Today marks the anniversary of the Sudden Departure, the catalyst of the The Leftovers. Is it time to stop asking “Why?”
October 14 is just another day on the calendar, but in the world of The Leftovers it marks the day two percent of the world’s population disappeared. It celebrates the day that Jarden, Texas was spared. It demands recognition one way or another.
‘We are the living reminders’
Season 1 parsed the Departures closest to the main cast over the course of three episodes.
There is no correct way to process the disappearance of 140,000,000 people. Nora Durst joined a new government agency designated to handle insurance settlements for families of the Departed. Losing three members of her family, Nora spent her days interviewing families, asking intimate details about their lost loved one while trying to block out her own great loss.
Laurie Garvey left her family to join the Guilty Remnant, a cult whose modus operandi is to act as the living reminders of the Sudden Departure. Unlike the sterile questioning of government agencies, the Guilty Remnant puts an end to the sounds of desperation by silencing the voices of its members. To them the Old World ended on October 14 and the New World demands change. Season 1 provided a microscopic look at one faction of the Guilty Remnant in Mapleton, NY, but it showed the drastic lengths they are willing to go to in order to remind everyone the reason they remain is because they were guilty in the eyes of God.
October 14 was chaotic. Reverend Matt Jamison crashed into an empty car resulting in his wife’s paralyzing injury. Nora stepped away to prepare her family’s breakfast and turned around to find an empty table. Kevin lost someone mid-affair. Laurie’s unborn child was lifted from her womb. Jill and Tommy saw the light go out when the science fair lost connection with some students.
The world demanded answers. News broadcasts sprinkled throughout season 1 attempted to explain random phenomena surrounding the Sudden Departure. They ran through lists of celebrities and public figures such as the Pope and the entire cast of Perfect Strangers, but no sensible connection became apparent. Science can only pose so many hypotheses before they become a waste of everyone’s time. (Especially when one member of Perfect Strangers surfaces in Mexico four years later.)
Stop asking ‘Why’ and ‘How’
Start asking “What now?” As Kevin Garvey Sr. says in season 2, episode 2, “We can sit around and cry about how the world ended, or we can start it up again.” In season 1, Kevin Garvey tried to keep the Old World. While the Guilty Remnant may have been a bit extreme in their shock tactics, they had a point to prove to Kevin. The New World demands action and dwelling on what could have been is no way to charge forward. The same philosophy holds true for viewers as well.
The Leftovers is not going to give you the answers to “Why” and “How.” That is not the show’s endgame. It is, however, going to show the intimate stories of the pain, desperation, confusion, and personal fallout from the Sudden Departure. The Leftovers will show you a world full of people all looking for the same thing, peace of mind and security. They want to go to sleep at night without fearing the world can change at any moment. They want to be able to open their eyes again.
In season 2, The Leftovers takes us to a place where the physical location, rather than the company you keep, holds the promise of a brighter tomorrow. But the illusion of Jarden shatters by the close of episode 2 as Kevin faces his inner darkness and the town is shaken by loss. Though tempting, it is still not time to ask “Why?” One look at Kevin and you’ll see that he gets no enjoyment from fighting against Patti’s unexplained presence. Viewers would be wise to stop resisting the story and let it play out over the season. Unless they enjoy wearing bandages on their forehead.
Strap in for season 2 because the Sudden Departure was just the beginning.
The Leftovers season 2, episode 3, “Off Ramp,” airs Sunday, October 18 at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO.