE NOW
The extended Garvey family comes together in Jarden as Meg's Guilty Remnant faction launches her plan for this anniversary of the Departure. John Murphy learns that Kevin was at the site of his daughter's disappearance and shoots him, sending him back to the hotel of the afterlife and an unwilling bout of karaoke. Matt's wife makes a recovery from her catatonic state and it is clear that nobody is going to come out of these events unscathed.
The action of the Guilty Remnant at the end of the last season was emotionally cruel and devastating, albeit making absolute sense in their own terms. What we learned about Meg in the last episode makes their action this time around seem like the petty revenge of a peevish teenager, robbing it of the same level of impact. The truth of the disappearance of the three girls way back in episode two may be revealed and the impact of that upon the Murphy family may be detailed, but they remain bystanders in what is still the story of the Garvey family.
There are individual moments of effectiveness, such as Nora losing the baby, Kevin's challenging of Meg getting a suitably inscrutable response, Evie desperately avoiding eye-contact with her distraught mother, Matt being reunited with his newly-awakened wife and Kevin's advice to John when he worries about there being nobody home to greet him, but whilst there is plenty of action and activity, the emotional resonance of the first season's finale is sadly lacking.
Worse than that, Kevin's return to the afterlife, having been shot, is just a tedious repetition and the realisation that the nonsense with the cave woman in Axis Mundi is not going to be explained reminds us that the writers are playing with us and haven't thought this season all the way through.
Though the final shot gives a sort of positive outcome, there are many questions to be answered for all of the characters. Whether there will be a another season in which these questions can be answered, and whether we care enough about them to hang around through another season for those answers remain pertinent questions.Top