October 5, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Leftovers”



It would be hard to imagine a more appropriate theme song for a Damon Lindelof TV series than one that includes the refrain “Let the mystery be.”  The title sequence of THE LEFTOVERS, which along with much else about the series has been completely revamped from its polarizing first season, is scored to exactly such a song by Iris DeMent.  The new titles have a bouncier and more accessible style than last year’s faux-religious images, and that’s true of the season premiere in general as well.  (There’s not even a mention of the chain-smoking Guilty Remnant in the hour.)

Lindelof (and co-creator Tom Perrotta, upon whose novel the series is based) may want us to let his mysteries be, but he’s addicted to introducing them.  Season 2 begins with a Kubrickian prologue about prehistoric life and death (it also resembles the Jacob/Man in Black sequences late in the run of Lindelof’s Lost), seemingly meant to suggest that encounters with mortality have always been fundamentally inexplicable, and that the people of that era would have viewed earthquakes, childbirth and snake venom the way the show’s characters see the sudden disappearance of seemingly random individuals from the face of the earth.

The main action of Season 2 brings us to Jarden (sounds like Jordan), Texas, which is part of the Miracle National Park, so called because it didn’t lose a single resident to the Sudden Departure.  (The prologue also presumably took place on the land that’s now Jarden.)  The town is a lot more chipper than Mapleton, New York, where we spent Season 1, but there’s plenty about the place that’s strange.  Pilgrims come to town in buses, some in the belief that it’s the local water that’s kept everyone tethered to Earth.  On the other hand, the locals don’t want any talk about magic or the supernatural (beyond garden-variety Christianity), and Jarden’s firefighters set a house ablaze when its owner claims to be able to read palms.  Then there’s the guy who lives at the top of a tower that reads “Miracle,” and the guy who drags a goat into the diner to slaughter it publicly (he considerately first spreads out some plastic) before dragging it back out.  The episode’s ending, however, suggests that all of these charms are ultimately for naught, as the town’s special water and a group of its teens go simultaneously missing.

The leader of the firefighters is John Murphy (Kevin Carroll), whose family is the focal point of the season premiere.  (Lindelof and Co-Executive Producer Jacqueline Hoyt, who together wrote the episode’s script, don’t introduce a Season 1 character until 40 minutes into the story.)  John is seemingly genial but also a tightly-wrapped ex-con, married to partially deaf doctor Erika (Regina King), with teen children Michael (Jovan Adepo), who works at the church, and Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown), who becomes one of the missing.

As it turns out, the Murphys have new next-door neighbors, the Garvey family from Season 1.  At this point, we don’t know any details about why Kevin (Justin Theroux), Nora (Carrie Coon), Jill (Margaret Qualley) and their adopted baby have come to Jarden, although Nora’s preacher brother Matt (Christopher Eccleston) preceded them.  Apparently The Leftovers season 2 will shift perspective from episode to episode, and we’ll get the Garveys’ story in a future hour.

The opening episode, directed with a fine feel for emotional dislocation and technical expertise (the soundtrack is especially impressive) by Mimi Leder, had no trouble establishing much about Jarden to draw one’s interest.  But then, creating curiosity has never been Lindelof’s problem.  Satisfying that curiosity, however, has been something completely different.  The Leftovers did quite well for HBO in its opening season, despite its generally hushed tone and refusal to explain very much about what was going on.  The question for Season 2 will be whether viewers are still willing to go for the ride with the risk–even the certainty–that all will not be clear when the journey is over.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."