The Leftovers: Axis Mundi – Review


Spoiler of The Leftovers season 2 premier follow

It’s rare that a second season premier raises more question than a series premier, but that’s the case of the first episode of The Leftovers season 2. The only other show that comes to mind that was able to pull off this approach consistently was Lost. Given Damon Lindelof’s involvement in both, I shouldn’t be surprised.

The Leftovers season two starts with an episode that is nearly exactly like a series premier in structure. We meet an entirely new cast of characters in a new setting. It’s only in the last ten minutes that familiar faces reappear. There’s a reason Jarden, Texas was the focal point of every piece of marketing material leading up to Sunday’s episode. If the first episode is any indication, this entire season is going to take place in Jarden, except for a flashback episode or two.

The setting may have changed, but the tone and sociology of The Leftovers haven’t. The Leftovers is still about people trying to pick up the pieces of their lives after the catastrophic disaster that was the “departures” hit their lives. But in Jarden, there were no departures. The devout townspeople and hopeful tourists give it the nickname “Miracle.” While Jarden seems like the happiest place on earth, it has a dark underbelly, and episode one showed glimpses of that.

Jarden has its own version of the Garvey family. John Murphy is a local firefighter and family man with his wife, son and daughter. Erika, the matriarch of the family, and son and daughter Michael and Evangeline are regular church goers. John is Like Kevin Garvey. He has a dark side. A really dark side.

John visits his grade school friend and local fortune teller, Isaac. While there, the skeptical John asks for a reading. Isaac tells him that something terrible is going to happen to him, but John shrugs it off as nonsense. Well, the way he shrugs it off is by rounding up his firefighter buddies and burning Isaac’s house down. And not in a secretive way, either. He kicks the door in, throws Isaac out the window and torches the place. Isaac lives in a heavily populated area. There had to have been witnesses. John may have more influence in the town than it seems.

Like papa Garvey, John isn’t afraid to abuse his power. He’s not trying to impress anyone. He owns his dark side, which makes it appropriate that Kevin is his new next-door neighbor. The Garveys move into the adjacent house towards the end of the episode and have a neighborly BBQ. John and Kevin keep their true personalities close to the vest when interacting with one another, until John drops a bombshell that he did time for attempted murder. What an icebreaker.

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Jarden’s equivalent of a Lost smoke monster is its mysterious earthquakes. They hit in the prologue, and continue to plague the city. Unfortunately for John, Isaac’s prophecy came true. John’s daughter went for a late-night swimming trip with friends at the local lake. A massive earthquake hits and Evangeline and friends are swallowed by the earth.

The Leftovers is certainly one of the most experimental shows of the current HBO lineup. The first fifteen minutes of tonight’s episode followed Jarden’s primitive ancestors. A pregnant woman walked away from her pack and out of their dwelling cave when an earthquake struck caving in her former home and everyone in it. She delivers her baby and tries to survive while providing for her newborn child. A snake slithers near her child. She springs to protect it and is bitten. The venom eventually leads to her demise and her child is left without a mother. After she passes, another woman comes across the crying baby lying on his or her dead mother and takes the child. This ended the backstory of Jarden, Texas in a thoroughly confusing fashion.

Biblical symbolism is everywhere within The Leftovers. It’d be easy to see some “Garden of Eden” similarities since this is supposed to be a place called “Miracle” and, of course, the moment with the snake is much like man’s first temptation. It was just such an odd way to start season 2. Many things about Jarden are still a mystery. It may not have had any departures, but that doesn’t mean it’s a miracle place. Whether it’s a departure or an earthquake, people are still being claimed by the supernatural.

HBO Binge grade: B

Burning questions from episode 1:

What was up with the goat sacrifice in the middle of the diner?

Will the earthquakes ever be explained?

Will the prologue ever have a clear connection to the present day?

Something is uncomfortable between Matt Jamison and the preacher of their new church. What’s going on there?

How did Kevin Garvey get the gash on his head?

What was up with the bird in the box?

Is the new, cheery, colorful intro a new mainstay?
FYI: a quick wikipedia search tells me “Axis Mundi” refers to the center or pillar of the earth, or the connection between heaven and earth. Is heaven claiming Jarden for itself?