A perfectly understandable reaction to this premiere would be: “What the hell?” That was mine, after all, when we were introduced to the season through a 10-minute sequence involving childbirth, an earthquake, and a snakebite. There are certainly a plethora of ways you can look at it, and that can be both a frustrating and an engaging aspect of the viewing experience. I think it’s clear, though, that the series is more concerned with the emotional fallout of the Departure–or in this case, the lack thereof–than with the concrete answers.
So, about that opening sequence. Initially, it seems like it has zilch to do with anything, but by the time the final few minutes roll around, we see the intended connection between the two events. I still don’t have a solid grasp on what it’s all supposed to mean, but then again, I don’t think I’m supposed to. Instead, I can speculate: it seems as if there’s both a theme of isolation and survival there, a shock to the system with the death of her tribe and a helping hand after she succumbs to her snakebite. The other cavewoman who shows up is key, as she seems to represent the push we have to keep going; the initial woman saved her baby, and the next will help the child survive. A huge event may have changed life as she knows it–and ended her life–but like Nora and all the rest, she has to continue to push forward until she can’t anymore. This is what all the Leftovers have to do.
With this idea, there’s a more hopeful perspective for the future, something that we didn’t see much of during season one. It was still an extremely powerful season, but it seems as if the new year is bringing a new take on the show’s universe. That’s represented by the new opening credits song–“Let the Mystery Be”, which is a good tagline for the series overall–and by the contrast between Jarden/Miracle and Mapleton. There are certainly darker emotional scars we’re going to delve into over the course of the season, but we’re initially presented with a more upbeat image.
We’re introduced to the Murphys, a family that sees some parallels to the Garvey family. The seeds are already being planted for the season’s explorations of the two groups, and I wouldn’t bet on that light dinner mood to carry over into the upcoming episodes. In fact, the prison sentence John casually brings up already creates an undercurrent of tension here; it’s clearly an area of influence for him, and I’m interested to learn more. This may be a “miracle town”, but there’s something more deep-seated that we aren’t privy to yet, something that has deeply affected the inhabitants of Jarden. Meanings are yet to be unraveled, but we know that the universality of the Departure still creates unique and engaging storylines. The ideas of loss and grief and moving on are still at the forefront, but perhaps in a different manner now. Lindelof and Perotta have taken an immensely hard-hitting story and have injected it with a ray of sunshine, but that may very well just illuminate more darkness below.
-Axis mundi (according to Wikipedia): the world center, or the connection between Heaven and Earth.
-Love the Perfect Strangers bit.
-Interesting how John feels like he’s above religion, yet the rest of his family seems to be very involved.
-Regina King is awesome. Watch Southland, people.
-Look at the pie again, people. See anything familiar? Hint hint: snake.
-Teenagers running naked through the woods. Interesting. What’s key here is that they don’t really seem to be running from anything; they’re not being chased. Rather, it seems like they’re going on some spiritual run or whatnot, something that culminates in them disappearing at the end.
-Goat sacrifices! Okay!
-Fern Jones’s “Let Tomorrow Be” closes out the episode.
-I’m planning on giving this show regular coverage once again. It has its flaws, but it’s rich thematically and is a fairly challenging series to tackle. Looking forward to it.
Photo credit: HBO, The Leftovers