REVIEW: The Leftovers – Season Two (2015)

The following is a review of the second season of The Leftovers – Created by Damon Lindelof & Tom Perotta

After a terrific and underrated first season, the writers of The Leftovers decided to open their second season with a change of scenery. First, a supremely odd prologue that had me scratching my head and made me wonder if I was watching a different show. It’s a sequence that manages to foreshadow a lot of the events of the second season, but it was an odd way to open a season nonetheless.

Then, after the prologue ended, Axis Mundi – the first episode of the season – becomes a point of view-episode from the perspective of a family from Jarden, Texas — a town that lost zero people during the ‘Sudden Departure.’ We soon learn that these people are Kevin (played by Justin Theroux), Nora (played by Carrie Coon), and Jill’s (played by Margaret Qualley) new neighbors.

Our protagonists have moved to the ‘miraculous’ town to feel safe. But Kevin is still not well and one night he wakes up at the bottom of a drained lake with a cinder block tied to his ankles. Nora is happy to find out that Kevin is okay, but they soon find out that their neighbors aren’t as fortunate as they are.

“I think I’ll just let the mystery be.” – From Let the Mystery Be, by Iris DeMent.

Almost as if to warn viewers what this show is intended to express and focus on, the second season of The Leftovers has a completely new title sequence with a new song that explicitly expresses a disinterest in the ‘mystery’ itself.

Although I eventually warmed up to this sequence, I actually don’t think the new sequence is all that appropriate for this show. Yes, the message in the song may be perfect, but the tone of the song isn’t (and, really, neither is the, almost, warm and colorful title sequence itself). But I digress.

The first season of the show had a great score and a great soundtrack, but this season of The Leftovers made the soundtrack much more integral to the show itself. One of the more well-known songs in this season is the Pixies’ Where Is My Mind?, versions of which are used four or five times during the season. It works quite well.

In the beginning of the review, I mentioned how the season opens with a point of view-episode. This is one of the show’s great strengths. In my review for the first season of The Leftovers, I praised the point of view-episodes, and it seems like the writers enjoyed that structure. You see, the second season of The Leftovers is basically structured around several of these point of view-episodes.

They don’t stand alone, though. Each and every episode – most of which are point of view-episodes focused on two or three characters – enrich the greater plot of the season and, ultimately, make the second season of The Leftovers a layered masterpiece, which is honestly what I am going to remember this season as.

“Very interesting family, the Murphys. It’s hard to tell if they’re part of your story, or you’re part of theirs.” – From A Matter of Geography.

The first season gave us brilliant performances and the second season doesn’t disappoint either. While the newcomers have their strong moments too, it is the original cast that continued to blow me away. Carrie Coon is flat-out fantastic in this show, and Justin Theroux is also pretty great. Liv Tyler surprised me a lot this season. Although we still see other leaders of the Guilty Remnants during the season, Tyler’s character – Meg – becomes a scary and angry villain this season.

It probably is one of the best performances Tyler has given. The standout this season was Ann Dowd, though. When her character committed suicide last season, some viewers might’ve hoped that we had seen the end of her. But as The Prodigal Son Returns teased, Patti is haunting Kevin’s mind. Though her character was often frustratingly fantastic in the first season, Dowd’s character evolves into something much more. One scene in particular really moved me — almost to tears.

“I don’t understand what’s happening.” – From I Live Here Now.

In spite of the warning in the title sequence for this season, the second season explores not just theories for why people have ‘departed,’ but it also explores the boundaries for this show. And in exploring the show’s boundaries, we are suddenly given a supernatural twist, of sorts.

While there has always been some supernatural, or magical, elements in the show, this season went to new lengths to express that magic. The second season of The Leftovers peaked when it might’ve, for some, jumped the shark, so to speak (with A Most Powerful Adversary and International Assassin).

“Every day’s an endless stream of cigarettes and magazines. And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories. And every stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be homeward bound. I wish I was,” – From Homeward Bound, by Simon & Garfunkel.

The second season of The Leftovers is a remarkable improvement on its debut season, which was still a brilliant season of television. In testing the show’s boundaries, the show gave us two of the very best episodes of the show. While those elements may not have been warmly received by everyone, they represent the seemingly final test for its audience.

A+

– Jeffrey Rex

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