“The Leftovers” is a show that’s had a number of issues ever since it premiered back in 2014. The first season presented a fascinating mystery (millions of people disappear without a trace) and a compelling character to explore the aftermath with (a police chief in a small town), but sadly the show kept getting distracted from itself with dull storylines, sometimes going so far as to present entire episodes that were merely pointless filler. It started to put together an interesting and cohesive story by the end by bringing the focus in on the police chief, but by then it was simply too little too late. As we head into season two, we can only hope that said issues were resolved by those in charge, because this is a show with a lot of potential that, if done right, could become the spellbinding show it longs to be.
As this new season opens, we find ourselves in the town of Jarden, Texas, a town that is surrounded by a national park known as “Miracle.” This is a very special town because during the event, no one disappeared here, causing many to make the pilgrimage to the town and attempt to get in. It is for this reason that Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and his family, daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley), girlfriend Nora (Carrie Coon), and baby Lily, have come here, with the hope of starting their lives over. However, the very day they arrive in town, three young girls go missing, including the daughter of their new neighbors, the Murphys. Meanwhile, Kevin is still having his bouts of wandering around in his sleep, which very nearly leads to his death the same night as the disappearances. To add to his woes, he still sees Patti (Ann Dowd), the Guilty Remnant leader that killed herself in front of him. The main focus of the season continue to be not only how Kevin interacts with his family and the townsfolk, but also how he tries to deal with his personal problems, which are wreaking havoc on his attempts to start fresh in this new town.
The second season of “The Leftovers” starts off rather well. We are introduced to the Garvey’s new neighbors, The Murphys, following the events up to the disappearances, before seeing the same day’s events from the POV of the Garveys, who are just moving into town. However, it’s after the second episode where the show begins to fall back into the old trappings that had kept the first season from being as successful as it could have been. Episode three wastes an entire hour following Kevin’s ex-wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) and son Tommy (Chris Zilka) as they try to save members of the Guilty Remnant, which only results in a pointless episode that has nothing to do with anything.
Afterward, the show tries to get back on track by shifting the focus back to the main characters, but instead of moving the plot forward, we find a strange reluctance to advance the story, leaving us with an episode that comes off as nothing but padding. This is only made worse by the next episode being another entirely pointless endeavor, this time following Matt (Christopher Eccleston) and Mary Jamison (Janel Maloney) as they try to get back into town after having their wristbands stolen.
With half the season over and only two episodes that actually contributed to the plot, it’s not hard to see that this season was already having great difficulty with staying on track, but what makes it all the more frustrating is that, just like with season one, it does eventually put its focus where it needs to be, squarely on Kevin and his issues. After another episode that does nothing to contribute, episode seven finally sees the show buckling down and exploring how Kevin is trying to deal with his family problems and the continuing problem of being followed around by Patti everywhere he goes.
This episode ends with an incredibly shocking cliffhanger that will cause many to jump right into the eighth episode, and it’s there that you’ll find the best episode not just of this season, but of the entire series thus far. I don’t want to give too much away about it because it’s one that took me entirely by surprise, and it’s all the more affective because of it. Let’s just say that it’s an episode that has Kevin facing his demons, and that you could probably write essays about the symbolism contained within.
What’s rather fascinating is that, as if in a joke of really cruel and bad taste, this episode is followed up by more filler that focuses on Meg (Liv Tyler), another member of the Guilty Remnant that some of our characters have had run-ins with in the past. However, don’t let this fool you, the final episode of the season once again gets the show back on track and is one of the most compelling of this year’s run. Again, I’m not going to say too much about it, but everything comes to a head as the town of Jarden is faced with some pretty big challenges.
All-in-all, it’s rather sad to say that only half the episodes of season two are recommendable, so if you do choose to watch this season, your best bet is to watch episodes 1, 2, 7, 8, and 10, which skips most of the fluff and filler. It also seems to prove that this show doesn’t really need a full ten episodes per season. Season one clearly didn’t, and season two only needed half to tell its story. Perhaps their best course of action would be to cut down the number of episodes per season, therefore forcing them to focus on what’s most important about the show, and also forcing them to get to it sooner so that we don’t get several episodes that have nothing to contribute to the story. Again, it’s a show that has great potential, shown quite clearly by episodes like the eighth of this season, an episode that shows the kind of heights this show can reach when it’s firing on all cylinders. However, as long as they continue to stretch out each season and stuff it full of superfluous material, its potential will only continue to go to waste as it’s smothered under all of the excess weight.
“The Leftovers: The Complete Second Season” arrives on Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of mostly decent quality. The picture is a little grainier than other 1080p releases, but it’s not enough to interfere with one’s viewing experience. On the other hand, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is outstanding, giving you everything from the dialogue to the same old haunting score from the first season in excellent quality. Overall, the show has been given pretty good treatment, leaving you with an experience that’s more than satisfactory.
Season two of “The Leftovers” comes with the same shortcomings that had made the previous season just shy of being recommendable, including episodes that are purely filler and a reluctance to focus on the show’s important story elements. Like last season, it does eventually buckle down and develop the story properly, but by then we’ve already had to sit through several unnecessary episodes that merely delayed what should have been front and center in the first place. It’s a shame because there’s a lot to like in some of the last few episodes, but all it makes you do is wonder how good the show could be if the focus was in the right spot from the very start.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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