Movin’ on down to Texas.
The Leftovers: Season 2: Episode 1: Axis Mundi: GRADE: A
Without a doubt the most polarizing debut series of the last year was The Leftovers. I’ve seen and discussed at length my defense of the show and even the parts of which I think falter the show and I never really good blame anyone if they didn’t like the series. The first season to me was a success that had a terrible finale, but now that they’e pretty much done the whole book for season one, the show essentially restarts itself and its seems like that is going to be all for the better.
So long Mapleton, New York, hello Jarden, Texas AKA Miracle, Texas where in the population of nearly 10,000 people no one was taken up in the Great Departure. The new opening credits themselves embed themselves in that down home feeling and then in what part of me can only assume as a deliberate troll to people, doesn’t even begin with our story. For nine minutes we follow a pregnant woman in a tribe who wakes up and goes to urinate and an earthquake caves in the rest of her tribe and see immediately gives birth. We follow her as she goes to protect her child before tying of a snakebite and we pan over to the swimming hole where we come into our present day setting. What this does is help to reestablish the off-balance nature of The Leftovers in both the story and its characters. Its certainly bold and is gonna heavily divide people as to if that needed to be included at all. Me, I like how it was shot, Mimi Leder is incredibly exceptional here in her direction for the entire hour, but I am weary as to how this will pay off. Again it feels in nature to the show, but was it needed?
What was needed for the hard reset. Its nearly halfway into the episode before any familiar faces show up, we mostly follow the Murphys, John (Kevin Carroll), Erika (Regina King), Michael (Jovan Adepo), and Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown). They are instantly compelling characters that we become invested in and they seem to already have their quirks. Evie streaking in the woods with friends, Erika’s bird ritual, and Michael’s vigil prayers. We get to follow them so much, but John is the central focus as a local firefighter, who we see actually go set a fire a portion of his house after Isaac (Malcolm Jamal Warner) was behind on money and being a con artist. Though no one was taken from Jarden/Miracle, they seem to still want some answers much in the way people sought answers in Mapleton, he tells them future through palm readings, but not before Isaac tells John something bad is going to happen to him and while John plays it off as bullshit, there are constant moments throughout the rest of the premiere that give him some pause until it seemingly happens at the end of the episode where Evie goes back to said swimming hole and another earthquake happens that makes all the water in it disappear with the fish from below flapping amongst the surface and Evie and her friends missing. The earthquake bookends the premiere perfectly.
What’s great about the Murphys is that while they are excellently set up separately, they are well established as a family themselves with sweet moments like waking John up and when Erika, Evie are having a talk via sign language (Erika is the deaf one), Erika and John’s softball practice in the backyard, and seeing a goat sacrificed. Oh yeah admittedly in one really weird moment after a church service they eat at a local place where a man comes in, lays a tarp, slits a goat’s throat, then drags the tarp out and no one barely bats an eye. That moment in of itself helps to also establish our new location. Jarden certainly has its fair share of tourism given its special significance and we see trespassers are truly not at all welcome. People see this as a haven, a place where the world might be able to make sense again, where it can be normal. Maybe that’s why the Jamisons and the Garveys have gone south.
Matt is the first familiar face we see in the premiere when he’s announced to take over for the local preacher when he’s recovering from hip surgery and when the Garveys move next door to the Murphys and have a weird birthday dinner with John where he casually drops he did a six year stint for attempted murder. Kevin certainly feels intrigued by that and has the feeling of a developing plot for the season. The pie that mysteriously left on the Murphys doorstep and is regifted to the Garveys and then to them again. The pie actually does represent that all your sorrow, despair, and trouble can’t be hosted onto someone, we all have our own slice of the pie to deal with.
The Leftovers returns brand new and firmly confident in its change with the hardest reset anything can reset itself from. The new location, characters, and mystery are just what this show needed and now its time to see how it’ll all play out.