Season 2, Episode 4: “Orange Sticker”
Original Airdate: 10/25/15
“Orange Sticker” returns us to Jarden at the time of the earthquake where the Murphy’s realized Evie was missing. Though nonlinear storytelling was a staple of last season as well, the development of season 2 has felt much more spasmodic, making it difficult to be invested week to week. This time, however, the focus is on Nora and her ensuing panic upon realizing Kevin is missing and unreachable. Despite her assertion later in the episode that the departure was a one-time event, Nora is undeniably driven by the fear that the disappearances will continue and that Jarden will fail to deliver on its promise. She confronts her brother Matt about these fears and in response he asserts that his wife Mary experienced a brief and miraculous recovery from her catatonia the first night they stayed there. Whether or not this actually happened, the audience should know by now that “there are no miracles in miracle.”
While Nora wrestles with her insecurities, Kevin sets out to retrieve his phone from the pond where Evie and her friends disappeared, and figure out how the hell he got there in the first place. Simultaneously, he joins the recovery effort and learns that a palm print (his) was lifted from the window of the girls’ sedan. Ironically, however, John Murphy (freshly off the wagon) sees the palm print as some menacing calling card from Isaac, whose house John burned down the day before. John drags a weary Kevin along to confront Isaac and ends up getting shot by the would be soothsayer. Kevin escorts John to his wife’s clinic, and beyond the urgency of triage, she doesn’t seem to bat an eye at the incident. She goes on to explain the mania which grew in Jarden following the departure and hints that she believes Evie is now one of the departed herself. To cap everything off, Kevin walks into the town-square and finally engages with the vision of Patti that’s haunted him since moving to Miracle. In classic Patti fashion, she reveals that the girls have departed and the “true” reason Kevin found himself tied to a brick in the pond was a subconscious desire to kill himself.
Patti’s presence this season has been particularly unsatisfying. In season 1, Patti (Ann Dowd) was a disciplined nihilist, whose existence was a perfect foil for Kevin’s efforts to keep Mapleton, his family and himself from succumbing to madness or anarchy. Kevin’s refusal to submit to Patti’s taunts to kill her was both a personal victory and a narrative win for the show’s promotion of persistent hope against absurdity. It might simply be the difficulty of moving beyond the constraints of the original source material, but to see Patti return this season as some wisecracking hallucination in Kevin’s now recurrent battle with psychosis seems to be a big step backwards for his character and the show.
As a fan, I fear that in The Leftovers debut season, the implications for humanity of so big and mysterious an event as the sudden departure were probably explored exhaustively. While the departure was always just a narrative hook for a myriad of deeper character studies about how loss and disconnection affect people, this season’s emphasis on actual mysteries in Jarden is a little disappointing. The Leftovers is no stranger to the slow burn of storytelling, so with six episodes left, there’s certainly still room to thread the needle and make the journey worthwhile…it just might take a miracle.
* Something is definitely being built between Jill and Michael, but at this point overly direct dialogue like “Thanks for saving me” doesn’t generate much interest for me.
* We get more hints about Virgil (Steven Williams) in this episode, who seems to know more about Nora than he should. Allusions to ancient poets aside, I’m anxious to see (as with countless other characters in this show) whether he possesses something truly transcendent or is just another crackpot.