As The Leftovers returns with its second season, we break down what’s weird, what’s mysterious, and what’s simply The Fuck? on this intriguing, occasionally maddening, frequently puzzling, never dull show. Without further ado, let’s dive into the second episode, “A Matter of Geography.”
To anyone who thought Kevin Garvey seemed far too well-adjusted in the season premiere last week, you were right! Kevin is still very much off the deep end: he’s hallucinating dead Patti, he’s sleepwalking into watering holes, he’s intentionally trying to get caught with a dead body in his car. Normally, when a show’s main character behaves irrationally, it’s annoying — particularly when they hallucinate people. See Dexter and his dead dad, or even Fight Club, which, incidentally, probably contains the most iconic film use of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind.”
The song is a cliche at this point and yet… I’ll allow it. It worked in this episode. But Patti is no Tyler Durden, and when I saw that Ann Dowd would be back this season, I admit that even though she’s a good actress, I wasn’t particularly thrilled to hear that. But although Crazy Kevin is still Crazy Kevin, I’m reserving judgement in part because Justin Theroux’s naturalistic performance gives Kevin a grounded, believable aspect even at his most unhinged, and in part because of the first 10 minutes of the episode:
Kevin: “I walk in my sleep, shoot dogs, and I kidnapped Patti and buried her when she killed herself in front of me. And I smoke.”
Nora: “I hire prostitutes to shoot me.”
Jill: “Do I have to say something crazy now?”
This simple exchange shows a lightness and a self-awareness that was missing last season — not to mention, characters actually communicating honestly with each other is extremely refreshing in a drama.
Shows that revolve around keeping the viewer confused are tough — especially when the showrunners have already stated they have no intention of solving the main mystery. In order to succeed, the viewer has to trust that the writers know what they’re doing and will take them on a journey that’s worth it.
This episode provides reassurance in the form of Kevin Senior — expertly played by Scott Glenn. Kevin Senior was always one of the best parts of the show, but his newly sane turn gives us hope that Kevin Junior’s Patti plotline is actually going somewhere — unlike Dexter’s Ghost Harry.
But mostly, Kevin Senior is delightful because he always tells it like it is, with sentiments like “I still like Laurie, I just like Nora more.” I wish Kevin Senior happiness, but I also hope his stay in Australia is short lived because this show needs him to stick around.
WTFs to file away for later:
- Kevin’s constantly blasting club music — even when he’s digging up bodies or trying to sleep. You do you, Kevin.
- Tommy is surprised Kevin and Nora adopted the baby. Was that not his intention in leaving her on their doorstep?
- Lots of Australia: Kevin Senior is moving to Australia. Dr. Goodheart, the water doctor from the previous episode, had an Australian sounding accent. The prophet man in the tower wants to send a letter to Australia. Hmmm.
- Although the showrunners have said they’re not answering what really happened with The Sudden Departure, the MIT researchers are a welcome touch because this show has shown so many religious responses to it so far — it’s nice to see the science side too. Because you can bet your ass that if this really happened, people would be looking for scientific answers as well. In general, this show excels at adding touches of human nature — details like this, or the people desperately trying to buy the Garvey’s bracelets to get into Miracle — to make even the most fantastical story seem realistic and firmly embedded in our world.
- The man in Miracle who told Kevin he could help him with his situation is the same man the youngest Murphy son visits secretly late at night. Hmm.
- “So you two bury a body together and now you’ve got each other’s backs?” Never change, Nora.
- Kevin’s mysterious sleep-apparition to the mysterious vanishing spring. That definitely won’t be relevant! Also for fuck’s sake, you’re a cop, Kevin! You should know not to leave your fingerprints on the mysterious empty car!
The final verdict:
This Leftovers is the opposite of True Detective. What I mean by that is meta moments like Patti’s line “very interesting family, those Murphys. Hard to tell if they’re part of your story or you’re part of theirs” show a tendency towards self-awareness that too many other shows lack. Unlike the polarizing first season of The Leftovers, True Detective’s first season was embraced by the general public and its second showed an astonishing capacity for tone-deafness (oh, you think we can’t write women? Here’s a main character who’s a woman! And she ends up with a baby in the end because women love babies, right? Right? Who can’t write women now?!)
The writers on The Leftovers have clearly heard the critiques that Season 1 was too dour and — wonder of wonders — actually taken them into consideration. The show remains dark, but it’s infused with a much-needed levity in moments like the Garvey family confessional powwow and Patti’s line, “the pie is secured, over.” Even weaknesses from the first season like Tommy’s isolation from the story and Jill’s teen angst have been fixed. Kevin Senior’s line, “I can sit around and cry about how the world fucking ended, or I can start it up again,” seems to be this season’s motto. The first season wasn’t exactly embraced by the world, but the show isn’t crying about it — it’s dusting itself off and coming back better than ever with its head held high, as fall’s most consistently compelling powerhouse drama. Everyone who moaned about True Detective should be watching The Leftovers. This is how to do TV.