It seems Jarden, Texas, may not be the idyllic, marvellous sanctuary Kevin (Justin Theroux) and Nora (Carrie Coon) needed it to be, as the disappearance of local girl Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and her friends is proving to be just as devastating as the worldwide Great Departure, but in a very different way.
For Nora, the earthquake that heralded Evie’s late-night vanishing act was a frightening reminder of the possibility she could lose more loved-ones, and undo all of her progress after her multiple losses; and for Kevin, Evie’s loss has started to reveal a weird underbelly to the town—exemplified by her father John (Kevin Carroll) going crazy and demanding answers from his prime suspect, palmist Issac (Darius McCrary), who may have been looking to avenge John burning his house down.
“Orange Sticker” was another powerful examination of themes The Leftovers handles so incredibly well. I have to marvel at how the story manages to approach the same few topics from a variety of clever angles, which is enough to make them feel very new every week. Loss and sorrow is at the heart of the show, of course, but Evie’s disappearance may not be supernatural in nature, so there’s still hope she’ll be found safe—and that gave this episode a different feel. But not everyone believes the same thing about where Evie’s gone…
Nora may have feared the worst-case scenario of a Second Departure when she woke to find Kevin gone and a stray dog running loose outside, but over the hour she came to reason that it’s illogical for another Departure to happen. Paraphrasing her Noah’s Ark analogy, why would Noah come back for a second load? Interestingly, this suggests Norah sees the departed as the ‘lucky, chosen few’, which means she sees herself and others as the masses who’ve been discarded. To take the Biblical reference to a natural conclusion, I wonder if she believes a great calamity (flood, pestilence, or whatnot) is yet to come and wipe them out? Mind you, it seemed Norah found comfort and replenished her optimism after hearing Matt Jamison’s (Christopher Eccleston) story about his catatonic wife—who was miraculously restored to lucidity the day they arrived in this ‘Miracle Town’, if only for one amazing night. Matt holds onto this memory as proof Jarden is a special place, but is puzzled the locals don’t want him talking about it. I am, too…
Kevin has less reason to be optimistic about life, and is clearly struggling with the added burden of ghost Patti (Ann Dowd) following him around, telling him some painful home truths. I was of the firm belief Patti was less an apparition, more a manifestation of the darkest part of Kevin’s psyche, until the scene where Pillar Man enquired about Kevin’s “friend” he’s been talking to. It had the feel of a throwaway joke to it, sure, but there’s actually no reason to doubt Pillar Man could see and hear Patti talking to Kevin on the street. And if so, then clearly Patti’s a more traditional phantom who can only be perceived by people of questionable sanity.
There was also the fact Patti was giving Kevin information she wouldn’t know, unless she was the “real Patti” from beyond the grave—like the location of his lost phone in the drained lake where Evie vanished, or that gross sex story he could corroborate with his ex-wife if he really wanted to. But if Patti’s real and what she’s saying is true, then it seems Evie and her friends really have been ‘Departed’—as a kind of cosmic mopping up process?
Maybe “Noah” really did some back for stragglers? Or those who have deemed themselves worthy in the aftermath? Evie being Departed is certainly what Evie’s brother Michael (Jovan Adepo) believes has happened, as the episode ended on him scratching off the titular orange sticker the government glued to the Murphy’s house to verify none of its residents vanished on that fateful October 14th.
The third side to this week’s story was John’s reaction and behaviour to his daughter going missing: which was to drive over to Isaac’s new temporary accommodation and receive a gunshot to the abdomen for his trouble. A shocking injury his doctor wife Erika (Regina Murphy) was unusually calm about treating herself, rather than take him to a hospital. I had to wonder if she’s been asked to do similar things before in the past, given her husband’s criminal past and tendency to go off the rails. It seems like only a matter of time before Kevin’s “role” in Evie’s disappearance is going to come to John’s attention, however—as his handprint on that vehicle the cops found by the empty lake is surely easy to identify. And given Kevin’s problem with sleepwalking—during which time he seems to become a very different person, even attempting suicide—are we convinced nocturnal-Kevin doesn’t know where Evie and the girls are? Isn’t it possible he’s abducted them in his sleep, for whatever crazy reason his nighttime mind came up with, and they’re being kept somewhere? Or did he accidentally kill them? Might the overwhelming guilt of his actions be why he was trying to end his life by drowning?
This second season’s on a definite roll, although a byproduct of jumping around to focus on different characters each week means some of the urgency with the Evie/Kevin situation at the lake had dimmed between this instalment and “A Matter of Geography” two-weeks ago. It’s a small complaint that won’t even matter if you’re binge-watching The Leftovers after it aired, of course, and the remainder of season 2 shouldn’t suffer in the same way now the characters of Jarden are all together.
- There was a brief scene with the mysterious Virgil (Steven Williams) bumping into Nora at a convenience store, and offering his sincere sympathy for her loss. He did see Nora arrive in town with Kevin, so it’s reasonable for him to assume they’re trying to start a new life for themselves after the Departure, but it come across as weird. But then again, so much of the show does.
- Jill (Margaret Qualley) hasn’t always felt very necessary on the show, as you find most children and teenagers on TV shows are only really there to add flavour to the lives of the adults, so I’m glad they’re hooking her up with next-door neighbour Michael. Tragically, their bond has come from mutual loss.
- If this season’s going to be about a miracle town going to Hell, it’s interesting to imagine how far the writers will take things. Will the disappearances increase, or is Evie’s loss going to be one inexplicable moment that guts the town’s soul? When John inevitable finds out that Kevin was at the lake, and jumps to the conclusion he killed her, it’s reasonable to assume the Garvey’s new house is going to be burnt down, too.
- Let’s hope the writers tread carefully with Imaginary/Ghost Patti, because it’s already beginning to feel a bit stupid. Use her sparingly, please. But how do we feel about Patti? Is she a ghost only crazy people can see? A hallucination born of Kevin’s unbalanced mind?
- I loved the scene where Nora’s decided to handcuff herself to Kevin when they sleep; a clever way to ensure Kevin can’t sleepwalk into the night again, but also a lovely way to show just how much Nora wants to keep her man literally within touching distance. Safe. Experiencing a second Departure would be too much for her to deal with.