The second episode of The Leftovers turns the tables to show how the Garveys end up in Jarden / Miracle, TX.
Let’s bitch it out…
One big happy family
Do you want to blow your life up?
The notion of “OK” and “normality” pervade ‘A Matter Of Geography’, which, despite Jill’s (Margaret Qualley) claim to Tom (Chris Zylka) at the diner, the Garveys are anything but. Perhaps in those miraculous few moments after finding baby Lily on the front steps when they confess all of their weird baggage to each other without fear of being judged they find some kind of peace. Less than two months later, however, Kevin (Justin Theroux) is Hulk-raging on the family’s washing machine and Nora (Carrie Coon) is impulsively spending $3 million dollars to buy the new family home in Miracle in order to feel safe.
Although it sounds like a perfectly pitched line of dialogue from a relatively slight character, Tom’s observation that no one is fine is actually pretty astute. The simple fact is that nothing will ever be the same again – whether that is the result of the Sudden Departure, the events of last season’s finale (on display as a charcoal cul-de-sac Kevin visits) or the empty lake that ends both last week’s episode and this week’s. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the Garveys take flight to Miracle after their adoption of Lily is secure and Kevin Garvey Sr (Scott Glenn) plants the ear worm about leaving the sadness behind to start anew. You can almost see the cogs moving in Kevin’s head as he sits in that fancy restaurant, wondering if maybe they’re not alright because they can’t move on while they’re still in New York.
Because we already know where the Garveys are headed, the early sequences of ‘A Matter Of Geography’ are informative, but slightly underwhelming. The only real surprise involves Kevin’s impromptu decision to dig up Patti Levin’s (Ann Dowd) body and confess his role in her death. The fact that no one particularly cares about the loss of the region’s most notorious cult leader isn’t shocking, though it certainly confirms that there’s a great deal less tolerance for procedure when it comes to certain people in this new world.
The return of Patti as a haunting apparition will likely be the most divisive aspect of this new season (at least early on). The Guilty Remnant aspects of the first season seemed to be the litmus test for some viewers as to whether or not they would enjoy the show and Dowd’s fearless performance was a large part of that (she excelled at creating an unlikable character). The decision to bring Patti along for the ride as Kevin’s accusatory conscience may prove to be unpopular, but it can’t be said to be arbitrary considering Kevin’s history.
The peaceful, serene atmosphere as the Garveys approach Miracle (sunny, blue skies and cornfields) is immediately contrasted by the sheer mechanics of entering the park (discussed below). If the plan was to simply move and start anew, everything goes up in smoke – literally – when they discover that their rental property has burned down and they are forced to purchase a house at auction for an exorbitant sum. The dramatic shift in Nora’s behaviour – frenzied, angry and impulsive – is a nice callback to Coon’s most celebrated performance in 1×06 ‘Guest’ last year. I could have done without Jill’s explicit spelling out of Nora’s motivation (the need to feel safe), though it ties in nicely with Nora’s conversation about the possibility of another Departure with the MIT home buyers.
By the time we catch up with the Murphys for the birthday party, things are on the verge of disaster. The house – in what must be every home buyer’s worst nightmare – is the definition of a fixer-upper and nothing appears to work. Kevin’s hallucinations of Patti take on a violent edge when she slams his head on the stove (this after he nearly lights his arm on fire) and he and Nora have their first significant blow-up when the electrical wiring blows all of the lightbulbs. The new family has hit rock bottom on the day of their arrival, but this is what it takes to realize that moving is little more than a quick fix. It is only when Kevin accepts that things aren’t immediately better that he is finally able to abandon the heavy rock music that he’s been using throughout the episode to keep the world – and his demons – at bay. Free at last, he drifts off to sleep in what appears to be a happy conclusion to the episode…
…only to wake up in the same empty riverbed where Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown) disappeared last week. Is this part of the mysteriousness of Miracle or have Kevin’s black-outs/sleepwalking returned? We’ll have to wait to find out…
- I question the decision to accompany Kevin’s meltdown to the Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind’ considering its strong cultural association with the end of Fight Club. Or perhaps this is exactly the intention: Kevin, much like Ed Norton’s narrator in the Chuck Palahniuk adaptation, is experiencing a kind of dissociative breakdown, as evidenced by the increasingly tight close-up shots of his sweaty & dirt stained face.
- Nora’s house is defined by MIT as analgamous, which is why they offer her four times her asking price (nearly $3 million). When she questions them, they admit that her proximity to a hot spot may have determined why the rest of her family disappeared and she did not. The confession that there’s every likelihood another Departure will happen undoubtedly drives Nora’s desperation to seek safety in Miracle.
- I wonder if the plan was always Miracle since they knew Matt (Christopher Eccleston) was already there or if it was only because it had zero Departures.
- What was Kevin planning to say to Nora and Jill at the fancy restaurant? It is heavily suggested that he had something to tell them, but we never learn because he suggests the move instead.
- The vibe outside of Miracle suggests both a cross between a music festival and a refugee camp, populated by people from every walk of life. Initially it looks kind of nice, and there’s no hint of the authoritarian streak we saw in the premiere. When the Garveys cross the bridge that separates the boundaries of the park from the outside world, however, the rules kick in: permits, wrist bands, metal detectors, and a sixty day quarantine for the family dog.
- The visitor centre is a hodge-podge of different functions – auction house, rental office and museum. It’s a lot like the town of Miracle itself: an odd combination of disparate elements that don’t entirely gel.
- Outside of the footage we saw last week, the Murphys – Erika (Regina King), John (Kevin Carroll), Michael (Jovan Adepo) and Evie – don’t get to do anything new.
- One thing that caught my attention is how passive Jill is throughout the episode. Aside from her diner conversation with her brother, Jill is always in the background of other’s peoples scenes. She’s also desperate to keep the peace, but refuses to claim any agency in the decisions that affect her own future. Consider when Nora asks her if she wants to live in Miracle at the auction; Jill simply answers: “Yes, if that’s what you want.”. Jill has always been a bit of a follower, so I’ll be interested to see if she takes more control of her story this year.
- Finally, everyone notice that Kevin’s ankle is tied to a cinderblock in that final scene? That will probably become a note-worthy point later on.
- Eye-patched detective (to Kevin when she sits down): “You wanna ask about the eye?” I know I did!
- Eye-patched detective (confirming how little the town ever cared about Patty): “Good riddance Patricia, we hardly fucking knew you.”
Your turn: what are your thoughts on the Garveys’ exit from NY? Are you happy to see Patti again or dismayed that she’s back? Will they regret purchasing the house so impulsively? Any new thoughts on Miracle now that we’ve seen more of it? And how/why did Kevin end up in the dried riverbed? Sound off below.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO