Season 2, Episode 2: “A Matter of Geography”
Original Airdate: October 11th, 2015
After The Leftovers’ ambitious season opener that began building up the new world of Jarden, it felt like a bit of a let down to jump back to Mapleton. While “A Matter of Geography” continues to examine the themes of desperation, spiritual starvation and mental stability that have grounded The Leftovers from its start, the writers are forced to reset the season’s energy in order to set up the character arcs and conflicts that will drive them for the next eight episodes.
Roughly the first half of “A Matter of Geography” is devoted to reintroducing the Garvey’s and explaining their sojourn to Miracle. We pick up where Season 1 left off, with Kevin, Nora and Jill discussing how to move forward and what to do with the baby, Lilly, that prodigal son Tom has left on their doorstep. Oddly enough, there’s a fun moment here when the audience is reminded of just how disturbed and emotionally numb these characters are. Kevin discloses his sleepwalking problems and part in Patti’s death, while Nora divulges her proclivity for getting shot by prostitutes, prompting an apt rejoinder from Jill, “Do I have to say something crazy now?” The scene is light-hearted and weirdly hopeful.
Fast forward two months later and we see immediately that the luster on this new family has dimmed a bit. In a direct callback to the first scene of the pilot episode – where a hurried mother ignores the cries of her baby shortly before he departs – Kevin drowns out the world around him through his phone and ignores Lilly’s cries for attention. This scene is our first hint that not only does the departure event (and Patti Levin suicide) still haunt Kevin, but also that another departure may in fact happen. This idea is more explicitly developed as Nora meets with MIT researchers who make a generous bid on her house and convey their theory that the departures could be “a matter of geography,” with no reasonable expectation that it was a one-time event. The meeting gives Nora the means and motivation to get the hell out of dodge. Inspired, in part, by his father’s ability to move past (or at least accept) his mental troubles and start over abroad, Kevin sets in motion the family’s move to explore something new.
The establishing shots of Miracle are sweeping, and are juxtaposed against a desperate community surrounding its outskirts that is some weird mix of folk festival, revival and refugee camp. The visitors’ center builds upon the commoditization of Miracle’s privileged departure-less status that we saw in “Axis Mundi”, with souvenir shops, auctions and educational propaganda about the town. While taking all this in, Kevin is approached by a mysterious man (the same older gentleman Michael Murphy asks to pray with in last weeks episode) who offers help with “his situation.” Given the parallels between the Murphys and Garveys, I’m guessing this is John Murphy’s father and counterpart to Kevin’s own dad, a hermit with potentially otherworldly vision.
Things immediately go off the rails when it’s revealed the housing rental they were meant to occupy was destroyed in a fire. Nora’s desperation to protect her new family and avoid another wrenching personal loss becomes clear here. She’s so ready to believe in the promise of safety Jarden ostensibly provides that she drops all of her money to make an immediate bid on a house, site unseen. Not to mention she let’s that poor dog go to quarantine without much resistance.
The remainder of the episode explores the events established last week, but from the Garvey’s perspective. We learn that the cut on Kevin’s head came as a result of another haunting from Patti and see his frustrations from the context of his new living situation boil over. Most importantly, we see that Kevin was present at the site of Evie Murphy’s disappearance, as he awakens tied to a cinderblock in the now drained river.
Overall, I found myself a little frustrated by this episode. The first season was compelling because it took a high concept like the rapture and seriously explored what the consequences of such an event would pose for, well, the leftovers. Between some wooden dialogue like Patti’s summation of The Murphys – “hard to tell if they’re part of your story or you’re part of theirs” – or Tom’s refusal to let his father know he’s okay – “because nobody’s okay” – I’m slightly afraid this season could seriously overplay its hand on both the mystery and the drama. Having said that, we’re only two episodes in, and the whole this story will hopefully be greater than the sum of its parts.
- The music Kevin is using to drown out his thoughts is a little on the nose, particularly the use of The Pixies “Where is My Mind?” (on the other hand it’s a great song so who cares).
- Caught a quick Trading Places reference between Jill and Tom. Not sure it means anything, other than these two have a better taste in movies than I would have guessed.