Season 2 of HBO’s thrilling drama “The Leftovers” has come to an end, and just like the first season producers Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta have left us with no shortage of symbolism, questions, and tons of thought-provoking ideas that are wide open for interpretation. I personally loved this season. I thought we received a few more answers this time around than we did in season 1, although there are still plenty of questions left to be addressed. But that’s what makes this show so unique: the questions are not meant to be answered, but rather to challenge people’s’ fundamental belief systems and get them to think deeply about some of the most important aspects of life such as family, religion, and tragedy. The point of this series was never to explain what happened to the people who mysteriously departed on October 14, but rather to explore the psychological effect that type of event would have on those who remain.
Season 2 takes us to the unique location of Jarden, aka “Miracle”, Texas. The town was given the nickname due to the fact that it was the only town with a significant population (9261) that experienced zero departures on October 14. Because of this fact, Jarden has become an extremely popular destination for both tourists and people trying to find a full-time residence. After the events in Season 1, Kevin Garvey along with Nora and Jill are able to buy a house in Jarden in the hopes of feeling safe and starting over.
Jarden presents some interesting ideas regarding people and superstition. Many in the town believe that they were chosen, and that it is not a coincidence the people of Jarden were spared. They even sell “miracle water” to tourists, convinced that it is different from water anywhere else in the world. However, there are also those in the town that are skeptical of Jarden’s unique status and questioned whether God really spared the town or if they are just lucky. With 2% of the world’s total population disappearing, there is a reasonable chance that at least one town would not experience any departures. Someone like myself whose belief system is rooted in facts and logic would calculate the probability of zero departures in this town to show that less likely events have happened. Someone who is more spiritual and religious may see this as a sign of a higher power watching over this town. I think it is fascinating to see what the characters make of this town and how their perception changes with the events throughout the season.
In Season 1, we got to witness the impact that the departure had on those who remained. In this season, we get to witness the impact that a disappearance has on those who thought it would never happen to them. The disappearance of Evie and her friends once again gives a window into human psychology. There are those that believe the departure happened again, there are those that are in denial, there are those who think the girls were kidnapped, and there are those that think there may have been divine intervention. Once again, the uncertainty of the situation wreaks havoc on people’s’ mental state. Not knowing what happened or how to explain something can be the most damaging effect on a person’s mental state. When we experience tragedy in the form of breaking up with a loved one, losing a job, or even death, it takes a massive toll on the mind but eventually we are able to accept it and there is closure. Not knowing what happened to someone leaves the door open for the hope that they may still return, and it is how people cope with this uncertainty that can define what type of person someone is.
One of the most fascinating subplots of this season was Kevin coping with hallucinations of Patti. It is obvious that Patti’s death in season 1 continues to haunt Kevin throughout season 2, and as a result Patti is constantly appearing by his side and tormenting him in stressful situations. I think many of us can relate to this situation in some degree. We may not all experience hallucinations, but we all have regrets from the past that are hard to let go of. There is that one person, or that one decision, or that one event that haunts us and we simply cannot forget about. With Kevin and Patti, we get to see what happens when the brain can no longer handle the trauma. Kevin snaps and is so desperate to get rid of the hallucinations that he is willing to poison himself and kill the young girl version of Patti in purgatory in order to escape the torment.
In some ways, Kevin’s battle against Patti is also representative of how many people in the show are dealing with the departure. They are haunted by the events of October 14 and it drives some people to the point of insanity. The Guilty Remnant cult is a good example of this. This is a group of people that were so devastated by the departure that they left everything they had to become a “living reminder” of what happened. Their leader Meg is so ruthless that she’s willing to terrorize the whole town of Jarden just so that they suffer the same devastation she did. On the flip side, we see the conversion that happens when someone leaves the cult with Laurie. Once a loyal member of the GR, in this season she is not only able to grasp that her ways of coping with the departure were unhealthy, but also convince others of the same. In any case, people need to fill a void left from the part of them died after the departure, and this is when they are most vulnerable to cult mentality.
Finally, we have the part of the season that is the most controversial and spurs the most debate: Kevin’s trips to Purgatory. For the first time, the show explores the idea of the afterlife and what happens to people after death. For Kevin, Purgatory is a hotel interestingly enough. I think this symbolizes that there is a temporary space between life and death where a lot can happen. The hotel is a checkpoint between two worlds. You stay for a temporary amount of time before choosing to either turn around and go back home, or continue forward into the next phase of existence. In this in between world, we come across the demons that haunt Kevin, but we also see a glimpse of the past simultaneously combined with the present. Patti exists as a young girl while her ex-husband Neil exists in the present state. The idea of communication with the dead through Purgatory is also presented when Kevin’s dad tries to contact him through the TV.
Thinking about life after death is one of the most fascinating psychological discussions I think a person can have. We are afraid of death because we fear uncertainty. Much like those in the The Leftovers are struggling to cope with the idea of the departure, we often struggle to cope with what happened to our loved ones after they died. Some find comfort in the idea of a Heaven where everything is perfect for eternity. Others believe that death is final and there is nothing beyond it, which in turn makes it difficult to find meaning in life. Many religions and cults are founded on the idea of a purpose in life that is ultimately fulfilled in death. But at the end of the day, I think the uncertainty of not knowing what lies on the other side, much like the uncertainty of the characters in The Leftovers dealing with the departure, has a huge impact on our belief system and how we choose to live our lives. There are simply so many possibilities to comprehend, and that’s why for me personally I keep an open mind and philosophize about what could happen, not what I think is going to happen.
I really loved this season of The Leftovers. I don’t think there’s another show out there that makes you think as long and as deep about the very fabric of our belief systems and about life itself. There’s just so much to explore in this show that goes way beyond the surface that you could spend days trying to interpret all of the symbolism and meaning. I cannot wait until the third and final season!
If anyone out there who is reading this has watched the show, please comment with your feedback down below. I would love to start a discussion!