Warning: This contains spoilers.
“What you’ve got, Kevin, isn’t love. It’s damage control.”
Trust Patti to deliver the harsh truth in The Leftovers Season 2. After Episode 2 and 3’s surprisingly fruitful switches in perspective, Episode 4 finally takes us back to the town of Jarden, Texas. The last time we were here, an earthquake struck and Evie, the daughter of John, went missing. And, of course, Kevin woke up with a cinder block around his feet.
How did it happen? Patti’s the one with the answers yet again, and she doesn’t sugarcoat it: he was trying to kill himself in the lake. The lake that mysteriously vanished along with Evie and the other girls. But why did they disappear? Did that have anything to do with Kevin being there? What does the water’s absence signify? And did he really attempt to commit suicide?
In true Leftovers fashion, any hint of an answer only raises more questions. The difference now is that Kevin is in a relationship where he attempts to communicate that lack of understanding – a sign not only of progression from Season 1’s limbo but also of the trust in his new partner. That hint of love seems to refute Patti’s own assessment of his (and Nora’s) emotional well-being. Then again, who says she’s correct? After all, she doesn’t exist anyway.
Damon Lindelof fills his screen with these kind of unreliable narrators, people who offer up possible stories but without any guarantees. Even Laurie’s written story, last week, which was 100 per cent honest, couldn’t find the light of day without being seriously compromised by her violent assaulting a publisher.
In Patti’s corner is the fact that Nora is clearly damaged – something that’s visible from Carrie Coon’s fascinating face, which turns into a mask of terror when she encounters the earthquake. “Did it happen again? Are they gone?” she cries tearfully on the phone to the police. For a moment, without Kevin, she’s back in the untethered chaos of the first season.
Next door, Michael seems far less concerned by the affair, simply telling Jill – whose crush on him is the most painfully obvious thing in the world – that his sister “isn’t here anymore”. How does he know? Is it because they’re twins? And if she isn’t there, where is she?
There is, of course, no guarantee that something supernatural has happened: John has certainly made enemies, with his reckless violence and pyromania, which could well have prompted some kind of retaliation. On the other hand, Evie might just be in Australia or something.
“It was a one-time-only event,” Nora decides later in the episode, a story you suspect she is trying to convince herself of more than anything.
Even her brother, Matt (Christopher Eccleston), whose tale about his wife being temporarily healed was enough to convince him that Jarden was the miracle they’d all been promised, is undermined by the constant attempts of the others to prevent him telling it. The more it happens, the less we hear of it, and the less believable it becomes.
Believing, as always, remains the most important thing of all in The Leftovers. “There’s nothing more dangerous than a man who don’t believe in nothing,” Kevin is told, referring to John. But as residents go missing and the orange stickers marking out homes as being departure-proof are painfully peeled off, this post-disaster hope that everyone has put their faith in becomes a narrative as unsteady as the earthquake itself – a destabilisation of the status quo that is echoed in the episode’s more haphazard structure, flitting between characters after the focused, measured preceding chapters.
The result is an effective hour in a show that becomes more and more engaging, as it repeatedly reminds us that it’s not just Kevin and Nora who have been hurt and are still recovering. One scene sees her tie him to her, an act that’s as much about stopping her losing anyone else as it is preventing him from sleepwalking. Whatever happens, like the suspiciously inward-looking residents of Jarden, they’ll stick together. Who says love and damage control can’t be the same thing?
Season 1 and 2 of The Leftovers available on Sky Box Sets. Not got Sky? You can watch The Leftovers online on with NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription that includes live and on-demand access to Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, FOX UK and more.
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