Well, now we have the proof that something is truly amiss in the city of Jarden. If we are to believe Patti—and why wouldn’t we, considering she helped Kevin find his cell phone and follows him around like a strange guardian angel—Evie and her two friends are departed. Vanished into thin air, just like the other millions of people did on the day of the big goodbye.
As has been reported here and beyond, there’s no explanation for the Departure. Nor will we ever get one. Nor is there likely to be any explaining away what is going on in this Texas town. Not the earthquakes. Not the strange man sitting atop a huge pillar of concrete, who seems to see Patti once Kevin finally acknowledges her. Not Virgil, the man afflicted with whatever likely sent Kevin’s dad to the loony bin, and who took one look at Nora and knew what happened to her family. And definitely not whatever it was that woke Mary Jamison up from her catatonic state for one glorious night. Like Kevin, we’re gonna spend the rest of this season digging in the muck of this strange town for any kind of ballast to keep us connected to reality.
We can be assured of one thing, however: something bad is going to go down between Kevin and John Murphy. We know this in part because it was teased out by the trailer that HBO released a few months back. Mostly, it’s because at some point, the police are going to reveal that the palm print on the car that Evie vanished in belongs to Kevin. As John proved when he went to see Isaac, brandishing a baseball bat because he thought the spiritualist had something to do with his daughter’s disappearance. He’s going to stop at nothing to have his idea of justice prevail.
The only other certainty is that Nora and Jill are willing to swallow a lot of craziness without blinking. That makes a fair amount of sense considering all the shit they’ve already been through, both on their own and together. But it was still shocking to see Nora barely bat an eye after he shows back up at the house, soaking wet and filthy after his unconscious suicide attempt. She was happy he was safe, but then it was back to business. Through the rest of the hour, she kept on not blinking as she directed him to find his lost cell phone and then linking herself to him with a pair of handcuffs. That last move was a rather sweet gesture, even if it meant she might wake up being dragged out of their house by her sleepwalking boyfriend.
That goes the same for all the female characters on The Leftovers from the beginning. While the men have been scrabbling around, and acting out and getting unnecessarily violent with one another, the women have suffered all these emotional blows and come away both stronger and more determined than ever before. Nothing can faze them at this point. Erika had her moment of panic about Evie’s disappearance, but when her husband shows up with a bullet in his side, she doesn’t hesitate for a second and sets right to work. The writers for about two dozen other cable dramas would do well to take some hints from Tom Perrotta and his writers about how to craft female characters that aren’t defined by their relationship with a man and aren’t just screeching sexpots.
Even if this hour left us with many more questions than it started with (and there were already a lot of puzzles looking to be solved), this was as strong as the show has ever been. We are completely unmoored from whatever reality we were able to suss out of the first season and drifting along with the current of whatever Perrotta, Damon Lindelof, and the team has devised. I don’t think we’re going to like where we end up, but that’s that chance we take when sticking with a series as original as this one.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste, and the author of Empire: The Unauthorized Untold Story, available in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter.