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The Leftovers - The Complete Second Season

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Feb 9, 2016
The Leftovers - The Complete Second Season

Good news all around: HBO has renewed Damon Lindelhof's series "The Leftovers" for a third and final year, rounding the show out to a trilogy of seasons, each of them a semi-self contained televisual novel. Oh, and Season Two is now out on Blu-ray.

Whereas Season One adapted the entirety of co-executive producer Tom Perotta's original novel, "The Leftovers -- The Complete Second Season" moves beyond the source material, changing locales but retaining the same core cast of characters and exploring the show's premise in greater psychological detail.

In brief: Several years earlier, millions of people around the world -- totaling two percent of the global human population -- simply vanished in an instant. Some among the religiously inclined think this event was The Rapture; not everyone agrees. Amidst lingering shock and grief for those who have "departed" is a fear that a second round of disappearances might one day occur.

Season One introduced Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), the sheriff of a small town in upstate New York, as well as his family: Estranged wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman), who has joined a cult called The Guilty Remnant; daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley), whose entire generation seems to have lapsed into nihilism; stepson Tom (Chris Zylka), also a cult joiner, though he's fallen in with a different set of zealots than his mother; and new girlfriend Nora (Carrie Coon), whose entire family were among those who departed -- a wry twist of fate that gives Nora special standing among those who have lost friends and family.

As Season Two commences, Kevin, Nora, and Jill have relocated to a town in Texas. The name of the place? Jardin, a town of just over 9,000 inhabitants... none of whom disappeared. Hardin is located within the boundaries of a national park called Miracle, evidently in recognition of the town's unique claim to having been spared. People from all over the world make pilgrimages to Jardin, but no one is allowed to live there unless they own a house or have special bracelets. Otherwise, the town would be obliterated by an influx of fearful people seeking a safe place. Luckily for Kevin and company, Nora's brother, Matt (Christopher Eccleston), has taken a job in Jardin and he's able to sponsor their immigration.

No sooner have the Garveys taken up residence, though, than several teenage girls suddenly go missing -- one of them the daughter of their new next-door neighbors. Have the girls vanished into thin air? Have they been kidnapped? Murdered? The father of the missing neighbor girl, John Murphy (Kevin Carroll), is a highly respected member of the community, but he's also a loose cannon given to bursts of rage in which he commits arson and murder, acts that in ordinary times would be thought intolerable to the good of society, but which, in the context of a town where superstition has run amok and the locals sacrifice live goats in cafes, seem less threatening than the proposition of another wave of departures.

Instead of safety, Kevin and Nora discover that they are in the midst of a delicate calm that could detonate into violence at any time; Kevin's propensity for sleep walking, Nora's terror that her new family might also disappear, and the persistence of the ghost of Guilty Remnant leader Patti (Ann Dowd), who died by her own hand in Season One, only make matters that much more inflammable. Meanwhile, Laurie and Tom have left their respective cults and formed their own fellowship -- a sort of anti-cult intended to liberate former members of the Guilty Remnant. With Patti dead, the Guilty Remnant have a new leader, the rebellious Meg (Liv Tyler), who targets Tom with reprisals both sexual and terroristic in nature. Meg also has a plot in mind, a stunning action that's sure to enrage traumatized people all over the world, Such japes, as it happens, are a specialty of the Guilty Remnant, who believe the world has come to an end and any attempt to carry on with ordinary life is futile.

The show's mythos is dense (as the summary above reflects), but this is a Damon Lindelhof project and so there are plenty of odd and inexplicable twists throughout the ten episodes of Season Two. (What else would you expect of one of the creators of "Lost?") Matt's comatose wife awakes -- or so Matt says -- but he's the only one to witness it; there's a foray or two into the afterlife; Jardin, we slowly learn, really is located on a special piece of real estate, but one of the costs associated with that are frequent earthquakes. There's even an extended flashback to the Stone Age, though exactly what we see in this sequence has to do with modern day goings-on is never clear.

What there is not is any indication of just what happened and where the millions of missing people ended up. Are they dead? Are they alive? Are they ever coming back? These questions are less the focus of the show than the question of how, as global community, human beings respond to inexplicable and mysterious events, but even so it might be nice to get some sort of definitive answer.

Such an answer, if it's to come, will have to be part of Season Three. I'll definitely be tuning in.

The Season Two blu-ray set contains nothing -- zilch -- nada in the way of extras or special features, which seems odd: Doesn't HBO routinely create promotional featurettes for its programs? How about some "Inside the Episode" clips at least? Nothing? That's as inexplicable as the show itself, but in the end it doesn't detract from the enjoyment -- or the frustration -- the viewing experience.

"The Leftovers - The Complete Second Season"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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