The reverberations of that final moment of Holy Wayne’s life, when he sat in a bathroom stall, bleeding to death but still lucid enough to grant one final wish to the person who found him, were vast enough to reach all the way to where this season finale ends. Kevin Garvey, bloodied and weak, returned home to find the family that he asked for, but one that has grown in numbers since the last time he staggered to his front porch in an exhausted daze.
In those final moments of the episode, the camera pans to capture each face: Jill, Laurie, Matt, Mary, Tommy and Nora. And as the final line expressed, Kevin is finally home in a way that he hasn’t been since the beginning of this season, long before he went through the Odyssey-esque trials that found him essentially being resurrected three times. He is, more than ever, finally home.
That last scene was blatantly a parallel of the last moments of season one—when Kevin finds Nora and the baby on his front porch—and of the beginning of this season, with John and his neighbor waving at each other tentatively and neighborly. The final hour of season two was filled with those callbacks, not least of which was the big event staged by a faction of the Guilty Remnant that, once again, turned the town at the center of the action inside out.
This could’ve been a crutch for any other series, but here it felt entirely appropriate to further this idea of the awful cycle that these characters have locked themselves into. Everyone in the show is trying to quickly move beyond the day of “The Departure” without really working through the grief and anguish caused by that moment. The people of Jarden are especially guilty of this, as their egos get right in their way of accepting the fact that they all dodged a bullet and being humbled by that. Nearly everyone there thinks that they had a hand in sparing the town and are capitalizing on that notion in one way or another. If you believe in the supernatural elements of this series, you have to believe that those regular earthquakes are some force trying to shake the townspeople out of their stupor and delusions of grandeur.
For all their own ego-driven insanity, the Guilty Remnant might have been the ones to do it by staging that terrifying exhibition when, for one hour, everyone thought the bridge to Jarden was about to be blown up, and that it would take the three teen girls that “disappeared” with it. Unintentionally, this plot point had some horrible parallels with our real lives. The mass shootings in San Bernardino and Colorado Springs remind us is just how fragile our peace is in this world. This shouldn’t force us to retreat from the world, nor put up huge, unscalable walls to protect ourselves. But it should give us a long pause to reflect on the fragility of life and the fact that we are so willing to quickly move on from these earth-shattering moments and get back to “normal.” As troubling as their motives might be, the GR might actually be the real heroes of this fictional world.
The true test of the strength that The Leftovers has exhibited all season long is where Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta take this story from here. Just as with the end of the first run of episodes, this one ended tidily. Not that everything was completely tied up nice and neat. John still has to sift through the wreckage of his family, and everyone needs to take stock of the massive events that roared through Jarden like a seismic shift. But the arc of season two ended so nicely and firmly that, once again, the co-creators of the show could move these characters pretty much anywhere. Do they go to Australia to work with Kevin’s father? Do Kevin and Matt let their own egos get the better of them, and start making gobs of money using their miraculous personal stories as bait? Do they all join the Guilty Remnant and chain smoke their way silently through season three? Like the bridge into Jarden, the gates have been shoved open wide for any and all narrative ideas to storm into this fantastic framework for a novelistic TV series.
Perrotta, and Lindelof and everyone involved defied all expectations with this show’s return, and there’s nothing to suggest that they can’t repeat their success next time around. Nor should we really look askance if they decide to walk away, letting The Leftovers be another brilliant but brief TV experience to be analyzed and appreciated for years to come. They have our trust now. All we can do now is to take time to reflect on the greatness of this season, and make our own cycle back to the first episode that aired 10 weeks back, to marvel, and puzzle and revel in it one more time.
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 find more of his writing here or follow him on Twitter.