Last week’s episode focused almost entirely on the Murphys, who live next door to the house the Garvey-Dursts end up buying in Jarden/Miracle. Despite the risk inherent in giving us nearly an entire hour devoted to people we’ve never met before, I was all in, and I still am. What struck me about Miracle last week, and what continues to strike me, is how normal it seems. Mapleton was small-town America gone horribly wrong, which made sense because the world had gone horribly wrong. People wore their damage openly — literally, in the case of Nora’s conference badge, with its stickers representing her lost family — and there was no mistaking anything that happened there for normal.
Miracle, though, is a place that was somehow rendered exempt from that horrible wrongness. It was the same place the day after the Departure that it had been before. And even as the rest of the world spun off its rails, Miracle seems bound and determined to remain that exact same place. They will swim in their swimming holes, and they will not be overrun by pilgrims (except during preapproved hours), and nobody from the outside world will be allowed to come in and infect them with the wrongness. They’ve put up a big barbed-wire fence to keep the outside out and the inside in; but to me, the in has become far weirder, in an unsettlingly hidden way, than Mapleton ever was.
It will be fun to see the Garveys try to settle into Miracle. So far, it’s not exactly throwing its arms open to welcome them.
When last we saw Kevin Garvey, he’d kidnapped Creepy Patti in a fit of somnambulism (or something), she’d subsequently killed herself, and Matt Jamison helped him bury the body. In an effort to start fresh, Kevin confesses the whole thing to Nora and Jill. “I hire prostitutes to shoot me,” Nora says, all but shrugging, and Jill says, “Do I have to say something crazy now?” Kevin looks from his new girlfriend to his daughter as if he can’t quite believe his good fortune, but in the end, they all agree that everything is okay: resoundingly, touchingly okay. New beginnings all around, everyone!
Or not. Our Kevin is visibly struggling. He seems distracted by things like trees, and ironing boards, and perhaps overly dependent on his earbuds to drown out the world. After an unnecessarily aggressive battle with a broken washing machine, he buys a shovel, drives to Cairo, and digs up Creepy Patti. (Incidentally, whoever chose the music for this episode knocked it out of the park. I would have said the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind” was too obvious for a scene where we watch Kevin lose his, but I would have been wrong. It was perfect.)
Out on the highway, corpse in the back, he gets pulled over. Which would seem to be a bad thing, but again: not. Nobody cares about Patti. The detective he talks to literally says, “I don’t care about her.” Leaving the cop shop, Kevin looks relieved, almost happy — until he gets back into the truck and we see exactly what’s been haunting him. Or, rather, who: Creepy Patti, dead though she may be. And she will not be ignored: as they leave Mapleton for Miracle, as they surrender their dog to quarantine (do they seriously think the Departure was a virus?), as they buy the big, abandoned house next door to the Murphys. Kevin is trying his hardest to maintain some sense of normalcy, but I get the distinct sense that as a long-term strategy, this leaves something to be desired. Particularly now that Patti seems to be able to physically attack. The old chief, who stops by on his way to Australia, tells Kevin that his life became easier when he started doing as his voices told him. Patti is even more terrifying dead than she was alive, so the fact that this might be the solution to Kevin’s problem is worrying, to say the least. I would much rather he take a cue from Christmas-Light-Trailer Guy, who Michael visited on the sly last week, and who approaches him in the visitor’s center to offer help.
Somebody certainly needs to help Kevin. He’s slipping, and the people around him are starting to notice. You’d think that if he learned anything from last season — or even from the first scene of this episode! — it’s that being honest with the people you love is a good idea, but when Nora asks if there’s anything Kevin wants to tell her, all Kevin says is that he loves her. It’s a lie, because by the end of the episode, Kevin is literally in the deep end: He’s sleepwalked his way into the swimming hole, one leg tied to a cinderblock, on the same night when Evie and her friends disappeared there. He has the good sense to hide while Michael and John Murphy look for her, but if this is where not listening to Patti leads him, he’s not going to be able to hold out for long.
Last season, Justin Theroux spent a lot of time wearing his I feel so much that I cannot speak face. So far this season, we’re in I am extremely worried about things I do not understand territory, which has much more dramatic potential. Poor Kevin. Lucky us.
Kevin might be at the mercy of forces he can’t control, but Nora is taking the bull by the horns. The research team from MIT, who bought her $600,000 house for $2.7 million, told her they suspected that the Departures were “a matter of geography” (also the episode title, by the way); they also suggest that it might happen again, because why wouldn’t it? Bad things happen. They often happen repeatedly.
Had Nora been sitting at the table with her family, the researchers suggest, she’d be gone, too. Nobody in Miracle departed, therefore Miracle must be safe. No matter what Nora has to do to get there, she will. Negotiate endless bureaucracy? No problem. Give up the dog? Rules are rules. Spend $3 million on an unseen house in a town she’s never visited? You gotta do what you gotta do. “She needs to be here because it makes her feel safe,” Jill tells Kevin on their first night in the ramshackle house, and Jill is right. As for what will happen to Nora and Kevin when her determination to be safe at all costs comes up against his increasing sense that nothing is safe anywhere … we’ll see.
Jill was my biggest disappointment from last season. Margaret Qualley is talented, and Jill had potential to be a great character, but they were both woefully underused. I hope she gets more to do this season, but so far I’m not encouraged. Somehow, in the months between the fire at the Guilty Remnant compound and the Garveys’ relocation to Miracle, Jill seems to have become both the voice of reason and the resident grown-up. She is deeply invested in their new family; she’s the first one to suggest they keep Lily, and she and Nora seem utterly at ease with each other. She even goes so far as to paste a bandage on Kevin’s boo-boo when Ghost Patti rams his head into the stove.
But Jill is still struggling. Before leaving Mapleton, she has a clandestine meeting with her brother, Tom. Tom’s visibly falling apart — he claims to be sick, and he does seem like a mess — and she invites him into her new family blithely, as if sheer willpower is all it would take to make that work. I get the sense that there’s a lot of willpower involved in Jill’s life right now; Tom says, “Nobody’s okay,” and I hate to say it, but he’s probably right. Because if Jill were really okay, she would have been willing to at least read the note from her mother. If she were really okay, she might not have to work so hard to convince us of it.
I think that’s really the takeaway from this episode. Nobody’s okay.
Should be a fun season.
- I liked how Kevin’s scene with Lily in the laundromat so perfectly echoed the first scene of the series opener — it was a nice touch.
- So if the Departures were geographic, how did Lori’s embryo depart? Is her uterus an “anomalous place,” or was it just that one square inch of the exam table?
- Last week Vulture did a very cool thing with Reza Aslan, who’s consulting on The Leftovers, about the religious symbolism in the show. It’s the tiniest bit spoiler-y, but if that doesn’t bother you, it’s worth checking out.